Pay it Forward

Enroll in college and pay nothing upfront.
Pay back when you leave school,
and only when you earn more than
$40k a year.

How it works

no upfront tuition

Pay nothing while in school. Afterward, pay $0 until you earn more than $40,000 / year.

affordable by design

After leaving school, make monthly payments based on a small percentage of your salary.

keep the upside

No matter how much you earn, you’ll never pay more than 1.5 times the amount you’ve received.

pay it forward

Payments you make go back to the program, supporting future generations of students.

Emergency fund & Stipends

Apply for immediate cash grants  in times of need. Receive a small stipend each term to invest in your learning.

Financial aid

Expert support to help you access financial aid — plus financing options you’ll only find at Rivet School.

Community of peers

Join a community of learners across California. Build relationships with other students in your neighborhood.

Tools for school

Access our comfortable coworking spaces for you to get work done. From laptops, to software, to tech support —we’ve got you.

Program benefits

Protection if times
get tough

With a loan, you pay back the same amount each month, no matter how much you earn. With Pay it Forward, if your income shrinks, so does your payment. And if you earn less than $40,000 / year, your payment is zero.

Fixed term &
no interest

You’ll never have to make more than 72 monthly payments (and you’ll likely make fewer). Because there’s no interest, you’ll never have a growing balance. And you’ll never make payments while in school.

No credit score requirements

We believe in Rivet School students, and through Pay it Forward, we’re betting on your future. Because of this, there’s no minimum credit score required to participate, and you don’t need a co-signer.

Pay it Forward FAQs


How do I apply to participate in the Pay it Forward Program?

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If you meet the eligibility requirements above (and have already been accepted to Rivet School), you can apply for Pay it Forward funding here.

Will all eligible applicants for Pay it Forward receive funding?

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Unfortunately, we have a limited amount of funding that we can provide to students, and we anticipate more qualified applicants than we can fund. To give everyone an equal chance to receive Pay it Forward support, we will use a lottery to choose which qualified applicants receive Pay it Forward support. Whether or not you are selected for the Pay it Forward Program, you are of course still encouraged to continue with Rivet School, and — if you’re not selected — our team will help you explore alternative financing options.

Am I eligible to participate in the Pay it Forward Program?

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You are eligible to receive funding from PIF as long as you:

  • Are accepted as a Rivet School student, and are enrolled in one of our partner university programs (Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America program, or Brandman University’s MyPath program).
  • Are a US Citizen, Permanent Resident, or DACA recipient (DREAMer).
  • Have already submitted your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), have received an award letter, and have accepted all Pell Grant that you’ve been offered. (We do not expect you to accept any loans.)
  • Over the past three years, have had no significant adverse credit events greater than $1,500. (Adverse credit events involving past student loans are exempted.)
  • Have an expected financial need of at least $2,000 per year (this is the minimum amount you can borrow annually through Pay it Forward).

Why is Rivet School offering this program?

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Our mission is to help working adults in California earn a job-relevant, affordable college degree. While program tuition is low compared to other institutions, most students rely on some federal financial aid to afford access. And for applicants and students who do not have access to federal financial aid, cost can be prohibitive.

We’ve launched the Pay it Forward Program to increase access to Rivet School for all students, and to provide an alternative to traditional student loans for students who would otherwise rely on them.

Program terms

Where can I view required program disclosures?

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You can review a full set of program disclosures here.

What are the tax implications of receiving Pay it Forward funding?

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Pay it Forward funding is a type of “Income Share Agreement”, or ISA. Income Share Agreements are a relatively new tool for student financing and, as such, their tax implications (for federal, state, and local taxes) remain uncertain. If, by participating in Pay it Forward, you end up repaying less than the amount you borrowed, the difference between these amounts may be treated as taxable income.

What happens if I don’t graduate on time or at all?

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Even if you don’t complete your intended degree with Rivet School, you are still responsible for meeting the terms of your Pay it Forward contract.

Is it possible to go into default with the Pay it Forward program?

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Yes. The Pay it Forward program isn’t a scholarship, and participation comes with a number of responsibilities. For instance, if you don’t submit required materials verifying your income, or if you miss payments, you may be charged late fees, or your account can become delinquent. You can avoid this through clear communication with the Rivet School team, and by following the rules of the program. Specific fees that you can be charged are:

  • Late payment fee
  • Underpayment fee
  • Stopped payment / returned payment fee

How will you know how much money I earn once I’ve graduated?

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Once you’ve signed your Pay it Forward contract with Rivet School, we’ll set you up in a payment system offered by a Rivet School partner, Knowledge Finance (part of the Missouri Higher Education Lending Authority). Each year (or anytime you have a change in income), you’ll be required to submit materials (like a W-2 or tax return) verifying your income level.

How does PIF compare to a traditional loan? Will I pay more or less than if I take out a Federal Direct Loan?

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Pay it Forward isn’t a traditional loan, and so it’s hard to make a direct comparison between them. Here are just some of the differences between Pay it Forward and a traditional loan:

  • Repayment:
  • Pay it Forward: Repayment is based on the amount of funding you receive and your future earnings.
  • Traditional loan: Repayment is based on the amount you borrow, the duration of the loan, and on the interest rate charged by the lender.
  • Downside protection:
  • Pay it Forward: You don’t repay when your income is below a certain threshold ($40,000 / year for 2020).
  • Traditional loan: None.
  • Your obligation ends when...:
  • Pay it Forward: You’ve made 72 payments, hit the payment cap, or hit the maximum program term of 10 years. After 10 years, you have no further repayment obligation, no matter how much you’ve paid.
  • Traditional loan: You’ve paid off your entire loan balance, plus interest.

