To say that educational debt weighs heavily on people these days is a bit of an understatement: The average recent college grad leaves school with more than $30,000 in loans, and total student loan debt now tops some $1 trillion in the U.S.
So it should come as no surprise that more and more borrowers are seeking new solutions to tackling the crisis. They are even getting some help from the White House; recent political proposals have spanned everything from capping loan payments to 10% of income to allowing borrowers to refinance their debt.
But a few ideas garnering particular interest among new grads are making the act of paying down those loans a little more meaningful. The driving theme is doing good in return for some debt relief.
Intrigued by the idea, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite initiatives that tie paying back student loans to public service. From crowdfunding your volunteer work to conducting health research, these programs will give you the dual satisfaction of reducing your debt and doing good for the community.
This buzzy new organization’s mission is threefold: Increase civic engagement among younger generations, decrease grads’ student loan burdens and help young adults beef up their résumés with high-impact non-profit work.
How It Works: Through the SponsorChange site, debt-saddled volunteers propose community service projects they’d like to take on—in exchange for donations earmarked for their student loans.
After filling out a profile, volunteers (called “Change Agents”) are matched with a non-profit that meshes with their stated interests. Then it’s time to fish for sponsors—anyone from your Uncle Joe to an anonymous donor who’s simply intrigued by your public service project. Every hour of volunteer work rakes in between $10 and $20—and goes directly toward student loan payments. (Read: You can’t divert that cash toward your restaurant budget.)
Get Involved: Visit SponsorChange.org. Projects are currently only available in Pittsburgh, Washington and Chicago, but the organization is quickly expanding into other high-demand cities.