Volunteer Your Way Out Of Student Loan Debt

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Young people standing with shovels.

By volunteering your time, you could dig your way out of debt.

When it comes to student loans, I’m always looking for new and innovative ways to pay them off—and no, I don’t mean this way. I’ve extensively researched forgiveness, repayment, and discharge options, and I thought I had seen it all.

Then, I found SponsorChange.org.

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First, a disclaimer: I don’t know anyone who has used SponsorChange, nor have I spoken with anyone at the organization. Currently, they only operate in a few locations and have very few open projects; however, their website states that they are working toward operating in more locations and adding new projects.

This post is just my reaction after reading up on them and their mission. Namely, they help college grads pay back their loans in exchange for volunteering their time. Get paid for giving back to the community? Sounds win-win to me.

Why This Is Needed

The nonprofit sector has lots of benefits, but it tends to pay its employees less than the private sector. As a result, some grads may feel the need to seek higher salaries at private corporations—and shy away from more altruistic fields. And while those salaries help with high student loan debt, they may not necessarily help with the community.

In general, college students also tend to volunteer less after they graduate. This is likely due to juggling new responsibilities (career, family, etc.). Unfortunately, this creates a dilemma for nonprofits that depend on volunteers.

Some nonprofits will accept money, but what they really need are boots on the ground. People willing to work in underserved communities or groups. The gist of SponsorChange is that it gets nonprofits the volunteers that they so desperately need by rewarding those volunteers with money to repay their student loans.

How Do They Do It?

SponsorChange connects highly skilled college graduates with nonprofits looking for volunteers. In return for the volunteer work, this organization raises money through sponsors who provide funding to help pay down the volunteers’ student loans. They basically connect those who want to help with ways to actually make a difference.

Right now, they typically provide $1,000 per project. So, the title of this post is a little bit of an exaggeration for most recent graduates, since the average student loan debt has hovered just under $30,000 for the last couple of years. However, this is still a legitimate (and perhaps more rewarding) way to start hacking away at those balances. If you find yourself wanting to volunteer, working with this organization to match you up with projects could really be beneficial for you.

Don’t Forget About IBR

Income-based repayment (IBR) bases your payments on your income. If you’re eligible, your federal student loan payments could become much more affordable for you. IBR also offers forgiveness on your remaining balance after making 25 years’ worth of eligible payments. It could really make sense (or save some cents) for you to sign up for IBR and work with SponsorChange. It may even provide you the opportunity to work with nonprofits, if that is really where you want to end up.

And if you do decide to work with a nonprofit, remember there’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), which forgives the remaining balance on eligible loans after making 10 years of eligible payments.

Stay Positive!

My point here is to not let student loan debt get you down. I’m always finding new programs designed to help relieve the student loan debt burden. Volunteering your way out of student loan debt is just the tip of the iceberg. I expect more ways to pay down this debt to be popping up in the future. I’ll let you know when I find them, but I’m really interested to see how successful this site becomes.

Know of another unique way to pay off your student loans? Share it with us in the comments.

(Photo: Wikimedia)

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