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The Next Generation of Microfinance

 In the U.S. and other Western countries, access to higher education can easily be taken for granted when there are financial resources like grants or student loans to lessen the immediate burden of paying for college.

However, in most countries college loans don’t exist, creating an insurmountable barrier for students to continue their education and ultimately achieve their career goals. No matter how smart, passionate, and motivated you may be, if you don’t have the money, then college is not an option for you.

But visionary Kushal Chakrabarti is providing a solution.  design mind ON AIR’s Chris Sallquist spoke with Kushal, the founder and CEO of Vittana, a person-to-person micro-lending Web site that makes it possible for students, wanting to go to college in developing countries, to get loans. With Vittana, a global community of lenders is rallying to help students to get higher education for the first time and relieve students from the worry of paying for college so they can focus on their passions. frog worked with Vittana to redesign and re-architect their website, making it easier to navigate by significantly improving the lending ecosystem, including the process of finding students, the actual loan transaction, and participating in the Vittana community.

Kushal talks with us about how Vittana has proven itself, the tricky negotiation to “do good” while financially sustaining an organization, and the impact that Vittana will have in the future. Kushal will be giving the keynote speech at this year’s SOCAP conference alongside Matt Flannery of Kiva. This particular presentation should be really fascinating because Kiva, a well-known pioneer of online micro-lending, just announced that they are expanding their process to allow their site’s lenders to fund loans to help students in developing countries, kicking off with students in Paraguay, Bolivia, and Lebanon. There has been a lot of discussion about what Kiva’s new venture will mean for start-ups like Vittana  and I look forward to lively debate and insight into how their different models and the degree at which the two platforms are established factor into their ability to experiment, expand, and push the message of micro-lending for education forward.