The meteoric growth in the student loan industry has spurred a race to the top by companies looking to capture a bigger share of the $1.4 trillion market. That is what brought three companies together to offer a complete end-to-end private student loan solution for credit union lenders. Through a series of mergers and partnerships, cuLearn, Cology, and Thrivent Financial came together to create an innovative lending organization with a unique value proposition for student loan lenders and student borrowers called cuLearnwith Thrivent.
What Does Cology Do?
Of the three companies, Cology has the longest history of involvement in the student loan business. Launched in 2004, Cology started out as a provider of student loan technology and processing for lenders. Essentially, Cology offered loan originators back-office expertise to facilitate the processing of loans once they were originated. In 2011 Cology expanded its technological capabilities to add student loan servicing to its platform, providing lenders with a complete end-to-end back-office process for originating, processing and, servicing student loans. Cology’s platform allows lenders to enter the student loan market easily and efficiently with the capacity to originate, process, and service loans under their own brand.
What Does cuLearn Do?
Meanwhile cuLearn, a leading provider of end-to-end private student loan origination solutions for credit union lenders, was busy building its network of lenders to more than 1,200. The cuLearn approach to student lending is especially attractive to credit unions due to its emphasis on educational resources to help borrowers understand their options and make smart decisions. Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives that exist to serve their members. The cuLearn loan origination platform provides the type of value-add credit unions want to offer their members. The platform includes online tools, information, and resources student borrowers can use throughout the college selection and funding process.
What Does Thrivent Financial Do?
In 2015 Thrivent Financial Credit Union, one of the largest faith-based credit unions with more than $500 million in assets, entered the private student loan market. TFCU is an arm of Thrivent Financial, a 100-year old member-owned financial services firm based in Minneapolis, MN. TFCU offers fixed and variable rate student loans as well as flexible line of credit options to students attending one of more than 1,200 colleges and universities. At the time, TFCU utilized Cology for its application, certification, and disbursement processes.
How Did the Three Come Together?
In 2016, Thrivent reached out to cuLearn to form a partnership providing cuLearn with financial backing to continue along its growth trajectory. Thrivent and cuLearn are an especially ideal match because they share the same philosophy of helping students and their families borrow more responsibly. The partnership enables TFCU to bolster its student loan offerings while providing cuLearn with a national platform from which to expand its market.
The partnership was launched under the name cuLearn with Thrivent which introduced New School Lending as its flagship loan program. The program, which is managed by Thrivent Student Loan Resources, works to help students and families make smarter money decisions with the use of tools, special products, and resources to help pay for college while avoiding going into extreme debt.
In 2017 cuLearn acquired Cology to complete the triad that now serves nearly 2,000 credit union lenders. By acquiring Cology, cuLearn with Thrivent can now offer lenders of all types a branded end-to-end lending platform that includes a suite of loan products and the processes to originate, process, and service them. Their combined technologies and market reach create a unique opportunity to introduce New School Lending to hundreds of credit unions serving thousands of student borrowers.
Author: Jeff Gitlen
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