Depending on a number of factors, you may pay more or less through Pay it Forward than you would with a subsidized federal loan. Whether you pay more or less will depend on a number of factors, including your future earnings and whether you choose to prepay or accelerate your Pay it Forward obligation. Scroll to the bottom of this page to see a table comparing the Pay it Forward program with traditional student loans.

One last note: You should also know that if you opt to receive federal student loans, you may also be eligible to participate in a variety of income-driven repayment (IDR) plans offered by the federal government. Like with Pay it Forward, through income-driven repayment plans, instead of repaying a fixed monthly amount, you make payments based on a percentage of the income you earn.

Income-driven repayment plans offer a number of benefits, but not all borrowers are eligible for all plans. If you’d like to learn more about IDR plans, please reach out to the Rivet School team and we can connect you with a financial aid expert who can help. You can also learn more about IDR plans here, or on the official US Government website here.

What are the full terms of this program?

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  • Funding amounts: The minimum amount of funding you can receive through Pay it Forward is $2,000. (You can’t receive less than $2,000 per year, but it’s fine if you only need $2,000 total.) The maximum amount you can receive (over multiple years) is $12,000.
  • Repayment: The amount you’ll repay is based on how much you borrowed and on your future income. For each $1,000 of funding you receive, you’ll pay back 0.6% of your annual income (for the 72-month / 6-year repayment term). In other words, if you receive $10,000 in funding, you'll pay back 6% of your gross annual income.
  • Income threshold: You’ll be required to make payments only in years where you earn more than $40,000. (This amount will be adjusted annually to account for inflation.) If you make less than the Income Threshold for a given year, you won’t have to pay anything.
  • Repayment term: You’re responsible for making 72 months (6 years) of payments over 120 months (10 years). You can skip making payments during months where your (annualized) income is less than $40,000. After 120 months, your obligation will be complete, no matter how much you’ve repaid. If the total amount you’ve repaid reaches 1.5 times the funding you’ve received (“the cap”), your obligation will also be complete (even if you’ve made fewer than 72 payments).
  • Grace period and hardship forbearance: After leaving school (when you graduate, or if you decide to transfer or leave the program), you’ll have a 6-month grace period before you’re required to start making payments. You can also request up to 12 months of “hardship forbearance” (continuously or separately) during your payment term. “Forbearance” excuses you from making payments during a period of financial difficulty (even if you’re earning more than the $40,000 income threshold). You can’t take more than three months of forbearance in a row at any given point. Forbearance does not count toward your payment obligation. For instance, if you request and receive three months of forbearance, these three months will be added to your repayment term.
  • Prepayment and prepayment discount: At any time, you can “prepay” your Pay it Forward obligation. Through prepayment, you may be able to pay back significantly less than what you would repay otherwise. You can prepay your entire obligation, or prepay a smaller amount too. To learn more about prepayment, schedule time with a member of the Rivet School team.

How does the Pay it Forward Program work?

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  • Apply: Accepted applicants and current Rivet School students can begin by submitting an application to the Program at Students who meet the application and eligibility criteria will then be entered into a lottery to determine who will receive an offer of Pay it Forward funding.
  • Select funding amount, review disclosures, and sign contract: Selected students will be eligible to receive up to $6,500 per year (the maximum amount of program tuition), and up to $12,000 total over their time at Rivet School. Participating students must request at least $2,000 per year in order to participate. students will then review a list of program disclosures, and, finally, will sign a contract with Rivet School covering the terms of participation.
  • Receive funding: Once a student has signed their Pay it Forward contract, Rivet School will directly transfer funding to the student’s student account at their partner university. Rivet School will disburse Pay it Forward funding one term at a time (disbursing as much approved funding as is needed to cover a student’s outstanding balance). For instance, if you’ve applied for $4,000 in Pay it Forward funding for a given year, and you have an outstanding balance (after Pell Grant) of $1,500 for your first term, we’ll disburse $1,500 to your student account (reserving the rest for subsequent terms).
  • Study (without stressing): While you’re in school, you won’t need to make any payments or pay any fees. Once you leave Rivet School (when you graduate, or if you decide to leave the program), you’ll have a 6-month grace period before you have to begin making payments. (Again, you’ll only make payments if and when you’re earning more than $40,000 per year, and this amount is adjusted annually to account for inflation.)
  • Repayment: Following your 6-month grace period, you’ll begin making monthly payments back to the Pay it Forward program. Your payment amount will vary based on how much funding you’ve received, and on your income. (See more in “What are the terms of the program?” below.) You’ll make payments for 72 months (or 6 years, not including any months of extension or forbearance), or until you’ve hit the “repayment cap” (or, in other words, paid back 1.5 times the amount of funding you received). You can also prepay or accelerate your payment at any time (see more below).


Start your career, then pay for college.

If you’re not yet a Rivet School student,
begin your application or reach out to speak with a member of the team.

If you’re a current or accepted student,
click below to apply to Pay it Forward.

Ready to apply?  

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- The Rivet School Team
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