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Students use Independent Study class to provide international loans to the poor

Megan Welch, Features Manager

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Alex Wilson, Charlie Rock, and Eric Din are doing some extraordinary homework in their independent study of Microfinance.

The three RB seniors, along with their teacher Whitney Carlson, are taking on a giant task – raising 10,000 dollars for a microloan program, Opportunity International, which helps people in developing nations start their own business by giving them small loans.

The concept of microloans is not very complicated, but will be most familiar to those who have taken an economics class.

“Microloans is the giving of small loans, on average 162 dollars, to entrepreneurs in developing nations. With that money they can buy their first refrigerator if they want to start a butcher shop; they can buy a sewing machine so they can start a sewing business,” said Din.

“According to the law of diminishing marginal returns, when you first start out in a business, you will increase your production the most,” said Rock.

For example, if you own Starbucks, and you open the first one, you are making 100% more coffee then before. But if you own 250 Starbucks stores, the 251st one will only increase your coffee sales by a small amount. Imagine what that could do for someone who wants to start their own store in a developing area.

“We’re really helping these people out a lot,” said Wilson.

Economics aside, what Din, Rock, and Wilson are really doing is raising money for a good cause. People in poor countries are often unable to receive a loan for necessary items they need because banks in their communities don’t have money to lend them. Even a small amount of money is a huge benefit to them, and to the economy of their area.

Another important thing to remember is that these payments are a loan.

“It’s not just giving them money; it’s teaching them how to pay it back and actually start a business, said Din.

And where does the money go when it is paid back?

“They lend it out to other people,” explained Wilson, “One loan can benefit many entrepreneurs.”

Din, Rock, and Wilson have already started raising the money in various ways around the school. During Spirit Week, RB’s “penny pinch” competition this year went to the Microloan program.

The microfinance class is also selling t-shirts for $13 that have the Opportunity International logo on them, a globe and the word, “OptINow.” The t-shirts were ordered at a price of $3 each, so for each t-shirt they are raising 10 dollars for microloans.

“The eventual goal is to raise between nine and ten thousand dollars,” said Wilson.

All three students are interested in the economics field and haven’t ruled it out as a career opportunity.

“I’m really, really interested in economics in general, so who knows, I might be doing something with microfinance in the future,” said Rock.

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Free of Bull, Full of Bulldogs
Students use Independent Study class to provide international loans to the poor