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Press Release

UBS Optimus Foundation partners with Convergence to award USD 1 million student financing initiative

March 1, 2023, Toronto/Zurich - UBS Optimus Foundation has awarded USD 1 million to four winners of the Tertiary Education Financing Prize. It launched the prize in partnership with Convergence to identify successful existing solutions that provide inclusive, fair, and affordable financing to students in tertiary education in low- and lower-middle-income countries.

As the youth population continues to expand in these countries, access to cost-effective tertiary education remains largely out of reach for most people. Government funding and scholarships are limited, and private financing options are scarce. The Tertiary Education Financing Prize seeks to identify and support financing solutions that can help more young people enter tertiary education. As a result, it aims to drive improved education outcomes as well as increased youth employment. This prize is the first step of UBS Optimus Foundation’s longer-term vision of mobilizing capital at scale towards student financing.

“We are delighted to award the Tertiary Education Prize recognizing the best solutions available today that enable students to access higher education through inclusive, fair, and affordable financing. Education is key to transforming employment opportunities and life chances and we want to develop investible, innovative, and scalable financing solutions that help more young people on this journey,” says Maya Ziswiler, CEO of UBS Optimus Foundation

The Tertiary Education Financing Prize conducted a thorough and highly competitive process, including a virtual pitch day where shortlisted applicants presented their solutions to a panel of expert judges. The four winners were then selected by Convergence and UBS Optimus Foundation based on the feedback of the judges.

The winners:

  • Varthana - Providing a student loan solution for tertiary education that targets lower and lower-middle income students in India. Varthana has disbursed over 5,000 loans to students, many of whom do not have a credit history and have limited access to financing. Varthana already has an established school loan business and will look to leverage its existing network to make its student financing solution scalable and more accessible to underserved students in India.
  • Eduvanz - Providing a tech-enabled financing solution to support young people in India who are looking to upskill themselves. They have a strong network of over 1,000 partner education institutions who have supported them to provide low-interest loans to more than 120,000 students, including 85,000 students with very little credit history. Eduvanz plans to improve its tech platform and lending capabilities to further expand its student base.
  • PROtalento - Offering income sharing agreements (ISAs) targeting low-income students in Colombia. In addition to financing through ISAs, PROtalento also acts as an ecosystem builder by sourcing, selecting, and training students to pursue technical careers. Over 900 students have already enrolled in PROtalento programs and their plan is to expand to other geographies in Latin America, such as El Salvador.
  • Lumni - Providing a combination of financing solutions including scholarships and income sharing agreements targeting low-income students across Latin America. They have already supported over 16,000 students and plan to further scale to reach underserved students by launching a USD 10 million blended finance fund. The fund will look to invest in 4,000 youths across Latin America to help them study in tech-related careers with high employment opportunities.

“The aim of this prize was to find the best student financing solutions in the market that are scalable, and judging by the quality of our winners I believe we did just that. As we follow these winners, we hope to see them make the impact case for blended finance in education and drive capital towards education in much greater volumes,” says Joan Larrea, CEO at Convergence.

Convergence led the set-up, launch, and management of the call for applications on behalf of the UBS Optimus Foundation, as well as conducted the initial review, evaluation, and recommendation of the top applications for consideration.

About UBS Optimus Foundation

UBS Optimus Foundation is a grant-making foundation that offers UBS clients a platform to use their wealth to drive positive social and environmental change. The Foundation selects programs that improve children’s health, education and protection, ones that have the potential to be transformative, scalable and sustainable as well as programs tackling environmental and climate issues.

About Convergence

Convergence is the global network for blended finance. On top of market acceleration through its Design Funding program, Convergence generates blended finance data, intelligence, and deal flow to increase private sector investment in developing countries. Convergence’s global membership includes over 160 public, private, and philanthropic investors as well as sponsors of transactions and funds.

About Convergence’s Design Funding Program

Convergence’s Design Funding Program operates as a market acceleration tool providing early-stage capital to support blended finance solutions in frontier markets and nascent sectors to accelerate the number of investible transactions in market targeting SDGs. Please visit Convergence’s Design Funding page for submission deadlines as well as other open windows.

Media Contact

Sijia Yi

Head of Communications at Convergence

Tel.: +1-647-573-5993

Email: [email protected]