That sound you hear is thousands of MBA admits breathing a huge sigh of relief.
When a prominent loan facilitator was forced by ongoing pandemic concerns to close major markets this spring, thousands of international students were thrown into limbo over financing their MBAs in the United States this fall, forcing some business schools to get creative in aiding their admits — if they helped at all.
Prodigy Finance, the fintech platform founded by INSEAD MBAs that has helped tens of thousands of student borrowers finance their educational journeys, restricted markets in the spring for the first time in its 13-year history in response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and related investor concerns. The list of countries where MBA admits could not get a Prodigy loan was long, including France, the UK, and China — and for many, that spelled doom for their MBA dreams, as few other funding options exist for international students. Business schools in the U.S. are notoriously reluctant to award scholarship money to non-citizens, and most of the other prominent loan companies deal primarily with domestic MBA borrowers. Some turned to regional options, such as banks in their home countries, but the ongoing pandemic restricted many of those avenues, too.
Prodigy said in March that its restrictions were temporary, but no one knew how long they might last. Now we have an answer: only a few months in all. Prodigy has announced that it is reopening shuttered markets and inviting rejected applicants to reapply.
‘OUR ELIGIBILITY HAS ONCE AGAIN EXPANDED’
Since its founding in 2007, Prodigy has helped more than 20,000 students from 135 different countries navigate the daunting regulatory edifice that faces non-citizens, providing more than $1 billion in loans through a collective funding approach that involves a community of alumni, institutions, and qualified private investors. The company helps students in all fields, not just business.
But in March, “bound by regulatory frameworks which preclude us permanently from some markets,” Prodigy expanded its list of countries whose citizens it could not loan to. Prodigy is permanently excluded from supporting markets like Sudan, Sweden, Taiwan, and Belgium; those exclusions remain unchanged. (They include some U.S. and Canadian states.) Markets excluded temporarily included much bigger countries like Australia, Canada, and Germany.
Would the restrictions last until coronavirus was under control in every major market? Would investor difficulties prolong the pain beyond this year? Would Prodigy survive at all?
The answer came this month.
“We’re excited to announce that our eligibility has once again expanded,” Joel Frisch, Prodigy’s head of Americas, tells Poets&Quants. “We’ve secured additional loan investors, allowing us to reopen markets that were temporarily excluded from funding.” The move allows Prodigy “to serve students from more countries as they seek their graduate degrees across the various school campuses. Students can refer to the updated eligibility on our site for any questions.”
‘APPLICATIONS ARE OPEN’
Prodigy’s contraction occurred in part because of an indirect result of the virus: the dramatically heightened volume of B-school applications in 2020 and 2021. The landscape was complicated by travel restrictions and consulate closures. Some countries, like India and Brazil, were not on the official list of restricted markets, but many borrowers from there still found themselves turned away — like Luis, the Brazilian admitted to a top-20 U.S. B-school, who spoke to P&Q about his rising alarm at being unable to secure what is likely to exceed $200K over the two-year course of his MBA.
But the situation has definitely improved since the spring. And with the reopening of major markets, Prodigy is inviting MBA admits who were previously rejected to reapply.
“We have notified those students who have contacted us from temporarily excluded countries that they are again eligible to apply for Prodigy Finance loans,” Joel Frisch says. “Applications are open for all Prodigy Finance supported markets for Fall 2021, Spring 2022, and we welcome late interest from additional students.”