Why ISAs are the future of education

If you’re looking at further education in 2019, chances are you’ve heard of Income Share Agreements, or ISAs. They are a new model of education funding where you pay nothing (or very little) upfront and then pay a portion of your future income as tuition. The best part? You don’t pay if you aren’t earning enough, so if you have a rough time of unemployment you don’t pay for your education during that time.

Private schools in Canada are just beginning to implement ISAs, and now BrainStation, one of the world’s leading digital skills training companies, is launching the first ISA available to students in Vancouver. BrainStation’s founder and CEO, Jason Field, spoke with CourseCompare about the company’s ISAs, making digital learning more accessible, and why new funding models are important for the future of education.

ISA breakdown

The ISA is a financial agreement between you the student, and the school. In the past, tuition was paid before you were allowed to take classes. If you stopped paying tuition, you were kicked out of school. ISAs turn that model on its head. You can walk into class with next to nothing down. Once you graduate and get a job, you pay a set amount back each month until you’ve paid the ISA “cap”, which is your tuition cost plus the school’s profit margin.

“Financing models like ISAs can knock down financial barriers for students and better align tuition costs with post-program income,” said Field. “Adding ISAs to our payment and financing plans is a key component of our mission [to make premium digital skills accessible for the widest possible group of professionals].”

If you’re considering an ISA, there’s a lot to look for, including the payment cap rate, payment terms, income threshold to start paying, and how long the term of the ISA is. The biggest thing to consider, though, is if an ISA will help you with your career goals. If you’re taking courses that could seriously increase your income and earning potential, it might be worth it to pay a bit more later if you can’t afford to pay up front.

ISAs are typically meant for career transformation programs

While each school does ISAs a little differently, they tend to be offered for longer, diploma-style programs. Brainstation’s ISA, for example, applies to 12-week diploma programs in data science, web development, and user experience design. This is currently available at Brainstation’s Vancouver Campus and the company plans to bring it to their other campuses soon.

“An ISA is just one of many payment and financing options prospective students should consider when considering a diploma program,” said Field. “Every student situation is different based on financial means, risk tolerance, learning and personal objectives, background and approach to job searching.”

Building the future of education

While ISAs require schools to have deep pockets – after all, they won’t see any revenue from students for months, if not years – Field is confident that the ISA model will become more widely used. But the real win is increased access to education for everyone. Adding an ISA is just one of the many things Brainstation has done to increase access to education – their Online Live program takes Brainstation courses online and has already seen more than 100,000 hours of live learning for thousands of professionals across North America. Further, Brainstation has given out over $2 million in education funding to professionals around the world, said Field, so the school is still offering help to people who want to pay for education the traditional way.

“New financing models like ISAs are a tool to better align the cost of education with (actual) student outcomes,” said Field. “The popularity of options like this will continue to drive education into an increasingly skills and outcomes-based learning model, and force institutions to have a greater stake in their graduates’ success.”

Interested in learning at BrainStation’s Vancouver campus? Here’s where you can explore ISA-eligible diploma programs

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