AU launches debt repayment program

In partnership with public and private organizations, Anderson University has launched Anderson Now, a program designed to offer school loan repayment for graduates of Indiana colleges and universities who start or relocate a business in Anderson, Ind.

In November 2013, Anderson University received a $1 million grant to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation among college students and implement strategies to keep AU graduates in the state when they graduate. Last year, after reevaluating the needs of the community and the goals of the grant, the University approached the granting organization with a new idea.

“We saw needs in the community that we could be part of meeting,” said Deborah Miller Fox, a professor at AU and the director of IDEA-U.  “We have talented young people with big ideas for whom college debt is a barrier to the dream of starting their business. The city of Anderson wants to bring new business to the area. Our donor wants to help keep Indiana graduates in Indiana. The Anderson Now program seemed like a way to tackle all of these challenges and to remain true to the goal of encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Anderson Now will provide up to $25,000 in educational loan repayment to 10 Indiana college graduates who are willing to relocate or start their businesses in Anderson.  Participation in the program also gives these entrepreneurs access to experts who can provide ongoing business and technical support, access to a co-working space, access to affordable housing, and direct interaction with other small business owners in Madison County.

The program is guided by an advisory team, comprised of small business owners, members of the Madison County Corporation for Economic Development, and Bankable, the small business loan program of the Flagship Enterprise Center.  The partnerships forged between the university, the city of Anderson, small business owners in Anderson and Madison County, and other community leaders are key to the success of this program.

“AU graduates do great things while they are in school and after they graduate. We are committed to helping keep those bright, young professionals in the state of Indiana,” said President John S. Pistole.  “We are also committed to the city of Anderson, which we call home.

This program allows us help keep talented entrepreneurs in Indiana, it brings new businesses to the city of Anderson, and it helps Indiana graduates pay down their college debt. We’re so pleased that the Lilly Foundation saw the potential in this program and agreed to support it.”

Participants in the Anderson Now program must be graduates of a four-year Indiana college or university, present a viable business plan for a business to be located in Anderson, and have student loan debt.  Part of the screening process includes completion of the Bankable loan application and interviews with the Anderson Now advisory team.

“We want to reach young graduates who carry the burden of educational debt and probably don’t qualify for traditional small business financing,” said Miller Fox.  “The Bankable loan application serves two purposes. It supports our screening process to ensure that we’re taking calculated risks. And, it pre-qualifies the program participants for a micro loan through Bankable.  They certainly don’t have to take a small business loan, but the approval is there if they need the resources to help their business succeed and grow.”

The first step in applying is the completion of a screening form. Upon completion of the form, applicants will be contacted by the program directors to discuss the applicant’s eligibility and to provide instructions for next steps.

“The goal is to keep talented Hoosiers in Indiana and to remove the barriers to entrepreneurship for those young graduates,” Pistole said. “We believe Anderson Now can play an important role in encouraging small business development and in building up the city of Anderson. AU is proud to support entrepreneurship and innovation in this community.”

About IDEA-U

In November 2013, Anderson University received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation among college students and implement strategies to keep AU graduates in the state when they graduate. IDEA-U, the program developed as a result of that grant, has three primary components: imembedding professional development into students’ academic experience, increasing the strength and breadth of student and faculty network relationships, and stimulating collaborative, entrepreneurial projects among AU’s students.

Anderson University is on a mission to educate students for lives of faith and service, offering more than 60 undergraduate majors, 30 three-year degrees, 20 NCAA Division III intercollegiate sports, alongside adult and graduate programs. The private, liberal arts institution is fully accredited and recognized among top colleges for its business, computer science, cybersecurity, dance, engineering, nursing, and teacher education programs. Anderson University was established in 1917 in Anderson, Indiana, by the Church of God.

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