Messiah College to offer alternative form of tuition aid

Messiah College next month will be offering its students an alternative way to pay for tuition.

Known as an income-share agreement, the method provides students with money to cover a portion of their college expenses.

In exchange, students agree to pay back 3 percent to 3.5 percent of their future income for a set period of time. 

New and current students who meet financial-need criteria, are eligible for the program, which is seen as an alternative to loans, as well as to financial aid from the college. GPAs are not a factor, according to Messiah officials.

The agreements also will be available to graduate students in Messiah’s occupational therapy and physical therapy programs.

Students can receive up to $5,000, per year. The maximum amount is $20,000 for students who are awarded an income-share agreement for all four years, said David Walker, vice president for finance and planning at Messiah

The total repayment is capped at 1.7 times the amount that students receive from the college, but the exact amount depends on the student’s income after they graduate. While students may end up paying back more money than they received, it doesn’t accrue interest the way a loan would. 

Repayment will be waived for Messiah graduates who make less than $25,000 per year. If students make more than $25,000 a year, monthly payments will resume, but if they never cross the threshold, they never have to pay the money back. 

A more focused income-share program also is available to help Messiah seniors pay for their last year at the college. Dubbed the senior dynamic tuition program, it caps repayment at the amount of money the student is given, Walker said. The college’s yearly tuition, including fees, room and board, is $45,680.

The college is funding the programs using donated funds raised specifically for them, according to Walker. The school bears 100 percent of the financial risk, he added.

The school has earmarked $100,000 for each program for year one. Leaders are currently discussing goals for year two and beyond, Walker said.

“We want to help as many students as possible with these programs, but the only limitation we anticipate is the level of funding available. Our hope is to raise significant dollars via contributions to fund the programs. Our vision is to help as many students as possible,” Walker said.


Growing in popularity at colleges across the country, income-share agreements are offered at Purdue University in Indiana, Clarkson University in New York and Lackawanna College in Scranton.

Messiah College’s income-share agreement program will be designed by Virginia-based Vemo Education, an education technology company that partners with higher education institutions to launch income-share agreements. Messiah will be paying Vemo a service fee of $30 per month per account, Walker said.

Established in 1909, Messiah College is a private Christian college based in Upper Allen Township. It enrolls more than 3,300 undergraduate and graduate students.

Shelby White
Shelby White covers banking and finance, law and Lancaster County for the Central Penn Business Journal. For tips, email her at swhite@cpbj.com.

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