A.M. Money Gets Google Grant and Expands Financial Support Services for Students
Daniel Rogers graduated from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with his MBA in 2013. He then worked in the finance and technology sectors. “[I] got to a point in my career,” Rogers said, “in which I had an opportunity to take a break and reassess just what sorts of problems I wanted to work on.” He circled back again and again to a problem he himself had faced: paying for college.
From this, Rogers started his student loan company, A.M. Money, out of the Polsky Exchange office space in 2016. “It was just an idea and a couple of slides,” said Rogers. He then went on to be part of Polsky’s Incubator program. There, Rogers took advantage of the mentorship opportunities to meet with people in the student loan space and further develop his idea.
After the Incubator, A.M. Money raised its pre-seed round in June of 2019, with venture capital firm Lightbank as the lead investor. The company closed another seed round this past September. Today, Rogers and his co-founder, Jeffrey Wright, have helped hundreds of students afford their college education.
Unlike other lenders, A.M. Money doesn’t require cosigners or a high credit score to be eligible for a loan. Instead, loans are based on merit: a good GPA and hard work. The company also has unique payback options, which include a six-month grace period, income based repayment, and economic hardship deferment.
In October, Rogers was one of six entrepreneurs in the Chicago area chosen by Google for Startups Black Founders Fund. As part of this program, Rogers was awarded $100,000 and given access to mentors at Google.
Rogers plans to invest the cash award into A.M. Money’s Fifth Year Finance initiative, a suite of services and resources that will help students transition from graduation to career. This will include financial counseling, tailored financial products, as well as career support.
As part of this initiative, A.M. Money recently partnered with Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners to give its graduates access to TrustPlus, the financial coaching app. New graduates, Rogers said, “are in the midst of making a ton of really consequential choices in life: where to live, where to work, how to get your first credit card.” A.M. Money graduates can use the coaches from TrustPlus as a resource to navigate these financial decisions. According to Rogers, the tool has been well received. “Our uptake has been pretty high,” he noted. “People have found value in having a person to talk to about those things.”
The company’s class of 2020 cohort has a 100% employment rate. “That’s a big part of our risk in the model,” Rogers said, “and [the employment rate is] obviously a very positive sign for what we’re doing.”
Through the COVID-19 pandemic, A.M. Money has continued to support its students. “For us, it was really just doubling down on investing in our students,” said Rogers. In March, many of the students had questions about the new online learning format, or about the loss or interruption of jobs. A.M. Money helped students find new jobs. “We helped a number of students go back to their schools to advocate for additional aid,” Rogers added.
With the pandemic, A.M. Money has seen a surge in loan applications. So far, for the 2021 school year, the application volume is up 35 times from the 2020 school year in its entirety.