General Student-Related FAQs
To help Zomia achieve sustainability, every loan incurs a one-time loan administration fee, not to exceed US $199. This fee allows us to provide small loans, which typically yield minimal interest due to their small size and quick repayment. The administration fee, which is not subject to interest, becomes payable after graduation or withdrawal from school.
After you graduate, your loan begins to incur a 5% flat interest charge per year. Interest does not compound and it is not charged until after you have graduated or withdrawn from your university.
Flat interest is based upon the total amount borrowed and does not reflect the amount repaid. This is different from charging interest based upon the amount left to pay, which is called “declining-balance” interest. As an example, a $1,000 loan that carries 5% flat annual interest would yield $50 in interest each year until the loan is repaid.
We work with charitable funders (e.g., people, foundations, non-profits) to provide you with funding for your education. There are many people and organizations that believe higher education is the best investment you can make in someone’s life, and they want to help you achieve your dreams!
Like other financial institutions, we use interest to help cover our operational costs, offset defaults, and expand to reach new students. Unlike other financial institutions, however, we do not seek to profit from the interest you pay on your loan. We view interest payments as your contribution towards Zomia’s sustainability.
We are striving to build a sustainable and scalable finance model for higher education. Providing loans instead of scholarships allow us to cover our costs and reach more students over time. Because we exclusively provide higher education loans, repayments from graduates ensure that a future generation of students can go to school.
Your funding can be used to pay for any expenses related to your education. This includes tuition, books, uniforms, and your cost of living while you study (e.g., food, rent, utilities, transportation).
More than one Zomia team member will look closely at the budget you’ve completed in your loan application. They will review your expenses and income in detail and follow up with questions to better understand your financial situation. They then propose a loan amount that takes into account your need while also trying to keep your debt as low as possible. If approved, we will send you a formal loan offer to review and accept. We provide loan funding one year at a time and reassess your need each year.
It depends on how much you borrow, but all of our contracts range from 10 to 20 years. Your contract is complete when you either fully repay your loan plus interest, or you repay the full duration of your contract period.
If you cannot repay your loan before your contract ends, then we will write off the remaining balance of your loan and consider your contract fulfilled. You will not be responsible for making additional payments and your contract with us will be considered complete.
In the event of unemployment or job loss, you may request a deferment to postpone your repayments. Deferments delay the time it takes you to make repayments. For example, if you take a 6-month deferment and you have a 10-year contract, then your full contract period is 10 years and 6 months.
If you don’t receive a regular salary, then we will work with you to determine an appropriate repayment amount each month. Usually this means we will monitor your income quarterly until we start seeing a pattern in your earnings. Once we can establish a pattern for your earnings, then we can switch you to an appropriate monthly payment schedule.
If your income has changed by more than 10% since you last completed the “Annual Income Update” form (this can be an increase or a decrease), we ask that you report this change by re-submitting the “Annual Income Update” form. Once we receive this form, we will adjust your repayment schedule and monthly payments accordingly.
The MAP is a visual way to understand the interest on Zomia loans. It stands for “Maximum Amount Paid” and is the maximum amount you would repay in a given year of your contract. This is shown in the image below and is included in your loan agreement.
Beginning in the first year after graduation, your total loan repayment increases by 5% of what you borrowed. This continues by 5% each year up to a maximum of 60% in year 12 (5 x 12 = 60). If you happen to repay what you borrowed (the principal) + the interest, then your contract is finished. Note that interest on Zomia loans does not compound and it does not start until after you finish (or withdraw from) your program.
A late fee of 10% of the amount due is charged if a payment is received more than two weeks late. Missing a payment also eliminates the possibility of earning incentives such as the 1% e-payment award. If you have trouble making a payment, let us know! We will work with you to understand your situation and can adjust your payment schedule if necessary.
If your payment is in danger of being late, then we will begin to send notices to you via text, phone, e-mail, and social media. If this continues for three consecutive payment periods and you have ignored our efforts to communicate, then your loan will fall into “default.” Depending on your particular case, once your loan is in default we can:
- Notify your family, employers, and other relevant parties of your default;
- Publish the default to a list of other Zomia students who have defaulted;
- Notify other Zomia students and distribute the loss associated with your default across all other Zomia students;
- Update your Credit and Responsibility Rating (CRR) score to reflect the default;
- Add your name and loan information to a credit bureau and send your loan to a debt collections agency (this will impact your future borrowing opportunities from banks and microfinance institutions); and/or
- Prohibit you from borrowing from Zomia in the future.
About Completing Your Loan Application
We usually disburse funds twice per year. The first disbursement generally occurs in late July or August and the second disbursement in late December or early January. If you need funding outside of this period, please let us know so we can schedule your transfers accordingly.
Unfortunately, no. Due to the size of our small team, we can only process applications that are submitted between April 1st and June 30th.
You can start your application at https://zomia.org/register/?role=applicant. The entire application is online, so you will need a stable internet connection to complete it. After you register and create an account, you may save your progress and complete the application at your convenience.
Our application is open every year between April 1st and June 30th.
