How it works

The Opportunity ISA Fund is made available to eligible Bottom Line students to help them cover the costs of their education without all of the risks and anxiety that comes with taking on debt. Students who use the fund agree to contribute a percentage of their future income back to the fund for a set period to help sustain the fund for future students.

How can the Opportunity ISA Fund help me?


Funding Your Education Without Debt

What are the benefits of this program?

When you fund your education with an Opportunity ISA, you can focus on succeeding in school and pursuing the career path that makes the most sense to you. Your payments adjust with your income so they are always affordable. Unlike a traditional debt-based option, such as a student loan, the Opportunity ISA has no interest and you will not be obligated to pay a fixed amount over the term of the ISA. Instead, since your payments will adjust with your income and you could end up paying more or less than the amount advanced by the fund.

How much money can I take from the fund?

The amount of money you can receive from the fund depends on your other financial commitments. The general rule, however, is that students cannot take more than $25,000 per year or receive additional money from the fund once they have committed 15 percent of their income. We do not want a student to take on an unrealistic financial burden. Therefore, assuming a student has no other commitments, he or she could receive funding up to a 15 percent commitment of income or the $25,000 per year limit. To see how this might translate into specific amounts of funding, please see our comparison tool.

Is there a minimum amount of ISA financing that I have to take to participate?

To see the minimum amount of ISA financing that is required to be eligible, please see our comparison tool.

How will I receive my Opportunity ISA funds?

All funding will be sent to the student’s institution and processed through the student accounts office. If eligible any refunds will be processed by the attending school.

Will taking funding through this program affect my other financial aid?

Your eligibility for grants, scholarships, and other need-based aid will not be affected by your participation in the Opportunity ISA program. Nor will your eligibility for federal student loans be impacted. Opportunity ISA funding should be handled by your institution’s financial aid office in the same way they would handle a private student loan.

Opportunity ISA funding should be handled by your institution’s financial aid office in compliance with the school’s cost of attendance practices. Your ISA funds, in addition to the student’s other financial aid awards, cannot exceed the cost of attendance budget for the period. Therefore, ISA funding may reduce or replace existing loan eligibility if a student’s cost of attendance budget, minus any ISA financing he or she has taken, is below his or her federal loan eligibility for a term. ISA funding will not reduce any grants or scholarships.

Prior to taking on a financial obligation, such as a student loan or the Opportunity ISA, you should always determine whether you are eligible for any grants, scholarships, or work-study. Your institution’s financial aid office will be able to give you more information about these types of aid.

What is Lumni and how will I keep track of my ISA?

Lumni is a secure, student-friendly ISA application and servicing partner. Lumni provides a simple online portal and student managers to help you with your ISA every step of the way, from sign up through repayment. The Lumni portal is where you'll go to keep track of funding, disbursements, record keeping, and repayment. And Lumni's dedicated student managers are reachable by phone, email, messaging, and skype -- so you'll always have someone to turn to when you have a question.


ELIGIBILITY AND APPLICATION

What are the eligibility requirements?

To be eligible you must:

  • Be seeking a bachelor’s degree
  • Be a freshman (including rising freshman), sophomore, junior or senior by the time you would be receiving financing
  • Be enrolled full-time (not required in the summer)
  • Be making Satisfactory Academic Progress (as determined by your school)
  • Have no significant adverse credit events (though credit score is not a consideration)
  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Have completed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Have completed or plan to complete registration for the term for which you are applying
  • Be at least the age of majority (the age of adulthood) in your state of residence at the time you sign the agreement
  • Be enrolled at one of the eligible institutions (see list below)

What institutions are eligible for this program?

Bottom Line students attending the following institutions are eligible:

  • DePaul University
  • Dominican University
  • Eastern Illinois
  • Elmhurst College
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Illinois State University
  • Loyola University
  • Monmouth
  • North Park University
  • Northern Illinois University
  • Saint Xavier University
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • University of Illinois at Springfield
  • University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
  • Western Illinois University

What can I expect during the application process?

Please see our application page for more information on the application process itself.

Do I need a cosigner to take an ISA?

There is no cosigner requirement to participate in this program.

Am I required to work in a particular field after school?

There is no requirement that you work in a particular field or that you work at all. The Opportunity ISA Fund is designed to enable you to pursue the career path about which you are most passionate.


Making Payments

When does my payment obligation begin?

There is a grace period of six months after you complete or discontinue the degree program for which the funds were applied.

How are my monthly payments determined?

