Monday, December 10, 2018


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This holiday season could be a good time to knock down your student debt.

Gift of College, an education registry, lets people register their student loan account, and then share their profile with friends and family who can contribute funds toward your loans.

“Wouldn’t you rather get Aunt Emma to kick in toward your student loans than give you another ugly sweater for Christmas?” said Nadine Perry, director of marketing at Gift of College.

If you’re doing gift swaps with your friends, you can even ask for a Gift of College gift card, which can be redeemed as a payment into any student loan account. (Here’s a directory of where the cards are sold).

As student debt grows, so do the plans to squelch it.

Some of the ideas are pretty creative: New Jersey, for example, considered establishing a lottery for borrowers burdened by student debt. Other ways of garnering money to eliminate your education debt don’t rely on luck, but rather require rolling up your sleeves or boning up on historical facts.

Keep in mind, however, that these endeavors aren’t free aid. The funds, even money offered by an organization in return for volunteer work, are taxable.

“All money you receive for volunteering or win on a trivia app or lottery is considered income by the IRS,” said Mark Kantrowitz, a student loan expert.

Here are some of the ways to get other people to pay off your debt.

1) At your job

Currently, just 4 percent of employers offer student debt assistance. But that’s changing as more employers come to realize education debt is a problem for many of their workers, said Katie Berliner, account executive at YouDecide, a benefits firm.

“In order to attract and retain talent, employers are looking at offering contributions to people’s student loans,” Berliner said.

Companies that have offered their employees help with their student loans include Aetna, Penguin Random House, Nvidia and Staples.

Fidelity announced this year that 25 employers — including Hewlett Packard Enterprise, New York Air Brake and Millennium Trust — plan to implement its student debt employer contribution program. (Fidelity also offers a student debt benefit for its own employees.)

“Do a quick Google search and find the employers who are out there doing this,” Berliner said.

Most likely, the company you’re interviewing with won’t offer the benefit, but that shouldn’t stop you from asking about it, Berliner said. “In the course of the interview, there comes a point where the interviewer says, ‘Do you have any questions?'” Berliner said. “It would not be out of line to say: ‘I want to get your perspective on whether you think this a valuable benefit.'”

2) By volunteering

Borrowers can enroll with Shared Harvest Fund. Users create a profile and list the social causes they’re interested in, such as gender equality or homelessness. You’ll work on projects for nonprofits and businesses and receive a monthly stipend of $250 to $1,000.

Although the work will start off in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, “eventually, people can live in Arkansas and do work for a nonprofit in Los Angeles,” said NanaEfua B.A.M, founder of Shared Harvest Fund.

3) Apps/online

Givling is an app that lets student loan borrowers play trivia, with the winning team each week earning roughly $5,000 per person. “Some people are not the best trivia players, but they’re motivated to get help with their student loans,” said Seth Beard, Givling’s chief marketing officer.

The app ChangeEd will put your spare change toward your student loan payments. For example, if you buy a $1.75 coffee, 25 cents will go toward your debt.

More from Personal Finance:
Here’s how to retire abroad — without any tax surprises
Tax cuts trump the market’s recent volatility for most Americans, new study finds
Tax bill will slash by half the number of homeowners claiming the mortgage deduction

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