If the price of higher education is giving you sticker shock, you’re not alone.
The average cost of tuition for 2023-24 was $26,027 for in-state residents at public colleges, and $27,091 for out-of-state students. At private colleges, the average tuition and fees totaled a whopping $38,768!
Most students end up taking out student loans to cover the cost of college. Over 43 million Americans have federal student loan debt, with an average balance of $37,718 each. Combined, Americans now hold $1.766 trillion in student loan debt!
Paying off your loan may become a burden, especially if you opt for a career in public service, art, or another low-paying field. Your debt may also become unmanageable if you run into unexpected economic difficulties due to medical bills, losing your job, caring for a parent or child, or other challenges.
If more traditional student loan repayment plans aren’t working, you may want to think outside the box. One approach could be crowdfunding student loans. Here are some things to know about this creative way to tackle your debt.
What Is Crowdfunding
Crowdfunding is the process of soliciting small contributions from multiple donors to meet a financial goal. Through online platforms like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, people have turned to crowdfunding to raise money for entrepreneurial ventures, medical crises, disaster victims, classroom supplies, and much more.
You can solicit donations from friends, family, and even complete strangers. By splitting the contributions among a large quantity of people, crowdfunding is a way to meet a big financial goal while not having to rely on finding one major source of funding.
Raising money online makes it easy to share your campaign widely and for people to easily contribute. Increasingly, people have been crowdfunding to pay off their debt, including fundraising for college. That can include textbooks, tuition, studying abroad, or living expenses — or, of course, student loans.
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Sites for Crowdfunding Your Student Loan Repayment
There are a number of sites that allow you to set up a crowdfunding campaign so you can pay off your student loans. Before you sign up, you’ll want to make sure that you understand all the rules and fees that you might encounter during the process.
Here are some crowdfunding sites to look into:
GoFundMe: GoFundMe is perhaps the best-known crowdfunding platform out there. Setting up a fundraiser is easy. Once you have a GoFundMe account and set a goal, you’re encouraged to tell your personal story of why you’re raising money and add a photo or video. Then you can share the campaign with your network of family, friends, coworkers, followers on social media, etc. Once your GoFundMe page starts raising money, you can start withdrawing it. While GoFundMe doesn’t charge fees for setting up a page, there are transaction fees (2.9% + $0.30, which includes debit and credit charges).
Rally.org: Rally.org works a lot like GoFundMe. Once you have an account, you can set a goal, tell your story, and then start sharing with friends and family. Like GoFundMe, you can start withdrawing money as soon as people start donating to your fundraiser. There’s one big difference between Rally.org and GoFundMe: the fees. While there’s only transaction fees on GoFundMe fundraisers, Rally.org charges 5% + credit card fees (2.9% + 30 cents) for each donation processed. That 5% can make it harder for you to reach your fundraising goal.
Gift of College: If you’re not looking to launch a full-blown crowdfunding campaign, but you do want to make it easier for friends or family to help you pay off your student loans in the form of gifts at birthdays, holidays, or graduation, you might consider an account with Gift of College. To get started, you set up an account and link your student loan account. Then you can share your profile with friends and family to encourage them to buy you Gift of College gift cards for special occasions. It’s free to set up a Gift of College account, but there is a 5% processing/service fee charged to the gift giver for every gift card they buy (though the fee is capped at $15 per transaction). Gift of College can also be attached to 529 accounts.
Is Crowdfunding for Repaying Student Loans a Good Idea?
There are pros and cons to turning to the crowdfunding model as a way of making a dent in your student loan debt. Let’s start with the positives. If your campaign is successful, it’s an easy way to earn money to pay off your debt, and you don’t have to do much in return. Earning and saving the same amount through a job would likely take much longer, depending on your living expenses.
Similar to a wedding registry, a crowdfunding site also makes it less awkward to ask people in your life for help, compared to just asking for money outright. You probably have lots of loved ones who would like to help you but don’t have an easy way to do it.
