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June 4, 2020

Stride Funding Podcast Episode 1: Early Beginnings, ISAs, and COVID-19 Support

By Stephen Zaremba

Tess Michaels and LJ LaPorta join in on the first episode of the Stride Funding Podcast. Tess is the CEO and founder of Stride Funding. Before starting Stride, she worked at Goldman Sachs and attended Harvard Business School for her MBA. LJ is one of the first Stride customers. Prior to business school, LJ worked at Ortho Clinical Diagnostics and focused on business development. He is now attending Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business for his MBA. In this episode, we cover Stride’s origins, the value of ISAs, and Stride’s COVID-19 support initiatives.

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Stride’s Early Beginnings

MBA tuition has a demanding sticker price and leads many to question the value of attending. Tess discusses the early stages of Stride Funding and what motivated her to create a business built on supporting students to achieve extraordinary careers.

“Founding Stride came from a very personal place. I had just been admitted to graduate school and was thinking about my own financing options and realized - wow! the sticker price of many of these programs is really high and oftentimes students aren’t sure if the outcomes are going to be worth it. And so, I was really thinking through options that are more flexible and also like LJ said, really served as a more aligned way to be partnered with the student where the provider succeeds when the student succeeds.” – Tess Michaels

Income Share Agreements (ISAs)

Tess and LJ both discuss their perspectives on ISAs and the benefits this funding option has over traditional student loans. Tess shares Stride’s point of view, covering the benefits each student receives when signing an ISA, while LJ shares his own experience and how ISAs have led him to develop invaluable relationships with the Stride team.

"In a traditional loan world, your costs keep increasing over and over again. The difference is with an income share agreement, it’s way easier to budget. Essentially, instead of a fixed interest and principal, you pay a percentage of income over a set number of years. Stride ISAs are only 5 years long. When you earn less, you pay less. If you ever earn less than $40,000 per year, you pay nothing during those periods." – Tess Michaels
“Stride’s done a great job in connecting me with people that would be really instrumental in getting me to positions I need to in my career… also, I’m looking forward to giving back when I get into a position where I can help students who are going through what I’m going through now.” – LJ LaPorta

Student Support During COVID-19

Tess and LJ discuss the implications of COVID-19 and how Stride plays a role during these times of uncertainty. Tess introduces the measures Stride has taken to help students as they study from home, and LJ shares his insights on how he feels more secure - even during these times - by working with the Stride network.

“We launched a strategic Stride support fund the second that quarantine started to come into place. This was a way to actually offer scholarships to students to help them with moving expenses and travel expenses.” - Tess Michaels
“Being able to rely on the fact that when I’ll be entering the job market, it may not be an ideal situation… the flexibility of being able to make sure that I pay what I have to back with Stride is there, and I have a little bit of flexibility in that. It’s more realistic than if I had a larger federal loan. The team is more understanding and that flexibility is built in.” – LJ LaPorta

Apply for an ISA Today

If you are interested in using a Stride Income Share Agreement to fund your education, apply today. You can also contact us at