Analysis Featured

Solving the Student Loan Problem for International Students

U.S. international students

The most common and pertinent issue facing an international student looking to study in the United States is securing credit for various needs like tuition, credit card, and buying a car. The stress of settling in a new country coupled with finding the best loan option can be a daunting task. Nomad Credit realized there is a void with regards to helping international students and visa holders (H-1B, L1, etc.) find credible lenders, and vice-versa. Nomad Credit’s search engine provides comparable options for the credit seeker to compare and decide the best possible loan option for them. It functions as a pure marketplace.

International Student Analytics

The number of international students in the U.S. grew by 7.1% and crossed the 1 million mark in the 2015-16 academic year. China (328,547) is the biggest contributor followed by India (165,918), Saudi Arabia (61,287), South Korea (61,007) and Canada (26,973). In total, there are approximately 5 million international students around the world, and by 2025, the number is expected to reach 8 million.

U.S. international students
Source: NewAmericanEconomy.org

Economic Benefit of International Students

NAFSA
Source: NAFSA.org

As per the latest NAFSA’s analysis, 1,043,839 international students contributed $32.8 billion and supported more than 400,000 jobs in the U.S. economy during the 2015-16 academic year. That means for every seven international students enrolled, three U.S. jobs are created.

jobs created
Source: NAFSA.org

All of the above highlights the definitive impact international students have on the economy of the host nation. But the hurdles these students face in accessing credit is remarkable. Though they are a riskier credit bet as compared to local students, shutting down a multi-billion dollar market is just not feasible.

Introduction to Nomad’s Specialized Marketplace

Nomad Credit has its headquarters in Chicago and was launched in 2017. Founder and CEO Brian Hoffman initially launched a plain-vanilla education loan company, following SoFi’s footsteps. But soon the company’s focus changed from refinancing student loans to funding international students. It aims to find the right financial product for international students and/or visa holders currently or planning to live in the U.S. The main visa holders it serves are F1, J1, L1, and H-1B visas.

Prior to Nomad Credit, Hoffman worked as an analyst at Sagence, a management advisory firm. In the beginning of this year, the company managed to raise $125,000 in angel funding.

Business/Revenue Model

The underlying business matrix is similar to already established fintech loan marketplaces like Lending Tree or Credit Karma. Nomad gets paid from partner lending companies for providing leads or customers. Payment structure may vary as it also deals with lenders based out of the United States, but could include a percentage fee, fixed fee per customer, monthly fee, or fee per led. This flexibility in payment options is necessary for serving and partnering with multiple lenders in different parts of the world.

The company has invested its resources to help find international students find the right combination of lender, insurer, and other financial services depending on their needs. It uses a simple questionnaire focused on the school, degree, original location of the student, and other personal information.

Partners and Unique Selling Proposition

The young company has managed to stitch up multiple partnerships with 11 financial partners, 2 insurance companies, and one international payments company. Adding insurance to its list of services was a no-brainer as international students are simultaneously looking at travel, medical, and renter insurance.

Though there are established players in the overall education and marketplace segment, such as Credible and Lending Tree, what sets Nomad Credit apart from its competitors is its specialization on becoming the one-stop shop for international students. It is the only company that is directly dealing with the U.S. as well as Indian lenders and is in the process of onboarding Chinese lenders. Though there is little competition from traditional lenders in India, well-funded Indian tech startups like BankBazaar are also turning their attention to student loans.

Nomad Credit’s Ideal Customer

Though the company is only 4 months old, it has managed to generate a lot of interest among international students while website traffic has been increasing two- or three-fold every month. It uses various marketing tools in India like advertising through partnerships, using paid ads, and blogging, and will be adding a student forum soon.

Anyone from Asia or African country coming to the United States to get an advanced degree like MBA or M.Eng (Masters in Engineering) is a prospective customer. Lenders prefer students who are studying MBA or M.Eng because those are highly employable and lucrative degrees, and there is lesser chance of default.

Though the company is based out of the United States, it has consciously decided to serve the entire international student ecosystem and not just students looking to come to the U.S. It has originated a lot of loans for students from India going to Germany or Singapore for higher studies.

Future Headwinds and Goals

Sallie Mae funds almost 95% of the U.S. student loan market. This has stifled innovation and made it imperative that Nomad targets markets where government entities are not the biggest players in student loans. Massive markets like India fit the bill; there is a lot of potential as the majority of the market is still untapped. That is the reason why this young startup sees more value in going after Asian countries.

Once the company is able to establish a firm footing in India, it wants to further expand into China and Nigeria. It aims to form partnerships in more and more countries so that it is able to serve a wider range of the population. Moving forward, it wants to further improve its technology as well its products so that it can cater to people from different cultures with unique needs. Integrating multiple languages into the platform is an important step toward that vision.

There are roughly 5 million international students today. They have more than doubled since 2000 and represent a hundred billion dollar opportunity for the financial services industry, currently being overlooked due to the fragmented nature of the customer base. Nomad Credit has been able to envisage the power of uniting this global industry on one platform and with funding and proper execution can actually target one of the last few untapped pockets of the alt-lending industry.

Authors:

Written by Heena Dhir.

Allen Taylor
Allen Taylor

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