Robert F. Smith’s recent pledge to pay off the student debt of 2019 graduates from Morehouse College renewed the conversation about the burden of student loan debt. According to the Federal Reserve, over half of young adults who went to college in the U.S. in 2018 took out student loans and will graduate with an average debt balance of $29,800. They join the more than 44 million borrowers who collectively owe an astounding $1.5 trillion in student loans — more than two and a half times what American students owed a decade earlier.
As a result, an entire generation of student borrowers are struggling to make ends meet — and only half say that the lifetime financial benefits of their degree outweigh the cost. Lifetime earning power varies significantly by higher education institution and even by degree program. Alternative pathways, such as Associate’s degrees and certificate programs, often offer a better return on investment — but it is difficult for students to assess the quality of and access financing for programs that do not qualify for Title IV funding (federal loans and grants).
Enter Climb Credit, a financial technology start-up that offers an alternative approach to financing affordable and compelling professional training programs. This can include anything from getting a commercial truck driving license or a crane operator certification to an Associates degree in nursing from a technical college or a certificate in web development. Founded in 2014, Climb finances alternative education costs for students at hundreds of schools across the country that it has pre-qualified based on a track record of meaningfully improving graduates’ earning potential. Prior to onboarding a school onto its platform, Climb evaluates its ROI potential by analyzing graduation rates, job placement rates, and the increase in pre- vs. post-program salaries, compared to the total cost of education (including loans and lost wages while in school). By vetting schools for quality as well as their ability to deliver results and provide affordable financing for students, Climb Credit enables students to continue their education and transition into better paying jobs.
Why We Invested
Traditional lenders tend to focus on loans for university degrees, rather than professional training, creating a significant gap in the marketplace. Climb Credit not only targets this underserved market, it offers affordable financing to students — targeting a much wider range of credit profiles — because it believes in the wage-increasing potential of the programs it finances. In January, Climb secured $50 million in lending capital from Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, further expanding its ability to meet student demand. As it grows, Climb will continue to drive meaningful economic empowerment for its students by helping them identify, evaluate, and finance programs that increase their earning potential.
Climb Credit’s rapid growth has been driven by a talented and dedicated team, led by CEO Angela Galardi Ceresnie. Angela is an impressive leader with a strong grasp of the business, deep industry experience, and a commitment to advancing economic outcomes for underserved students. Prior to Climb, Angela co-founded and served as COO/CFO of Orchard — an investment platform for peer-to-peer and online direct lending that was eventually acquired by Kabbage. Before her time at Orchard, Angela spent nine years running credit risk analytics teams at American Express and Citibank.
To date, Climb has originated over $100 million worth of loans to over 10,000 students across a variety of programs, including software development, UI/UX design, robotics, welding, nursing, and trucking. The typical loan size is approximately $10,000 with an interest rate of between 8.5 and 9%. On average, Climb’s programs offer a job placement rate of 80% and graduates see a median salary increase of 67%. As CEO Angela Galardi Ceresnie puts it, “By aligning school motivations with student career and salary goals, we open the door for thousands of people who want to change their lives through education.”
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