It has been a little while since we have posted an update on the great things happening at Loan Science, but it has been an extremely eventful year. The most significant event in the company’s history occurred last June when we acquired Student Connections from Strada Education Network. Student Connections is the organization started by USA Funds, as the division that provided financial wellness and student loan default prevention services to schools and students. The roots of this business go all the way back to 1960 when USA Funds first began helping students pay for school as a FFELP Loan Guarantor.

This opportunity has been game changing for Loan Science in many ways. First, it increased our client list to more than 200 schools. Second, it allowed us to operate two physical locations – Austin and Indianapolis. Third, we were able to retain very talented product development and customer experience personnel. We have not historically focused much on marketing efforts. In fact, many accuse us of being a well-kept secret. Adding these talented team members, along with Student Connections’ reputation, was really important. Fourth, we were able to acquire WhichWay, a financial wellness program that was originally developed in 2009 as USA Funds Life Skills® and recently evolved into a world class smartphone app! Last, but not least, we were able to add to our team of very talented borrower advocates. Once we armed them with the call center and analytic tools that have made Loan Science successful, it more than doubled productivity.

We have made significant investments in coaching, training and counseling the cross-site Borrower Advocate team. We start every day with location-based LEAN meetings that get the team focused on our goals for the day and gives everyone the opportunity to discuss ways to improve. Our approach is simple: Locate… Contact… Counsel. We work hard to develop strategies and campaigns to get borrowers on the phone with us. Our Borrower Advocates take the time to understand the borrower’s situation, explain the various options available to them and come up with a plan to get the borrower into a successful repayment status. 

Loan Science firmly believes that no borrower should default on a federal student loan. Income-based repayment plans are designed to help ALL borrowers… even if they are not earning enough to pay anything. We stress the importance of repayment and work directly with the borrower and servicer to get them on the path to successful repayment. Please forgive me if I sound defensive. I hear political rhetoric about default prevention companies described as forbearance shops and while that may have been relevant a decade ago, it offends me. Our number one goal and organizational mission is to help the borrower find the best solution for their situation. 

What’s Next?

Beginning May 1, 2019, we will be using the Student Connections name for all our financial wellness and default prevention business. That means our Borrower Advocates will identify themselves as calling from Student Connections. The Loan Science name will not be going away, but Student Connections better describes the support we provide to help students navigate their college funding and loan repayment options and we are proud to be able to use it.

We are working hard to combine the Loan Science and Student Connections systems into a common data, reporting, analytics and CRM platform for schools to use to track results and other key activities. We expect to have more exciting news about this over the summer.

We built an artificially intelligent chatbot that we will use to help borrowers who do not want to talk on the phone, but still need our help. This is vital because the student lending world serves more than 40 million borrowers, many of whom have grown up using tools like smartphones for virtually all of their financial needs. It’s time that the student lending world evolves to be able to serve borrowers ways that they prefer.

That’s all for now. My promise is to continue to provide updates with our progress and as always, we look forward to your feedback.