To be eligible for a loan from Zomia, the following requirements must be met:
- You are a citizen of Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Bhutan, or Nepal;
- You have been accepted to a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral program in an ASEAN member nation, India, Hong Kong, Japan, or South Korea (exceptions made for graduates of the Pre-Collegiate Program in Yangon);
- You have a passport (if studying abroad) or government-issued id (if studying in your home country);
- You have faced barriers to higher education access (financial or otherwise);
- The amount you need to borrow for one year is more than US $500 and less than $6,000 (typically, only graduate students in one- or two-year programs ever receive close to the maximum one-year loan amount);
- Total anticipated debt to finish your program is less than $12,000 (e.g., a 1st-year undergraduate in a 4-year program is eligible for funding up to $3,000 annually). Zomia works hard to keep total debt to a maximum of $10,000 in all cases; and
- The requested funding will be used to cover current or future educational expenses (including living expenses while enrolled full-time).
Zomia works to keep your total debt to US $10,000 or less. We’ve found this to be a reasonable amount for most graduates to repay. On average, our students graduate with less than $6,000 in Zomia debt. Loans of this amount are “safe” and consistently repaid.
The maximum one-year loan depends on how many years you have left to finish your program, but the cap is $6,000 in a single year. Generally, amounts of $5,000 to $6,000 only go to master’s students in one- or two-year programs.
Most undergraduates in three- or four-year programs receive $2,000 to $3,000 per year. Nearly all Zomia undergraduates secure additional funding via scholarships, family support, or part-time work.
You must be accepted to a university to receive a Zomia loan. Your acceptance shows us that you have completed all the necessary steps to become a college student and that the only remaining steps involve financing your education. As Zomia’s programming is geared for students and their life after school, we require some assurance that you’ve reached a point where we can help you make the most of your college experience.
Yes. But in order to receive funds, we do require a bank account in your name. This means that at some point between applying and receiving your Zomia loan, you will need to open a personal bank account. Your university may do this for you.
All of our contracts call for payments between 14% and 16% of a student’s income after graduation (or after withdrawing from a program). If a graduate earns less than our Minimum Income Threshold, then we automatically grant the graduate a deferment based on insufficient earnings.
- A personal essay describing your background and goals, suitable for sharing with prospective lenders
- A CV or résumé highlighting work and volunteer experience, positions of leadership, awards, etc.
- Proof of acceptance to a university in an ASEAN-member nation, India, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, or South Korea
- Documentation of tuition fees the university in which you will enroll
- A copy of the photo page of your passport or national ID card
- One “portrait” and at least one “fun photo” capturing your personality or interests
- Three references, to be registered using our recommendation request page
- Copies of current university transcripts
- (Optional) Documentation of any scholarships you’ve been awarded or applied for
- (Optional) Official language test score results (TOEFL, IELTS, TESOL, etc.)
Our online application is best for us, but you will not be disqualified for submitting a paper application. In case of particularly poor internet connectivity, contact us and we will send a Microsoft Word version of the application to be completed offline. If handwritten, please do your best to write clearly.
We do not require any standard formatting as long as you provide details about where you worked, how long you worked there, and what you did. Don’t forget about informal work experience. Consider providing details about any community service you’ve completed, leadership activities, awards, and other non-traditional work experience. These are just as valuable for us to review as paid employment.
This is, unfortunately, only a question you can answer. In general, you should choose someone who knows you best. We particularly value academic and professional references.
There is no single type of student we aim to support. In fact, we prize diversity and look for students with unique interests and goals. That said, there are several attributes shared by Zomia students. Successful applicants are driven and engaged with whatever work they undertake. They work and study hard, have strong communication skills, and are excited to make a difference in their communities. They’re usually team players who demonstrate unselfishness in their attitudes and actions.
- Be yourself! The best essays demonstrate a student’s individuality, unique interests, and passions.
- Show existing financial support. We know this isn’t easy to secure, but students who’ve prepared for the cost of a university education stand apart from those who have not. Students partially funded via family support, personal savings, income from part-time work, or scholarships face better odds of receiving a Zomia loan.
- Proofread your application. Nearly all of our students study at international colleges where English is a prerequisite for success. Long-term, English proficiency increases career opportunities and enables rich participation in the Zomia student community. We do not expect flawless writing but we do look for effort and attention to detail.
- Demonstrate to us that you have the potential to succeed academically at the university level. If you’re already a university student, a transcript of your grades will tell us how you’re doing in school. If you’re entering your first year of college, standardized tests are the best indicator of your abilities to succeed at school. We will use our current students’ TOEFL, IELTS, GED, or other scores as a benchmark to evaluate your application.
We take into account dozens of factors when evaluating your application. During this process, we typically find that applicants either stand out or fall behind in the following areas, so we encourage you to ensure you have these parts to the application correct!
- Your loan budget: We look very closely at the budget you’ve created in order to determine how much you need. If your budget is inaccurate, incomplete, or isn’t explained well, then we need to follow up with you and go through it together manually. Save us and yourself time by double-checking the following: Did I enter the correct amounts in each field? Are these amounts realistic? Did I provide every detail about my financial situation?
- Your references: The best references we receive are the ones that are honest and candid. As we don’t know you yet, your references provide us with an outside perspective. Questions to consider before asking someone to be your reference include: Does this reference know my strengths and weaknesses well? Will this reference provide an honest assessment of my character and suitability for a loan? If the answer to either of those questions is “no” then we strongly encourage you to find someone else!
Congratulations! We are excited you’re joining our student community. After accepting your loan offer, wait to hear from one of our team members on what to do next. Generally, responses take less than 48 hours. If after 48 hours you still haven’t heard from us, feel free to send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.