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Exploring an Alternative to Student Loans- Constructing the Demand for Income Share Agreements

By Paul Zimmer and Alex Hilsenrath

With the rapid growth in the US student loan market and rising default rates in the space, students and universities have begun to explore other methods to fund rising undergraduate education costs. This paper will seek to analyze a proposed financing solution, exploring a theoretical market for a financial mechanism known as an Income Share Agreement, or ISA. Currently, the market for ISAs is relatively unpenetrated and not institutionalized. Under a theoretical institutionalized market, the paper will pursue a framework which compares a student’s preference for an ISA versus a private student loan. The objective is to determine under what circumstances and what variables determine when a student will prefer an ISA versus a private student loan, and vice versa. We first evaluate a student’s CARA utility function under an ISA and under private debt. We find that under some degree of risk-aversion, the individual will strictly prefer the ISA financing option. Next, we introduce the concept of moral hazard in the student’s optimization problem. When solving the optimization problem, we determine that a relationship exists between degree of risk aversion, variance of the income distribution, principal amount borrowed, and student’s earning ability when choosing between an ISA and a private student loan. We then examine this relationship in the context of a mixed financing strategy and solve for the optimal mixed financing bundle. Finally, we introduce the concept of adverse selection based upon asymmetric information between the borrower and the financier.

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Advisors: Professor Curtis Taylor | JEL Codes: I2, I22, I23


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