AeroGuard Flight Training Center has created a tuition partnership in collaboration with Meritize, where pilots-in-training can qualify for merit-based financing, which can in many cases reward individual borrowers for their past academic and military experiences.

"As many as half of learners who want to become pilots aren't able to access these careers–solely because of the cost. If you have the skills, passion, and drive, you should have the opportunity to be a pilot," said Joel Davidson, CEO of AeroGuard. "This innovative financing option helps make pilot training more affordable and put aviation careers within reach for more candidates from a variety of personal and professional backgrounds."

The commercial aviation industry is facing a growing pilot shortage. More than 7,200 of the 15,000 American commercial airline pilots are set to turn 65 over the next decade. As airline demand rebounds from the record lows of the pandemic, transportation industry analysts forecast a global shortfall of at least 34,000 commercial pilots by 2025. Meanwhile, demand for commercial airline pilots is expected to increase 13 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations. The median annual wage for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers was $202,180 in May 2021.

AeroGuard helps to ensure job placement through strategic partnerships with regional airline SkyWest and its network of airline agreements, which provide a clear path from flight training to careers at four top commercial airlines. After completing required flight training hours, AeroGuard students are guaranteed a First Officer Final Interview with SkyWest, where they receive tuition reimbursement of up to $17,500 for their training after completing SkyWest's Initial Operating Experience. Through SkyWest's Guaranteed Pilot Interview program, students then receive interviews with SkyWest commercial airline partners, including Alaska, Delta, Southwest and United Airlines.

The financing option offered on the Meritize platform aims to create a more inclusive and affordable pathway to careers in the commercial aviation industry. Unlike traditional lenders that rely solely on FICO scores and other financial records to determine whether to lend to an individual, Meritize considers the full breadth and depth of an individual's academic or military achievements to enhance credit evaluation and potentially improve loan options. Because many of AeroGuard's trainees are veterans, and Meritize specifically takes into account military experiences in its funding decisions, merit-based financing can provide a significant source of financial and credit assistance for veterans transitioning into civilian careers.

"To unlock pathways to in-demand careers like aviation, we need to fix the broken economics of paying for education and training in this country," said Chris Keaveney, CEO of Meritize. "By breaking down barriers to financial access and inclusion needed to train for roles in aviation, employers and training providers can open up opportunities for career advancement and long-term social and economic mobility–and address the ongoing pilot shortage."