Income Share Agreements – What You Must Know

One alternative to student loans is Income Share Agreements (ISAs). In exchange for a portion of your salary after you’ve graduated, you’ll be given a deferred tuition option under an ISA contract.

You will limit compound interest and typically have no upfront payments. Another advantage of Income Share Agreements is that your payments can be deferred in certain circumstances.

This post will take you through all of the basics of Income Share Agreements. It will explain what they are, how they run, and how to decide if an ISA is right for you.

income share agreements

What an Income Share Agreement Is 

An ISA, or Income Share Agreement, is a contract between a student and a school. The student commits to pay back a percentage of their income after graduation for a given period. This is as long as they make a certain amount of money each year.

At its most fundamental level, an ISA is this. It is neither a loan nor a mortgage in any way. It’s a one-of-a-kind method of funding.

Let’s assume you agreed to go to college as an economics student and promised 10% of your monthly salary for 24 months (24 monthly installments) in exchange for $10,000 in an ISA contract (the cost of your tuition). 

Your total payment would be limited to two times the amount received, and the minimum income level (the amount you must earn before you begin repaying) would be $20,000.

Income Share Agreement Examples

Let’s look at three scenarios: one with a beginning pre-tax income of $50,000 for an economics graduate, one with a higher salary of $80,000, possibly in analytics or investing business, and one with a lower salary of $17,000, perhaps at a coffee shop.

In the first case, you’ll pay $416 per month or $10,000 over 24 months. Or, you’ll have to pay $16,000. In the third situation, you won’t have to pay anything until your earnings reach $20,000, but your payment clock will continue to tick as long as you work full-time. 

If your earnings remain below $20,000 for the next 24 months, the program will cancel your obligation.

Of course, the examples above are based on your earned pre-tax income remaining constant for the whole 24-month period. Your payments would be halved or doubled if your income was cut in half or doubled. 

However, because the maximum amount is two times the $10,000, your payments would end when you pay back 20,000.

Although student loans come with additional benefits, you won’t receive this level of security with a conventional private student loan. Whether you’re a cafe barista or an analytics specialist, you pay the same flat amount plus interest.

Related Reading: Dropping out of College – Read Here

The Key Terms of Income Share Agreements 

The Key Terms of Income Share Agreements 

Income Share Agreements are a less popular form of school finance. Several words are different from student loans that many people are unfamiliar with. 

The structure of an ISA is made up of several different components. Here are some of the most important words and terms to understand.

Income Share Percentage

This is the percentage of your monthly pre-tax income that you will share over the life of your contract. Income shares might range anywhere from 2.5 percent to 17.5 percent.

Minimum Income Threshold 

The Minimum Income Threshold (also known as the Income Floor) is the income level below which students are exempt from making payments. 

These generally vary from $20,000 to $50,000, but they might be more depending on the sector and program. 

This incentivizes a school to match risk with its pupils and safeguard kids who earn less. It’s their way of marketing and guaranteeing the future money you may receive by participating in their program.

Monthly Payment 

After you’ve graduated throughout the period of your ISA contract, you’ll have to pay back this amount every month. In other words, if your Income Share is 5% and you make $60,000 per year (or $5,000 per month), your Monthly Payment is $250 per month.

Payment Window 

This is the duration of your ISA contract. The window usually lasts between two and ten years. The months where you earn less than the base salary are included against your payback period in some ISAs. In these cases, some lenders will extend your payback period.

Required Payments 

This is by far the most popular method of satisfying one’s ISA. An ISA is a savings account in which you pay back a portion of your earnings each month for a predetermined period. These payments are all included as one of your Required Payments.

Payment Cap / Ceiling 

Your contributions are set at a certain level, so you won’t be penalized if your net income rises. This protects students who are very successful from having to make unnecessarily high fees. These limitations often range from 1.5x to 2x the cost of tuition.

Automatic Deferment 

Your payment requirement will be automatically waived without penalty during periods of involuntary unemployment caused by illness or other unexpected circumstances or if your total income falls below a particular level (the Minimum Income Threshold). 

Your ISA payments will be automatically halted during times of financial hardship. With a loan, you must request a temporary deferral term. Consider it as if you had an insurance policy to cover your debts.

The essential thing to know is that ISAs don’t all provide the same level of freedom or value because long-term expenses can vary dramatically, so you’ll want to research several offerings before deciding on one.

How Income Share Agreements are Satisfied 

Aside from the built-in safeguards, the way ISAs and regular student loans are fulfilled is by far the most significant difference. There are three methods to conclude an ISA contract using an ISA contract:

1. Fulfill the proper number of payments. 

An ISA is a savings account in which you pay back a portion of your earnings each month for a predetermined period. These payments are all included as one of your Required Payments. Your ISA amount is fulfilled if you make all of the Required Payments on time. 

2. Reach the max payment ceiling. 

The Max Payment Cap is the maximum you’ll ever have to pay toward your ISA, and it’s incorporated into your ISA. It’s a built-in safeguard for high-earners who don’t want to be penalized for earning more than planned. 

Payment Caps are generally higher than the Funded Amount (the amount the school is putting up for their program). Your ISA will be fulfilled after you reach your Max Payment Cap!

