One Year In: How General Assembly’s Catalyst Program is Increasing Accessibility

General Assembly (GA) is a skills training provider that has trained over 40,000 individuals in the fields of coding, data, design, and business since its founding in 2011. GA has 20 campuses worldwide and has grown to work with more than 10,000 hiring partners– including dozens of Fortune 100 companies.

In August of 2018, General Assembly launched The Catalyst Program— an Income Share Agreement program crafted with the help of the ISA experts at Vemo Education– with the goal of issuing ISAs to 5,000 students in three years.

As we near The Catalyst Program’s one year anniversary, we want to highlight how ISAs have increased students’ access to this career- and life-changing training. 

Barriers to Entry

Between 2014 and 2018, 3,300 of General Assembly’s students financed their training fully or partially with private student loans. Yet despite General Assembly’s loan program, over half of admitted students don’t ultimately enroll because of inability to secure a loan.

Prior to The Catalyst Program, Scott Kirkpatrick, General Assembly’s COO & President, reported: “Half of the applicants who successfully completed our screening process and were admitted to GA Immersives were unable to secure financing due to FICO credit score cutoffs often associated with private loans… As a result, students with limited credit history, a handful of penalties due to late payments, or other debt obligations are unable to secure financing — perpetuating a cycle that keeps them underskilled and underemployed.” 

General Assembly was losing students to financial barriers. 

Harnessing Untapped Potential

In response, General Assembly and Vemo Education designed an Income Share Agreement program– with a custom, student-friendly program design– that was grounded in GA’s philosophy of using data to make decisions, understand the broader ecosystem, and put students first. 

“We’ve assessed thousands of students and accepted them into our courses based on their readiness for full-time training and whether we believe they will have successful outcomes post-graduation. Given this, we know that individuals accepted to our Immersive programs but denied financing would be likely to graduate and secure a job,” says Kirkpatrick. 

To ensure students are ready to succeed in one of General Assembly’s Immersive programs, applicants– no matter their funding choice– are required to complete a three-stage admissions process. Once conditionally admitted to the Immersive program of their choice, students interested in a Catalyst Program ISA must complete 100% of 20–60 hours of pre-course work. After that pre-work, students take an automated readiness assessment and must achieve a satisfactory score to be officially admitted. Only then are students formally admitted and eligible for an ISA.

General Assembly is leveraging ISAs– and its tailored program design– to get these students upskilled and in the workforce, despite their financial background. To date, GA has issued ISAs to hundreds of students that may otherwise have been unable to enroll due to their credit history or other financial obstacles. Since launching their ISA program, General Assembly has also seen a 25% increase in students interested in their immersive courses.

We are committed to remaining transparent about what we learn and sharing our findings and best practices as other education and training providers consider this model,” Scott Kirkpatrick says. “Our hope is to help provide clarity for other accelerated training providers interested in the potential of ISAs, inspire greater transparency for students, and ensure that providers have increased accountability for the success of their students.”

Read more about General Assembly’s decision to launch an Income Share Agreement program in their white paper, Untapped Potential

To learn more about ISAs and how Vemo Education can benefit your institution and student body, contact us today online, at info@vemo.com, or 703-831-7231.

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