Climb Co-Founder Met With Betsy DeVos at SXSW — Here Are 3 Insights About the Future of Education

By Zander Rafael

Climb’s co-founder and former CEO, Zander Rafael, met with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at SXSW-EDU. There, he got an in-depth look at her focus and initiatives, as well as a glimpse into what the future of education may look like. Below, he outlines three key insights about what we can look forward to:


1. Skills-based Education is a Necessity

If you’re familiar with Climb, this probably sounds familiar to you — after all, it’s the very idea upon which we based our company. High-quality education is a necessity for students to get jobs and earn livable salaries.

Secretary DeVos summed this idea up in her speech, saying: “Students seek out a credential — a bachelor's degree, an associate's degree — because they think it will send a signal to the job market that they are employable. But too often what they learn earning that credential is a mismatch with what employers need.”

There is a need in the workforce for skilled employees in industries from heavy equipment to data science to healthcare — and many of these skills can be achieved without a four-year degree. Which brings us to the next point...


2. New Approaches and Techniques Need to be Supported

Not only is there a need for career-growing programs, but more than ever there is a need for programs that teach students in different ways. The realm of lecture halls and multiple choice tests needs to grow and evolve with the rest of the world — because at the end of the day, these schools are supposed to be preparing students for the real world, right?

Secretary DeVos noted that the school system and how students are taught has largely remained the same for decades: “Students lined up in rows. A teacher in front of a blackboard. Sit down; don't talk; eyes up front. Wait for the bell. Walk to the next class. And ... repeat. Students were trained for the assembly line then, and they still are today.”

As our world and employer needs evolve, education as a whole needs to adapt along with it. Our partner school Minerva was held up as a success story in new approaches by Secretary DeVos:

“Minerva prioritizes critical thinking, collaboration and communication — versatile skills that students can use in almost every sector to be prepared for jobs that don't yet exist.”


3. Responsibility is on the Private Sector

Secretary DeVos noted: “What students really need won't originate in Washington... It will come from entrepreneurs, philanthropists, teachers, and parents — those closest to students.”

At Climb, we’ll gladly take this responsibility. In fact, this notion of a broken system was the spark that inspired my co-founders and I to create Climb in the first place. Innovation happens when a problem or inefficiency is recognized in the current system. I don’t think anyone questions that there are inefficiencies in the current education system and in the current student lending system.

Our focus remains on financing high-quality education programs and working diligently for quality assurance to keep theses programs focused on student outcomes. We were even chosen by the Department of Education in 2016 to participate in their EQUIP program as a Quality Assurance Entity (QAE) for one of our partner schools.  

As more high-quality, non-traditional education programs are formed, there will be a need for non-traditional financing to suit them — and we’re ready to fit that need.


Betsy DeVos does not endorse Climb Credit, and Climb Credit is not associated with Betsy DeVos.


Climb’s Student Outcomes

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*Based on survey responses from over 1000 Climb borrowers.


Update: As of May 2018, the CEO of Climb Credit is Angela Ceresnie.

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Zander Rafael

Co-Founder and CEO,
Climb Credit