Cara Lambregts

Breaking financial barriers: How funding impacts diversity in higher education


“Education is the key to unlocking the world, a passport to freedom.” – Oprah Winfrey

Having access to higher education can be a life changing factor that not only increases the knowledge of an individual and their ability to work, but also provide opportunities for them to contribute and make a large impact.

However, one of the largest barriers to accessing these opportunities is the inability to afford an education. Without financial access to pursue a post-secondary education, students are not able to afford the costs of tuition fees, books, and living expenses that are required when attending a university or college. Because of this barrier, there is an upset to the balance of diversity within schools and lack of social mobility.

Moreover, the effects of this barrier can be felt within entire nations. According to studies completed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and the human development report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), when more individuals in a nation have a higher education background, there is an increase in GDP per capita, productivity, and a more skilled workforce leading to a more competitive economy.

What barriers are students from these underrepresented communities facing when pursuing education?

Barriers include limited access to (and lack of awareness of) financial aid, limited support from family and community, and a higher cost of attendance.

These barriers come from factors that are beyond the control of many individuals.

By (unintentionally) excluding lower income students from higher education classrooms, there is a lack of underrepresented groups who would normally bring different perspectives and experiences to the classroom. This hinders opportunities for social mobility, increases inequality and contributes to a lack of diverse perspectives in research.

Although financial access is not the sole reason for a lack of diversity within higher education, it is a larger aspect that can be tackled to help increase the number of students who are able to attend universities.

In short, increasing financial accessibility can have a large impact on increasing geographic and socioeconomic diversity in higher education. When more students from lower to middle income backgrounds are able to attend schools, social mobility, economic growth, and a balance of diversity is achievable. It is up to members of the higher education field and policy makers to help find solutions that can break down barriers and make education accessible to all.

Making access to education more accessible

Studyportals’ mission to make education more accessible has meant increasing opportunities for students to achieve their dream study program. Breaking down financial barriers has been an important facet of this task. Studyportals has long hosted a list of scholarship opportunities for students, but now also works with two large companies in the financial sector: Prodigy Finance and MPOWER Financing.

“Our mission is to empower the world to choose education and to support students throughout their full decision-making journey,” said Edwin van Rest, Co-Founder and CEO of Studyportals. “Being able to connect students with more options to finance their studies means that we can help even more students access education opportunities. Along with a lack of awareness and information, a lack of finances is a huge barrier for many to reach their education dreams.”

Both MPOWER Financing and Prodigy Finance have unique approaches to providing student loans and can cater to a wide range of students, without the need for co-signers or collateral.

The students served by MPOWER Financing come from over 150 countries and nearly 80% of them are from Global South countries.

“MPOWER is committed to removing barriers to higher education and investing in the educational dreams of the world’s most talented minds with our no-cosigner, no-collateral international student loan products. Through this innovative partnership with Studyportals, we can support more students in their journey to top universities across the United States and Canada. The result is a win-win for students, who will enjoy access to same-day loan offers and visa support letters, as well as education institutions, who will be able to tap into the diverse, talented pool of international students.”

Prodigy Finance works exclusively with Graduate students and can offer loans with the Prodigy Income Share Agreement. This agreement allows Prodigy Finance to offer loans to students based on their future income based off of their chosen degree program allowing more flexibility in their financial options. This allows more students the opportunity to develop their skills and use their future abilities to help them remove the barrier that is initially in front of them.

We asked Prodigy Finance, about how diversity has shifted with the inclusion of more financial support opportunities.

“In the past, studying abroad was mostly a dream for students who came from high-income families, however, more recently, this has begun to change. A lot of students from emerging markets such as India, Vietnam, and Brazil – who interestingly live in small towns are increasingly considering studying abroad as opposed to going to their local university for their masters. This is a powerful trend and will help universities to become more inclusive and diverse.”

By increasing access to financial aid, Higher Education will be able to boost diversity in classrooms and institutions creating a more inclusive, dynamic, and tolerant future for students.


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