3. Reach the end of your payment window. 

The ultimate way to stop an ISA is to reach the Payment Window’s conclusion. Your Required Payments or Max Payment Cap will be collected over a defined time by the lender or institution with whom you have an ISA. If you haven’t met any of those goals by the time the Payment Window closes, you’ll lose your ISA.

The Difference Between Student Loans and Income Share Agreements 

Student Loans 

Whether you have high-paying employment or not, you must make your payments on private loans. Each month, you will get a bill, and if you are unable to pay, there’s not much you can do. Student loans also accumulate interest over time, which means that your payments will rise over time.

Income Share Agreements

If you have an ISA commitment and cannot find work after graduation, your payments are flexible. Your payments will be delayed if you earn less than the amount agreed upon between you and your school (known as the Minimum Income Threshold) or if you are jobless. 

You are not required to make any payments until you have secured an excellent job. Students enrolling in an ISA will only repay the money if they earn more than a particular amount, and those who are successful will never repay more than a set amount. Interest is not paid on Income Share Agreements.

How Do Income Share Agreements Benefit Schools and Programs? 

1. It makes education more accessible to students. 

ISAs are being used by colleges, universities, and boot camps alike to provide more alternatives for students. Institutions generally use ISAs to cover financing gaps for students who have exhausted all of their federal financial assistance options or are debt-averse.

Income Share Agreements also help people who cannot get government financial aid, particularly those enrolled in alternative education programs such as coding boot camps. Because boot camps and other skill-training programs are presently ineligible for Title IV financing, students interested in them will be unable to receive government financial help.

2. Increased enrollments for schools 

Another benefit of offering an ISA as one of your financing alternatives, which is related to point number one, is that it fills empty seats that a school would not otherwise be able to fill through regular college finance. 

Colleges can boost enrollment and fill vacant seats thanks to Income Share Agreements, making education more accessible to students. Schools can use an Income Share Agreement to provide an alternative funding option to students unwilling to take out a loan.

3. More regulated risks for the school and the student 

With many student loans, the student assumes nearly all of the debt risk. With an ISA, schools can confidently tell students that the skills they’ll learn in their program will enable them to find work in their industry or gain enough abilities to find another relevant career. This also strengthens the school’s reputation by demonstrating that they are ready to share the risks and benefits with the student.

How Do Income Share Agreement Benefit Students? 

How Do Income Share Agreement Benefit Students?

1. Increased payment flexibility 

With an Income Share Agreement, you won’t have a fixed payment as you would with a private student loan. Because an ISA is based on a proportion of your pre-tax monthly income, you won’t have to worry about making contributions if your first job after college pays less than the minimum wage.

This is because most ISAs have a Minimum Income Threshold that must be fulfilled before payments begin. If your income falls below that level, your payments will be suspended until you earn more than that. 

If you lose your employment, your payments aren’t due; after all, you can’t owe a percentage of your income if no money is coming in. Income Share Agreements include a lot of flexibility, which is a big plus.

A maximum payment limitation is also a feature of ISAs, limiting your overall financial commitment. The largest payment you may make toward your ISA requirement is known as the maximum payment cap. 

Your total payments will never surpass this limit, and if they do, your ISA responsibilities will be completed!

As previously stated, the consumer advantages provided with an Income Share Agreement are designed to aid students during their payback time and help to eliminate compounding interest that never seems to go away.

2. Delayed tuition fees 

Although the terms of ISA contracts differ, most enable you to complete the program without having to worry about paying for it until you find a job after graduation. 

This allows students to concentrate on school and get the education they require without having to make payments while studying or having a significant sum of money set aside before starting their first semester. 

With an ISA, you won’t have to start paying until after you graduate and have a job, and you won’t owe anything until you earn more than a specified amount. This means that you’re only obligated to pay if your education leads to employment success.

3. Balances risks for students

Students’ risks are mitigated by ISAs, which can safeguard students from paying for educational experiences that do not add value to their labor market prospects. 

By balancing the risks associated with school finance, Income Share Agreements serve to move the risk of poor employment outcomes away from students and to create better results. 

In the future, ISAs may play a role in influencing how educational institutions keep their curricula relevant and current with the present workforce, allowing students to successfully enter the workforce.

Related Reading: Should I go to college – Check Them out Here

Final Thoughts 

Only you can determine whether an ISA is worth looking into or if you’d instead borrow money for college the traditional way. Whatever you decide, running the figures for each possibility would be prudent, so you know how much your degree will wind up costing.

While ISAs are becoming increasingly popular, they may end up costing students more in the long term. Student loans aren’t ideal either, so do your homework and choose your poison wisely. Higher education is worth it most of the time anyway.

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Brooks Conkle

Brooks is an entrepreneur, father, husband, & follower of the golden rule. He has over 15 years of experience as an entrepreneur after graduating with a Finance degree from Auburn University. Addicted to starting new business projects, he believes in creating multiple income streams and a life of flexibility. Business should work around your life, not the other way around. He creates content on his website, sharing his projects to help other hustlers in marketing, personal finance, and online business.