Another perk is that obtaining a lump sum and putting it toward your loan principal can greatly reduce the interest that accumulates and the amount you owe over the life of the loan. Finally, crowdfunding often works. There are many examples of successful campaigns out there to inspire you.
There are some downsides to consider. One is that a crowdfunding effort is likely to get you a chunk of money once, rather than a regular stream of funding.
Considering the size of most student loans, and how interest compounds over time, you may not raise enough money to pay off the entire loan. So you’ll still have to figure out a way to consistently make your monthly payments.
Also, how much you may earn is unpredictable — it depends on the strength of your campaign and the size of your network, plus the generosity of donors, so it’s a bit risky to rely on this to stay solvent.
Another con is that depending on the size of the donation, you may need to pay taxes on the money, so you wouldn’t get to keep the entire amount you raise. Finally, even though a specialized crowdfunding site makes it easier, it may still feel uncomfortable to ask people you know for money, especially if they are facing their own debts and financial challenges.
How To Set Up a Crowdfunding Campaign
Pick a crowdfunding platform: First, you need to pick a crowdfunding site to use. Review the terms carefully so you understand how the process works. You’ll want to see if the platform keeps a percentage of funds donated, what processing fees are charged, whether it allows employers or the general public to contribute, and whether the money goes to your lender directly or comes to you in the form of cash.
Set a goal: If your fundraising goal sounds impossibly high, it could prevent some people from donating. Starting with a number that’s ambitious but reasonable may help, even if it means asking for less than your total student loan amount.
Build trust with your funders: You need to spell out what you are going to do with the money. Potential donors likely want to know what, exactly, their gift is supporting. And they probably want to be sure it will actually go toward student loans and not other expenses. Make clear how exactly you will pay off the loan and how you will hold yourself accountable to donors can go a long way toward building trust.
Telling your personal story: People may be more likely to support you if they understand the impact they can have on your life. Telling your unique story can help make their gift about more than just debt. You could describe your past accomplishments and future goals, as well as how the support will help you achieve them. Try putting up photos and a video to help people connect with your goals emotionally.
Leveraging your network: In order to have a successful campaign you’ll need to share with people you know through email and social media. You might want to tie the campaign to a special occasion, such as your birthday or graduation. You can ask your network to share on their channels as well.
Keeping the momentum going: A successful campaign doesn’t end when you launch. Posting updates on your crowdfunding page regularly will keep people interested and remind them to donate could help you reach your goal.
Express gratitude: People are doing you a favor when you donate, so thank them early and often! It will make them feel good about their gifts and perhaps even encourage them to share your campaign or donate more down the line.
Thinking About Student Loan Refinancing
If you can fund your student loan debt in full through crowdfunding, congratulations! But most people can’t depend on this as a long-term strategy and will need to find additional ways to pay off the rest of their balance.
If you’re still struggling with student debt, refinancing your student loans may be another way to make your loans more affordable. You can refinance federal loans, private loans, or a mix of both by taking out a new loan with a private lender like SoFi and using it to pay off your old ones. Note that if you do refinance federal loans with a private lender, you will lose eligibility for federal student loan benefits like deferment and income-driven repayment programs.
You may be able to qualify for a lower interest rate or lower monthly payments, depending on your credit history and income. It could be worth checking what rates you’d qualify for by applying for pre-qualification online. If you refinance with SoFi, membership includes complimentary support from career coaches and protection during periods of unemployment for those who qualify. Plus there are no hidden fees.
With student debt growing exponentially, it’s worth considering creative solutions. Crowdfunding can be a relatively easy way to make a dent in your student loans without investing a lot of time. But for most people, it won’t be enough to eliminate their debt completely.
Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.
With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.
Student Loan Refinancing
If you are a federal student loan borrower you should take time now to prepare for your payments to restart, including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. (You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.) Please note that once you refinance federal student loans, you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans, such as the SAVE Plan, or extended repayment plans.
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