Graduates Get Help Paying Student Loan Debt By Volunteering

Graduates facing thousands of dollars in student loan debt often feel there is no relief in sight. However, a number of organizations and programs are popping up and aiming to take some of the burden in repaying massive student debt loans off young professional’s plates.

Such is the case in Chicago where a new organization pairs college graduates with non-profits looking for volunteers with specific skills. In exchange for their work, the volunteers get money to put toward the repayment of their student loans, DNAinfo Chicago reports.

SponsorChange.org, which also operates in Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., assists busy young professionals in meeting their staggering monthly student loan bills, while also providing them with an opportunity to expand their job skills and networking.

“People are getting crushed with debt as higher education costs are skyrocketing,” Shawn Agyemen, chief marketing officer for SponsorChange, tells DNAinfo. “We just want people who have skills and are very interested in helping the overall community.”

Graduates who volunteer with SponsorChange often have full-time positions elsewhere, but still lack enough funds to pay off their student debts. Instead of working part-time to make ends meet, SponsorChange gives them another option.

The program averages about $20/hour for its skill-based volunteering. The funds come from sponsors, individuals and corporations that choose to donate to a specific cause, a specific postgrad volunteer, or to SponsorChange in general.

One SponsorChange volunteer, who is working to pay $35,000 she owes from earning her 2007 bachelor’s degree, is using her public relations skills to help a non-profit tech hub. By the time her SponsorChange project ends in June, she will have made $2,000 to pay toward her loans.

“SponsorChange has connections with all type of organizations that you might not be able to tap into,” she said. “My goal is to really get more tech-based experience that I need.”

SponsorChange is just one student loan forgiveness program available to graduates facing piles of student loan debt. Last year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reported that about a quarter of the U.S. workforce could qualify under federal rules for favorable loan repayment options, but most don’t know such programs exist.

One option is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, in which, individuals who work in public service jobs can qualify for forgiveness of their federal student loans after meeting certain qualifications such as making a number of loan payments or working in a job for a number of years.

For private loan borrowers who don’t have time to volunteer there are other options. Some banks are now offering the graduates the ability to refinance. In January, Charter One announced its new Education Refinance Loan that provides borrowers with rates as low as 5.24%.

Student Loan Debt Relief Available in Exchange For Volunteer Work [DNAinfo Chicago]