Lumni's online portal makes it easy to upload and submit the documentation we need to calculate your monthly payments.

Your monthly payments are determined by informal documentation (such as a paystub from your employer) which is used to approximate your annual income. This estimate of your annual income is divided by 12 to set your monthly payment amounts. You will also be required to submit copies of your tax return each year; the income on your tax return for a year determines your final obligation for that year, and the difference between your total monthly payments for that year and your final obligation will be reconciled at that time through a “true up” process.

Does interest accrue on my Opportunity ISA?

There is no interest that will accrue on an Opportunity ISA.

What is the maximum amount I have to pay back to the fund?

If your income is very high there is a cap on how high your monthly payments will go. This cap varies by the year of your contract. To see the specific cap amounts, please visit our comparison tool.

Can I prepay my Opportunity ISA?

Yes, you can prepay (and thus cancel) your Opportunity ISA. To do so, look up the cap amount for the appropriate year in your contract using the comparison tool, or simply ask your Lumni student manager. Each payment you make of that cap amount (in addition to your current obligation) will remove one month off the end of your payment term.

Are my payments back to the Opportunity ISA Fund voluntary?

Your payments back to the fund are not voluntary. While we believe the Opportunity ISA provides students with greater flexibility in paying for their education compared to traditional loans, the Opportunity ISA still creates a financial obligation. Following graduation, you are required to make payments indexed to your income. Because the Opportunity ISA is a financial obligation, students should evaluate their options carefully, including speaking with their College Possible coach.

Is there a forbearance option if my payments are unaffordable?

If your payments are creating an economic hardship, you may submit an application for an economic hardship forbearance through Lumni. If approved, your payments are suspended during the period of forbearance. Your payment term is also extended by the number of months of the forbearance. An economic hardship forbearance is granted for an entire calendar year.

If you are struggling with your payments, you can also request a payment deferral through Lumni. A payment deferral gives you the option to suspend your monthly payments for up to three months; however, it is important to note that your payments later in the year may be higher if your income has remained the same.


WHAT HAPPENS IF...

What happens if I take an Opportunity ISA for more than one year of school?

If you take more than one ISA then your payment obligation when you leave school will simply be the sum of the percentages for each of the ISAs you have taken.

What happens if I’m unemployed or otherwise earning a low income during the payment period?

If you are earning less than $27,000 on an annualized basis during any month of the contract, you will have no payment obligation for that month. If you earn less than $27,000 in an entire year, you have no obligation for that year; however, your payment term will be extended by 12 months (or a proportional number of months if you’re in the first or last year of your term and it covers part of the year). Your payment term cannot be extended more than five years.

What happens if I go to graduate school?

Your decision to attend graduate school has no effect on your Opportunity ISA. However, if your income decreases while in graduate school, your ISA will flexibly adjust your payments so that they remain affordable. If you are making less than $27,000 a year (adjusted over time) while you are in graduate school, you will have no payment obligation. For the years in which you have no payment obligation, your term will be extended on a one-to-one basis.

What happens if I change my major?

The terms for your Opportunity ISA are determined at the time you take the financing. Once you’ve accepted financing for a given semester or academic year, your terms will not change even if you change your major. However, if you wish to take additional Opportunity ISA financing in the future, the terms for that financing will be determined by your new major.


Weighing your options

Are there any risks or drawbacks to participating in this progam?

Your obligation with an Opportunity ISA is to make payments linked to your income over the payment term. This provides protection to you when your income is low. When your income decreases, your payments will decrease proportionately. However, the opposite is also true. When your income increases, your payments will also increase. If your payments increase, the Opportunity ISA aims to keep your payment affordable because your payments will represent the same percentage of your income. In addition, we place a cap on the amount you are obligated to pay back to the fund. If you begin making significant amounts of money, you can always terminate your obligation early by paying the monthly prepayment amount for the current year of your contract. It is the payments students make when they are earning more than expected that sustain the Opportunity ISA Fund for future students. Unlike student loans, with the Opportunity ISA, students who make the most money pay more per month and students who have financial hardships, pay less.

How can I evaluate whether this is a good option for me?

We recommend that students review the comparison tool to see the specific terms of the program, including how this option compares with a typical student loan. Students should also consult with their College Possible coach or contact us directly to discuss in more detail.

All students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The Opportunity ISA is a resource to help change the way America funds education. However, we want you to explore all of your options, especially federally-subsidized student loans or grants.

What might my ISA agreement look like?

We encourage students to review our sample agreement and to contact us with any additional questions they have.