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Lending to International Students

This is Aaron Pisacane, Product Lead of Student Loans and Personal Loans. I have been in the student loan industry for 25 years and frequently sit on panel discussions. I am considered an expert in student lending, and recently, I was put to the test.

On August 13th, I was made aware of an international student from Uzbekistan with an F1 Student Visa. Currently, Shodiyakhon is desperately seeking student loan financing for the second year of a 4-year graduate program at Thomas Jefferson University – Pharmacy School in Philadelphia. Shodiyakhon previously paid for her Bachelor degree at Kutztown University (PA). Her first year graduate program was financed with the help of a U.S. cosigner (prior boyfriend) with a traditional, Top 3 student loan lender.

Student’s dilemma #1 ?: Shodiyakhon must now seek non-traditional financing without the option of a U.S. cosigner that traditional lenders require.

Student’s dilemma #2 ?: If financing cannot be secured for the fall semester, Shodiyakhon will be forced to go back to Uzbekistan as her F1 Student Visa will expire.

What is she to do? The Uzbekistan Pharmacy graduate student who works part-time at Jefferson Apothecary recently asked a veteran pharmacist for help. This pharmacist happens to have just gone out on a date with a student loan industry veteran (me) at a South Philly Italian restaurant two days prior.

Aaron’s dilemma ?: I was tasked to research the industry in two days with all of my contacts to see available student loan options for an international student in a second year graduate program without an available U.S. cosigner.

I contacted Emmanuel Smadja, CEO of MPower, who lends to international students (we were on panel a year ago). I also contacted Fabrizio Balestri, CEO of Education Loan Source, who was in Italy on vacation. Fabrizio shared pictures by SMS Text, which I enjoyed; but more importantly, he told me to check out Prodigy Finance. The next day, Emmanuel got back to me and told me that MPower only lends to upperclassmen (those in their third and fourth year of school). But, he told me to check out Stilt, a personal loan lender for recent immigrants.

A synopsis of my 2-day research:

MPower Financing, a provider of student loans for international students.

  • Lends at 362 US Colleges, including Thomas Jefferson University ?.
  • Only students within two years of graduating are eligible (i.e., upperclassmen). She is three years from graduating, so she does not qualify ?.
  • Must be a resident in one of the 190+ countries supported. The eligible country list was not available on the website.

Prodigy Finance, a provider of student loans for international students.

  • Lends to international students at over 200 colleges for programs that are in the US News Top 100 or Top 50 postgraduate degrees in engineering, business, law, public policy or health sciences. Thomas Jefferson University is not on their eligible school list ?.
  • Must be a resident in one of the 150 countries supported. Turkmenistan is supported, but not Uzbekistan ?.

STILT, a provider of personal loans for immigrants and the under served.

  • Supports F-1 Student Visas, OPT, H-1B, TN, DACA and more. Her visa qualifies ?.
  • Employment: For contract employment, she must have at least 6 months remaining on her contract. She qualifies with part-time work at Jefferson Apothecary ?.
  • Lends up to $35,000. The loan is sufficient to get her through the second year of her 4-year Pharmacist program ?.


Still waiting for a final credit decision from STILT, but approval looks promising. Next year, Shodiyakhon expects to apply for an MPower student loan.

To be continued…