Difficult Times Call For Innovative Measures: Microfinance as Experiential Learning in Higher Education


  • Lora L. Reed
  • Daniel Aldridge
  • Norm Smith
  • Michael Patrick


Difficult times create opportunities for innovative problem solving. Thus, during the worst global financial crisis in modern memory, microfinance serves entrepreneurs at increasing rates through enduring and nascent programs. It also raises questions about teaching and learning in a changing economy. Can microfinance be used to prepare undergraduates to thrive in the 21st century? Can it be part of a successful pedagogy to enhance student knowledge and skills while building and strengthening community partnerships and achieving multiple stakeholder objectives? This paper explores these questions. It defines microfinance, surveying its recent history. The paper explores benefits and consequences of existing partnerships in US higher education. Next, a model for a student led initiative, including organizational structure, is proposed. Sustainability and evaluation of stakeholder outcomes are considered. We conclude with an analysis of limitations and suggestions for future research.