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This Inspiring Graduate Self-Funded His Entire Student Fees And Is Helping Others Do The Same

As a teenager, Ismail Jeilani had money on his mind. He wanted to be an investment banker, and so he went to Canary Wharf, a folder of CVs wedged under his arm, to look for a work placement to taste the suited-and-booted life in the financial centre while he was still at college.
“I didn’t really know what an investment banker was. It was ‘banker equals money’,” he laughs.
By the time he’d finished university he’d dropped his dream, and ended up doing something completely different. But money was still very much on his mind.
The reason was that Jeilani, 23, from Haringey, had no idea that fees would have tripled to £9,000 a year by the time he started university in 2012. As a result he’d end up leading a campaign for an interest-free community-based lending system because he didn’t want others to be saddled with interest-laden debt.
Jeilani believes students who don’t want to pay interest, whether for religious reasons or simply to avoid excessive debt, have “lost the right to learn” while waiting for the government to provide an interest-free alternative to the Student Loans Company, which has annual interest rates of up to 3%. So he unveiled QardHasan, a crowdfunding platform and community-based lending system, at a fully booked event of mostly Muslim students from various backgrounds at University College London on Tuesday night.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for five years,” he said.
Jeilani says it is a project that will provide more options for students – in particular those who can’t take out loans with interest for religious reasons – and make higher education more accessible. There are differences of opinion within Islamic thought, however, with some scholars saying it is permissible to take the loan because student fees are written off after 30 years.
“It’s not my story. It’s not your story. It’s our story,” he said, introducing QardHasan.
He said he had been looking for an alternative way to fund tuition fees because he had been in the position himself of facing an ultimatum: “Either I compromise my values, or I compromise my education.”
Like many other 18-year-olds, Jeilani had to become serious about money when he started thinking about university.
“Tuition fees tripled – it forced me in a position I didn’t want to be in, and I started doing things to make my own income, and it thrust me into entrepreneurship,” Jeilani tells BuzzFeed News over a chai latte at a coffee shop on the Strand around the corner from King’s College London, where he studied political economy.
“When I was going to university, I realised it was going to be my debt and I was going to be the one paying for it, with interest – and that added a completely different perspective I didn’t have before.”
He had made up his mind and told his parents he wouldn’t be taking the student loan.
“Keep in mind, being from a minority background, most parents [prioritised] things like education and security in terms of income. Then all of a sudden their child doesn’t want to take a loan to study. How are you going to survive the university journey, working at the same time? was the thinking. Because there’s no way of pursuing a degree and sacrificing all of that to pay for it.”
Jeilani ended up paying off the full £27,000 worth of fees in his second year of university. He’d made so much money he was able to lend to several other students, which he says secured him a job at Google before graduating.
How did he do it?
It wasn’t easy. He wanted to go to King’s, so he took a year out and got an offer to start his course in 2012. It meant he would start university the year fees tripled.
He says the full £9,000 at King’s was due on 31 January each year. “I had nothing in place in terms of my finances when it came to applying for student loans around April/March before I started university, so I had nine months to figure something out.
“I remember when I spoke to King’s, I said, ‘This is my situation, I really want to study and I love the subject, but I’m scared I may not be able to afford the fees.’ Their reply was, ‘If you can’t afford it you may want to reconsider your options.'”
“It hurt,” Jeilani says. “The whole thing is education is meant to be accessible for everybody, but I felt like I was being blocked off, and it wasn’t my fault.”
Read more on Buzzfeed

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