Teaching Financial Literacy through Financial Aid

At Akilah, we believe that everyone deserves a right to equal education opportunities. With 90% of women in Rwanda and Burundi living on less than $2 per day, few have the financial independence to pursue higher education. However, Akilah’s Tuition Deferment Fund (TDF), with the support of Acacia Accounting Associates, makes this possible for hundreds of girls in the region.


The program opens doors for these talented young women to take control of their future by offering affordable and accessible higher education. Through the TDF, launched this fall in Rwanda, Akilah allows students to defer a major portion of their tuition until after graduation. Students enrolled in the TDF pay for 30% of their tuition at the beginning of each semester, and defer 70% each semester. While attending school, students make quarterly service fee payments, which are re-invested in the program to keep it running. Students who don’t secure employment after graduation are given a generous grace period of up to six months as they continue to look for a job.

The option to finance their education is game-changing for our students. Without the financial assistance, few in the region have the opportunity to attend college and gain the skills necessary to enter the local job market. Akilah helps to create this opportunity. In line with our mission to provide excellence in higher education to young women of all backgrounds, the TDF is available to every student of Akilah as long as they’re in good academic standing. The inclusivity of the program provides greater access to education for women from all socio-economic levels in Rwanda, which will help to close the financial gap in the country.

The program is truly revolutionary as it is the first-ever credit product offered exclusively to female college students in Rwanda. It’s also made possible by the support of mindful investors, including Rod Dammeryer, Chair of CAC, LLC, who has committed to matching every dollar donated by co-investors to raise $1 million to fully fund the program by August 2015. With continued support from others, the TDF will be self-sustaining by 2020 and will have expanded to Burundi.

What is also unique about Akilah’s TDF is that it is based on a social lending model. Organized into self-selected groups of five, each student enrolled in the program deposits money toward a collateral pool that group members can dip into to pay their quarterly fees. Students are able to lean on each other for financial credit, which promotes accountability, leadership and trust among them.

Rebecca is a student who applied to Akilah in 2013, but didn’t have the money for tuition and ultimately didn’t enroll. Her older sister Ernestine is a graduate of Akilah, currently working as the Principal’s Assistant. Ernestine supports her entire family financially, which includes paying for Rebecca’s school fees. Prior to learning about the TDF, Ernestine had realized it just wasn’t going to work financially for Rebecca to start school in 2014 either. After an information session led by Acacia, Ernestine and Rebecca learned enrollment was now within reach! Rebecca finally joined Akilah in September 2014.

Having such a flexible payment structure available encourages students to build and improve their financial literacy, teaching them how to budget and save—skills that will serve them well beyond their time at Akilah. With much less pressure to owe full tuition upfront, students are freed from the burden of constant financial concern so that they may focus on their academics. Supported by Akilah’s TDF, students like Rebecca have a greater chance of their success in both school and in their careers.