January 11, 2022

$300 loans provide lifelines — and learning — for students

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rep rife crosswalk 550pxAny UAB student can apply for a microloan. “We try very hard to make it as quick and painless as possible,” said Stephanie Yates, Ph.D., the creator of the program.Microloans from UAB’s Regions Institute for Financial Education, or RIFE, help any Blazer student fix a tire, make rent or meet another emergency — with money available in as little as 24 hours and no interest charged if paid back in 90 days.

Escaping the spiral: More and more students are having financial difficulties, says Stephanie Yates, Ph.D., the institute’s director, creator of the program and chair of the Department of Accounting and Finance at the Collat School of Business.

Something as small as a flat tire can quickly spiral into an exit from school. “Your car breaks down on the way to school, so you miss class,” Yates said. “You can’t get to work, so you miss shifts and suddenly you can’t pay rent. It all adds up. We thought, ‘If we could find a way to help a student get that tire, it would prevent all these other things.’”

Yates talked with Collat Dean Eric Jack, Ph.D., and he suggested a source of funds: a $25,000 pot of money originally created to aid students after the deadly 2011 tornadoes. Yates’ students helped create the microloan program’s rules:

  • get the money to those who need it most,
  • maintain a reserve so emergency needs can always be met, and
  • have flexibility to make non-emergency loans.

Priority goes to true emergencies, including:

  • loss of income
  • transportation issues
  • housing issues or difficult living situations
  • medical expenses

“It is very helpful for students who have a gap between the time the semester starts and when their financial aid arrives,” Yates said. “By far, the majority of the loans are repaid within 90 days, and very few students have paid interest. This is not a gotcha.” (The interest rate is 6 percent, starting on day 91.) In fact, the goal is to offer an alternative to payday loans, title loans and pawn shops.

Experiential learning: Members of the student-led Green & Gold Fund have written an investment policy to help the fund’s principal grow while keeping it safe. They also sit on the loan committee (all identifying information on fellow students is removed). The goal is “to continue to have this resource available for a long time,” said Jackie Dang, a finance major and Green & Gold Fund member who is RIFE’s portfolio manager. “It’s been a meaningful experience to know I am a part of an organization that is doing what we can to help UAB students.”

Open to all students: Any UAB student can apply for a microloan, Yates said: “We try very hard to make it as quick and painless as possible.”

For more details on microloans, email rifemicroloan@uab.edu.