Arman Aryapour wants to help university students in Ontario pay back their student loans by providing them with a place to live while they're completing their undergraduate degree, and then giving them back half of their rent money upon graduation.
Aryapour, who is studying communications at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, has started an initiative called Scholarship Apartments.
"We have a simple system set up. So students live with us for four years," said Aryapour in an interview with CBC Radio's Craig Norris on The Morning Edition in Kitchener on Tuesday. "We provide an incentive program for them to stay in school, once they reside with us after the four years they're automatically eligible for the bursary once they graduate."
Crowdfunding to buy building
Aryapour said he was inspired to try his hand at social entrepreneurship after watching a video of Muhamma Yunus, a Bangladeshi banker and economist who won the Nobel Peace Prize. Yunus and his Grameen Bank pioneered the modern version of microfinance, part of which involves giving small loans to people who wouldn't qualify for traditional loans.
"He's an advocate of social ventures and I thought, why not be socially responsible?" Aryapour said. "Instead of jumping into the rat race, how could we boost the economy, how could we provide students with a better way of living? It just came to mind, rent's inevitable."
Students would have to be receiving funds from OSAP, the Ontario Student Assistance Program, in order to apply to Aryapour's program. So far, he's planning to accept students with a proven financial need on a first-come, first-served basis.
"Right now we're looking at about, in a simple model, it's about $550 a month for the length of four years. Once students show us that they've actually graduated, proof of OSAP of course, it's simple, there's no other requirement," said Aryapour. "Just graduate university and 50 per cent of your rent...is awarded just to pay OSAP."
Investor willing to front $1M
Right now Aryapour is crowdfunding through GoFundMe to raise $1.8 million to purchase a building and he says he already has a building in mind.
"Someone's even approached us, can't really say who, but he's willing to put up his building to test our concept so we can have a proof of concept for later on," said Aryapour.
Aryapour said that an investor has promised $1 million, contingent on him raising the other $800,000 needed.
"If everything goes as planned, we're looking at being operable in September of 2016," he said.
Aryapour said he's trying to encourage students to stay in the building year-round, and work in the city where they're going to school, instead of going home for the summer.