Many people use New Year’s as a chance to reflect – on what they’ve achieved during the past year, what they’ve learned, and what they hope to accomplish in the new year. We at MPOWER are no different. Read on for what we learned about social impact in 2018 and then, if you want to know how we’ll be applying those learnings in 2019, please our subsequent blog post, “How We’re Thinking about Social Impact in 2019!”
What We Learned in 2018…
…From Our Borrowers
This year, we delved much deeper into the customer journey. Our new Director of Social Impact, Maureen Klovers, conducted in-depth, one-on-one interviews with a cross-section of our borrowers to better understand the challenges they’ve overcome in accessing higher education in the U.S. and their hopes and dreams for the future. She explored their families’ financial situations, their motivation for coming to the U.S., the financing options they considered, and the reasons why they chose MPOWER.
While the number of borrowers involved was too small to make sweeping judgments, the interviews did provide intriguing leads for future research. One particularly interesting insight was that women were far more likely than men to say that MPOWER was their only option for a student loan. Perhaps not surprisingly, when presented with a suite of potential social impact metrics, the one that resonated most strongly with borrowers was the percentage of those who could not have financed their degree without an MPOWER loan.
…From Our University Partners
Our sales team provided key insights into the social impact messages most likely to resonate with university partners. These partners are primarily interested in how our unique loan product affects their financial bottom line and their diversity mix. As the International Association of Educators has found, international students pumped $36.9 billion into the U.S. economy during the 2016-2017 academic year and supported 450,000 jobs. This means that every time MPOWER funds a student who wouldn’t otherwise be able to come to the U.S. or Canada, we’re directly improving a university’s financial health. And the fact that we’re able to lend to borrowers in more than 190 countries – and currently have borrowers from 124 countries – means we’re uniquely positioned to assist universities in diversifying their student bodies.
…From the Impact Investing Community
Throughout the year, we had illuminating discussions with impact investors at MPOWER’s first-ever Investor Day and at the Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) conference in San Francisco, as well as during more informal sessions. They impressed upon us the need to tell our story through our data and our borrowers’ individual stories – and also by highlighting our pro-consumer credit policies. They encouraged us to focus on the impact of our product on a borrower’s access to credit, and to emphasize how our MPOWER loan was superior to the borrower’s other alternatives. There was significant interest in creating special funds or initiatives to support female borrowers as well as DACA students.
To find out how we applied these learnings, please check out our upcoming blog post, “How We’re Thinking about Social Impact in 2019!”