How This Social Entrepreneur Is Turning College Admissions On Its Head

Carmina Bayombong's startup InvestEd is striving to make higher education accessible for all with its low-cost financial aid model

Tatler Asia
Cover  Photo: Wesley Villarica

In the What Matters To Me series, a Generation T honouree describes what they do, why they do it, and why it matters.

Technology has reshaped education in a number of ways in the last decade, but one thing that hasn't moved an inch is tuition fees. University still isn't accessible to the millions of people who are unable to afford the upfront costs and student loan repayments. Enter Carmina Bayombong, a Filipino social entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of InvestEd, which offers low-cost financial aid to students who need it, with the ultimate aim of creating a more equitable student loan programme throughout the developing world.

Each of InvestEd's study-now-pay-later loans is packaged with an InvestEd education-to-adulthood coach, whose aim is to guide the student borrower towards job security and financial freedom through training in subjects such as employment, financial literacy and entrepreneurship. "Through technology, we’ve been able to operate our Success Loan Program completely online and have received thousands of loan applications across more than 2,000 schools," says Bayombong.

Here, Bayombong shares her work in her own words. 

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Tatler Asia
Above  Photo: Wesley Villarica

My aspiration in life is to fix one seemingly unsolvable problem in society. Like the students that we serve, I get up every day to pursue my dreams. I guess that’s my dream because its working on something that’s going to last beyond my lifetime. Making money along the way also motivates me because it’s my dream to give my parents the best retirement they deserve, nothing less.

Most people don’t know that I used to live in Zambia. I lived there for four years starting when I was nine years old. My parents, who were both engineers, spent most of their career using their training for community development. They bounced around in developing regions and brought us along. My childhood formed a lot of my aspirations and beliefs in life. I decided to become an engineer too, to use the scientific approach in solving “unsolvable” problems.

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In December 2019 I had the privilege of meeting Barack Obama in person through his foundation’s Asia-Pacific Leaders programme. During a session, we asked him for advice on how to avoid burn-out for us entrepreneurs who are trying to solve chronic social problems. He said, “Remember that better is good. Focus on incremental victories.” Obama mentioned the fight against racism, saying that when he was president, he had to be okay that he wouldn’t solve the problem singlehandedly. This advice has been lifesaving for me. I’ve felt over-stressed myself when trying to fix the entire education financing problem as fast as possible. But his advice helped me put things into perspective.

Education is the key to any nation's advancement. My dream to this day is to see a world where the opportunity to succeed is always paid forward to those who don’t have it.

There's always more learning to do. Personally, I’d like to know more about interior design and creating spaces that bring joy and inspiration in my daily life. Professionally, there’s more technical learning in the topics of artificial intelligence and finance that I’m working on.

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I like any activity related to coffee. I’m actually looking into owning multiple coffee shops in the future.

My favourite book is Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho, but in general, all of his books and writings have influenced me. I started reading his works when I was in high school and all of it made me think very deeply about life and how humans find their place in the world.

See more honourees from the Social Entrepreneurship category of the Gen.T List 2020. 

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