A fintech solution for students looking to finish college - Technical.ly DC

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Sep. 28, 2016 12:22 pm

A fintech solution for students looking to finish college

How Stacie Whisonant's PYT Funds is taking a new approach to student lending.
At a Vinetta Project DC event.

At a Vinetta Project DC event.

(Photo by Tajha Chappellet-Lanier)

Personally, Stacie Whisonant paid her way through college by serving in the military.

It was an option and, in her case, a good one — she graduated cum laude from Longwood University with very little student debt and was able to go on to buy her own home and begin a career in banking with HSBC.

But quickly, through her professional experience in banking and her personal experience with her family and friends, Whisonant realized how unique her position was. She realized just how many students emerge from university saddled with an obscene amount of debt, and how sometimes even a very small amount of money at the right time can mean the difference between getting that degree or not.

So, about a year and a half ago, Whisonant launched PYT (Pay Your Tuition) Funds.

It works like this: Let’s say you’re a good student, studying a STEM subject, who is about to graduate and go out into a job market that can hardly wait to offer you a job. But there’s a catch — you need $2,000 more to get through your final semester. Where do you turn? PYT Funds hopes to be the obvious answer to that question.

In other words, high-potential students (those with good grades, who are close to finishing and have high earning potential after) from low- to moderate-income backgrounds are encouraged to apply for funding via PYT Funds. First, the student sets up a profile on PYT’s crowdfunding platform. A Kickstarter for their tuition needs, if you will.

Then, if students are successful in raising some money from friends and family, PYT Funds takes this information paired with data on the student and their accomplishments and approaches a bank to get a micro-loan, as such working around the need for that students’ parents to co-sign. Currently, PYT Funds partners with Sallie Mae.

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But the Halcyon Incubator cohort member has even bigger extension plans — in August PYT Funds launched a foundation arm that will ultimately serve to make those micro-loans itself. Donations to the foundation will come from corporations and common donors and, importantly, bank community development dollars.

See, in 1977 Congress enacted the Community Reinvestment Act to encourage, well, mandate, that banks give back to the communities in which they are located. Traditionally banks tend to deploy this money via small business loans, mortgages and community development exercises like classes in financial literacy.

Whisonant has another pitch for the banks — invest those dollars with PYT Funds and we’ll disperse it to high-potential young people who will make great clients in a couple of years. It’s a win-win.

But of course Whisonant hopes it’s not just students and banks that will see the potential in PYT Funds. She’ll be pitching along side two other female founders at the finals of the Vinetta Project $20K challenge on Thursday. Want to see her tell her story? You can snag tickets to the event here.

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