Category Archives: Resources

Coping with the Student Loan Burden

Image from Bascom Hill on Flickr
Image from Bascom Hill on Flickr

Written by: Megan Lanier

I am crippled. Not in the sense that I have a physical impairment, but rather a financial burden that looms over me and my husband day every day. That aliment is student loans. We are just one of the 40 million Americans inflicted with this weakness that was supposed to be our saving grace.

To be honest, this was somewhat self-inflicted. While I was one of the lucky few who was able to escape college and graduate school debt-free, my husband was not so fortunate. He (and now we) carries around an absurd amount of debt which makes me sick to my stomach to even think of the number, let alone share it with others. Although we make substantial payments each month, the total only seems to rise.

Knowing that we must not be the only ones stuck in one of those zero progress clichés, I started thinking: what are other millennials doing about this issue? We are a young, inventive and curious generation that will not be stopped a little issue like paying back over $1.2 trillion in our lifetime…right?

While most repayment plans are put on a 10-year track to debt freedom, the average bachelor’s degree holder takes 21 years to repay his or her student loans. That is also taking into account that the average loan amount is about $30,000. Gulp. Sadly, that amount is far less than the figure my husband and I are dealing with.

So, enough with the facts and figures. What are millennials actually doing about this “crisis”? Here are some creative ways our generation has tackled this mounting societal problem.

  1. Be a Volunteer. While the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is widely known now, it is not a feasible option for everyone. A couple of innovative millennials have crafted a way for the service-minded to receive the benefit of loan repayment assistance. Two organizations with a similar concept in mind, reward volunteers for participating in volunteer projects that receive funding from sponsors. Zerobound and SponsorChange have different funding models, but the same idea to make the burden of loans a little easier for those who give back. In a sense, volunteer work is crowdfunded by companies, friends, family, etc. to pay down student loan debt.

 

  1. Debt Realization. The first step to tackling debt is knowing exactly how much you have to pay off – and the time it will take you to do so based on your monthly payments. The federal student loan calculator is a marvelous tool. One millennial had the help of her boyfriend to finally come to terms with her student loan debt issue. By implementing some creative solutions to cut back expenses and make additional income, she has paid off $90,000 in debt. She discovered some unique ideas for earning extra income which made those monthly payments a little easier.

 

  1. Earn Rewards. Almost every credit card nowadays offers rewards for cash back, airline miles or hotel points. Another company has taken a similar approach by offering the benefit of student loan repayment. SmarterBucks allows users to sign up for a free account and shop the online marketplace featuring popular brands and earn up to 10% back paid to the student loan carrier of your choice. Additionally, family and friends can sign up for a “Gifter” account and their rewards will be contributed to repayment as well.

Although the issue of student loan debt can be frightening, it is reassuring to know that others have tackled the problem and are now thriving, debt-free individuals. Hopefully, some of these ideas will help you (and me!) make further progress on repayment and break free from student loan debt.

CNN Money Coverage on Student Loan Crisis.

New America Study on Student Loan Debt in the U.S.

U.S. News article on the realities of paying off your loans.

Information on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

Zerobound – how you can use volunteer hours to pay off your loans.

SponsorChange – complete special projects and get a loan payment.

A calculator to help better plan on how to pay off your loans.

Forbes – How one person paid off $90,000 in student loan debt in a year.

5 Ways to Get Support for Your Social Business

Courage and a healthy disregard for the word “impossible” are the fuel of dreamers and idea creators. But once you’ve conjured up that 100 million dollar idea, how do you get to the crucial part… resources? While getting funding and building a clientele list that can support your idea, that investment capital will be instrumental in whether you toss that idea onto the pile of experience or take that idea all the way to the bank.

Naturally, seeking out venture capital firms, crowdsourcing and dipping into your savings to keep your business or organization afloat are all ways to finance that next business venture. However, investment capital often extends beyond how much cash you’ve got behind you. Listed below are just a handful of places to get the resources you need to grow beyond your favorite dreaming chair.

1. The TED Fellows Program

Known for the quickest way to learn something new, interesting, or enlightening, the masterminds behind TED offer a fellowship program that grants selectees exclusive access to the visionaries that keep TED relevant and rich.

Photo courtesy: TED
Photo courtesy: TED

2. Ashoka Fellows

Leading the development of social entrepreneurship, Ashoka provides the social impact community with a variety of resources. Among them is the Ashoka Fellowship program that, after a rigorous selection process, provides a stipend to truly innovative changemakers to help them focus entirely on bringing their idea to fruition.

Photo: Ashoka Foundation
Photo: Ashoka Foundation

 

3. SOCAP Conference

Hosted on an annual basis in San Francisco, California, the purpose driven conference brings together the greatest minds in social business. With an impressive list of attendees and speakers, SOCAP will expand your network and maybe feed that insatiable dream machine that’s leading the development of your company.

Photo: SOCAP 2015
Photo: SOCAP 2015

4. The Grameen Creative Lab

Known by it’s initial mission of eradicating poverty through microfinance, the Grameen Creative Lab is leading the way to formalize the social business sector by building awareness, investing resources in social businesses, and providing guidance for those who are looking to make their business social.

Photo: Grameen Creative Lab
Photo: Grameen Creative Lab

5. USAID Global Development Lab

Responding to the rapidly changing needs of the developing world, USAID recently launched the Global Development Lab to harness the creativity of social innovators to address the needs their field teams are facing. Pick a focus area on their needs list and submit your idea on how to solve their global problem.

Photo: USAID Global Development Lab
Photo: USAID Global Development Lab

 

This is by no mean an exhaustive list. If your favorite resource is not listed above, leave a note in the comments below so we can incorporate them into the next resource list. Disagree with any of the listed resources? Tell us why in the comments below.