HEFF seeks to prove that higher education credit is a viable financial product which can be offered through the microfinance industry to both increase access to higher education among poor, Latin American youths, and introduce a new product to the industry’s array of financial services.
HEFF believes that both higher education and access to a wide array of financial services are human rights and powerful instruments to promote socio-economic development. Unfortunately, one enormous barrier to higher education in Latin American countries is cost, which is high and rising faster than real wages. This barrier would be weakened if low-income students had access to student loans, but currently only a small handful of Latin American nations have public or private systems in place which offer student loans – and only a tinier subset of that group meets demand or reaches poor and marginalized populations. HEFF sees an opportunity to leverage the low-income banking know-how of microfinance institutions in order to introduce student loans to low-income markets and help students leap the financial barrier to higher education.
If successful, HEFF will hopefully become a demonstration model to be replicated on a larger scale in Latin America and other regions, such as Africa, where preliminary estimates also suggest a large demand throughout the country.