With its ionmatch platform, student loan management portal iontuition has set out to help students in the United States to choose a university and the right course, and also to calculate the cost of their diploma relative to the benefits they can expect to derive from it.
The US university system has a reputation both for its high-quality elite higher education institutions, especially the Ivy League colleges, and for the staggering cost of pursuing studies there. Young people leaving school are faced with a wide range of higher education establishments to choose from, admission criteria which may be very demanding or much less so, and often the need to choose a loan plan which is going to affect their financial situation for a good part of their lives. President Obama and his wife Michelle only succeeded in paying off their student loans in 2004, around fifteen years after completing their studies at Harvard.
iontuition, a member of the business process outsourcing services group Ceannate Corp, now provides a range of tools to help US students and their families make the right choices from among all the possible variables. The ionmanage platform is one of these; it is an interface that helps students to choose the type of loan best suited to their needs and to keep track of where they are with it. Meanwhile the ionlearn website provides information on financial matters and a beginner’s guide to loans in the form of articles and videos. ionTuition claims that students who use these tools are only a tenth as likely to default on their loans as those who do not. Their latest website, ionmatch, is designed to help students choose a university according to a set of criteria.
Calculating ROI on your college education
The would-be student types in information on the type of course s/he intends to apply for, his/her SAT and ACT college admission test scores, the geographical area s/he has in mind, plus the earnings of his/her parents and any income s/he might have. The site will then generate a list of colleges which meet the criteria, together with the likelihood of the student attaining his/her goals based on his/her marks and the levels the colleges are looking for. ionMatch also adds an estimate of return on investment per university. It gives the average earnings of those who have completed the course the student has chosen, and compares this figure both with the earnings of those who have followed the same studies across the United States as a whole and with the median US salary.
Students can also visualise the total cost and the monthly payments they need to find in order to cover the cost of their higher education, based on the range of loan plans available. The calculation incorporates a range of variables, such as obtaining a grant and taking a part-time job to finance their studies. ‟We base our information on raw data, which is totally objective. We use the information to inform students of the return they can expect to make on studies compared to their cost” explains Ceannate Corp Marketing Director Shann Grewal.
US universities, especially the most prestigious, are very expensive but a good long-term investment
Generation Y more focused on the financial return from diplomas
‟If students find the tool helpful, then it’s also of interest to universities,” says iontuition Senior Vice President Michael Wielgus. In enabling students to make medium- and long-term financial projections, this lowers the risk that they will find themselves unable to pay off the loan. ‟In the United States, universities are ranked according to the number of students defaulting on their loans. If the number is too high three years running and no action is taken to lower it, the university access to federal funding” Wielgus points out.
At the moment the platform is totally free of charge, but there are plans to create a premium version soon, which will also include the option of chatting live with an advisor. ionmatch claims it is attracting 5,000 new users every week. By the end of the year iontuition hopes to launch two additional tools – ionnation, a social network enabling students and their families to exchange questions and answers and obtain peer advice, and ionpay, which will provide students with a simple interface for settling their regular loan instalments.
According to a recent survey by Mountain View, California-based consumer credit and personal finance company Credit Sesame, over 25% of generation Y-ers pay more than $25,000 in university fees annually, compared with just 6% of their counterparts in the preceding generation. Moreover, more than twice as many Generation Y people as Generation X – 33% compared with 14% – state that the salary they will be able to command on completing their studies is a major factor in choosing their course. They are therefore prepared to pay more for their studies, but they also pay more attention to the remuneration they are likely to obtain several years down the road. Nowadays the prohibitive cost of US education has become a major topic for debate and has recently given rise to spectacular action from some well-known people. In early 2014, billionaire fund manager Kenneth Griffin donated $150 million to Harvard to enable his alma mater to offer more grants and bursaries to less-well-off students. Meanwhile Paypal founder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel grants $100,000 dollars to promising students who agree to drop out of university and get straight to work on an innovation project, an indication that this dedicated libertarian at least is not convinced that a university education provides a satisfactory return on student investment.