SAN DIEGO–San Diego Workforce Partnership and UC San Diego Extension have partnered to help students obtain hi-tech jobs without obtaining a loan to attend class.
The Income share agreement (ISA) is an alternative way to pay for education where a student receives funding for school, and in exchange, agrees to pay a percentage of future earnings for a fixed period of time.
Dr. Josh Shapiro, UC San Diego Extension Assistant Dean of Research Affairs, explained the difference between the ISA model and a student loan.
“A loan is debt. It’s an obligation that needs to be repaid regardless of financial or employment circumstance. An ISA flips this model and can be seen as an investment in an individual that is only repaid contingent upon student success,” Dr. Shapiro wrote.
Through the Workforce ISA Fund, the San Diego Workforce Partnership and UC San Diego Extension are offering certificate-based programs in identified promising fields for growth and wages. The courses offered include digital marketing, business intelligence, front end web development, and java programming.
Students in the Workforce ISA program pay no upfront fees to enroll in a class. Afterwards, students will spend nine months going through the educational courses while at the same time receiving support services and mentorship from the San Diego Workforce Partnership. Once they complete their coursework they will have the opportunity for a paid internship.
Payment begins once students enter the workforce. The amount paid is no more than 1.8 times the cost of the program and a reduced payment window assures payback won’t continue on. Once the payment window closes, students are no longer responsible for payback, according to Dr. Shapiro.
“We have a number of student protections to ensure program success. Students don’t start payments until they’re earning a living wage—which is $40,000 in San Diego,” he said.
Claire Gregowicz, an Oak Park resident, and a Workforce ISA Fund student, first heard about the program through a friend.
“I heard about the program from a friend, who is also in the program. We had been talking the week before about social media metrics and marketing as he was looking for a way to boost his career skills and I was looking for a way to market the documentary I am making. He sent me a link to the program and I jumped on it,” she said.
At first, Gregowicz hesitated about taking a certificate program but she saw an opportunity and potential to help her career in digital marketing.
“I was so excited about it I sent the same information to my oldest son, Paul. He applied and is also in the Digital Marketing program with me,” she said.
She says a background in digital marketing will help her promote her upcoming documentary film.
“I selected digital marketing because initially because I needed to learn marketing skills to help me in moving forward with the documentary I have been working on for the last 2 years. In the last several weeks I have learned so much that will help me as a content creator to make content that people hopefully can connect with,” Gregowicz said.
Gregowicz will take the first of five classes in the series this year at UCSD Extension. She plans to apply this certification knowledge to create a marketing campaign for her documentary.
She says the fund is valuable to students because not only is it an opportunity to invest in themselves, learning new skills to take into the workforce, but an opportunity that comes with so much support.
The pilot Workforce ISA program officially launched this summer with 50 students, and 50 more will begin this fall. With the generous support of partners and philanthropy, the program will have the funding to expand the number of students each year as well as the course offerings.
“With this initial pilot we expect to serve 100 individuals. By 2021, our program should support 500 San Diegans and by 2025, we’re projecting being fully self-sustaining through the pay-it-forward model,” Dr. Shapiro said.
UC San Diego Extension is embedded in the tech industry and has a large continuing education portfolio, with approximately 66,000 enrollments a year. This largely consists of engineers, project managers, data analysts and people who work in the high-tech, high-wage environment.
With a rapidly changing labor market, the growing costs of education, and student debt make it clear that financial reform is needed in higher education.
Through engaging with the community, people who didn’t have college degrees can get good jobs in the tech industry.
For more information, visit workforce.org.