How These 2 Borrowers Made Thousands Crowdfunding Their Student Loans

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Graduated and working in the nonprofit world, Jack Legg and his wife took their $80,000 student loan debt online.

Still enrolled and working toward a Ph.D., Andrew Daniel Rocha did the same with his growing $37,280.65 debt.

They’re not alone. In the quest for free money to pay off student loans, many graduates turn to websites like Generosity by Indiegogo, YouCaring, and GoFundMe to find a giving audience.

“A lot of people are ashamed to ask for help; I was for a long time until I realized there are people out there that are more than happy to help,” said Rocha, who has netted almost $6,000 via his campaign. “Strangers are examples of that. Friends who give $5 are examples of that.”

Let’s go beyond the pros and cons of crowdfunding student loans by looking at what’s worked (and what hasn’t) for Legg and Rocha.

1. Choose the right website and dollar amount

Legg and his wife found themselves in a familiar situation: budgeting for and making student loan payments every month without being able to make much progress on their debt. They refinanced the loans they could and made minimum payments on the ones they couldn’t afford, such as a Parent PLUS Loan inherited from Legg’s parents.

“It was an insanely slow crawl,” Legg said.

And it led to an offbeat idea.

Asking for money online started with picking the right place to do it. Legg considered the more widely recognized GoFundMe before learning that YouCaring would allow he and his wife to keep close to 100 percent of the proceeds. (GoFundMe charges a five percent fee; both sites work with payment processors that take 2.9 percent of funds and 30 cents of every transaction.)

Next, the Leggs decided to be “audacious” (their word) in asking for all $80,000. They went about this in a unique way: asking for $20 from 4,000 people.

“There’s a sense of taboo, talking about how much is owed and so forth,” Legg said. “I stressed that we weren’t delinquent, we just wanted to expedite the process of repayment. If folks thought we were in trouble, they’d be less likely to help.”

Although the Leggs consider their results — $2,800 raised in two-plus years — a success, they fell far short of deleting their debt.

Rocha, who also chose YouCaring to save his benefactors money, started much smaller, headlining his page, “Every little bit helps…” He only bumped up his ask to $10,000 when he learned that he wouldn’t qualify for in-state tuition at the University of Arizona.

In closer to three years, he’s collected more than $5,600.

“I was working as hard as possible, so this was me asking for a little bit of help,” said Rocha, a 2017 graduate who holds subsidized and unsubsidized Direct Loans as well as Perkins loans from the federal government. “I wasn’t trying to get all $60,000 [of college tuition] covered.”

Unlike the Leggs, whose salaries have flatlined in the nonprofit world, Rocha could be on his way to the best form of debt help: a good income. Optical engineers, the peers he hopes to eventually join, pull down a median salary of more than $85,000, according to PayScale.

If you’re pursuing a career that pays well, maybe you — like Rocha — just need a little help until your education really pays off.

2. Start with your friends, family, and expand out

When Rocha and Legg asked their inner circles to share their YouCaring links, they were requesting exposure as much as money.

Then they branched out to acquaintances, friends of friends and professional contacts. Rocha got his community college to share his link with the school’s bigger audience. Legg found success including his YouCaring link in a mass email to colleagues.

The majority of Legg’s 42-and-counting donations came from people he knows. But some complete strangers saw a post of his on Facebook or Twitter and clicked through to support.

Rocha, meanwhile, estimated that a third of his donations have come from people he’s never met, including a friend of a Facebook friend who offered up $100. Another stranger, identified as “Santa,” gave $500 in December 2014 before following up with a second $500 gift in January 2015.

Employing your existing social media network might be the most time-efficient strategy to spreading the word of your own campaign.

3. Create a positive conversation about debt help

In asking for aid online, Legg got every kind of response you can imagine. Some commenters told him he was “what’s wrong with America” because he had an “entitled mindset.”

Others asked why he deserved their charity considering that children in other countries are starving.

“I made a real point of not being defensive about it,” Legg said. “Being in a combative relationship shoots the thing in the foot from the outset.”

Instead, Legg tried to strike a lighter tone with each weekly or biweekly post he’d share on social media. He created comedic memes using online generators.

The self-deprecating style increased shares and endeared him to skeptics of his pleas for debt help.

crowdfunding student loans

Image credit: Jack Legg

Showing humility by way of humor could also be the right path for you and your fundraising efforts.

4. Share your unique story to build momentum

Both of these borrowers had a positive message. They just went about it in different ways. Legg used his jokes as a jumping-off point to talk about how his work as a family counselor would help his community deal with its darker realities: drugs, poverty, and even human trafficking.

Rocha, who is now pursuing a doctorate in optical sciences, would jump right into his own story. He highlighted escaping his gang-ridden East Los Angeles neighborhood. He also mentioned living in his car while enrolled in community college.

“Maybe this is my own recipe, but the format of how I wrote the [YouCaring] introduction was much like a personal statement for a scholarship,” Rocha said. “I made sure every time I made an update and shared it, it was as positive as possible and that I [was] grateful.”

He would also post a dozen more fundraising updates on YouCaring to keep his donors engaged in his progress. He wanted donors to turn into fans who’d cheer him on as he sought debt help.

Engaging your donors even after they donated proved to be helpful to Rocha. It got some folks to donate a second time.

5. Be as transparent as possible

There’s a common hiccup for students and graduates like Rocha and Legg who attempt crowdfunding student loans. Their initiatives sound noble, but they also sound like they could be too good to be true.

Being open about what you need and, more specifically, what you need it for can go a long way.

Legg stopped short of providing his tax returns, as one would-be donor requested. But he and Rocha took opportunities to share what information they could.

Rocha, for example, lists 24 different scholarships, grants, and awards on his YouCaring page. He wanted to show his potential helpers that he wasn’t relying solely on handouts.

Rocha also included images of himself in school, at the lab, and on the receiving end of framed certificates. He even posted a screenshot of his GPA, just to make sure people knew what kind of investment they were making.

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Image credit: Andrew Daniel Rocha

6. Don’t solely rely on crowdfunding for debt help

Rocha developed a strategy for securing as much in-school gift aid as possible. By bugging every one of his classes’ department heads about his dire financial situation, the heads would inevitably talk about him on campus.

So by the time Rocha went to the financial aid office, they already had most of the details of his story. He said he scored $8,000 in out-of-state grants, plus an additional Perkins loan.

Whereas Rocha spent many of his waking moments exploring ways to pay for his school, Legg looked at his options for his growing student loan debt. He consolidated; he refinanced; he was even on track for loan forgiveness at one point.

Becoming “the guy who was constantly asking for money” was more of a last resort. It’s certainly wasn’t his first choice.

To help make more than the minimum on his loan payments, Legg started picking up odd side jobs. One of them was right up his alley: emceeing at comedy clubs in nearby Dayton and Columbus. A weekend of that would net him enough money to make it worthwhile.

Crowdfunding is just one way to help lighten your burden; it’s not the only way.

Need debt help? Consider crowdfunding student loans

Legg and his wife are almost done paying off a mortgage. They hope to divert that monthly payment toward their outstanding student loans. Rocha, of course, is still in the midst of his education and won’t fully confront his debt until he leaves school.

Now you know why their campaigns are still up and running.

When deciding whether to start your own, it might be good to ask why not. It would be even better to look at the math.

If you were to raise $500 by crowdfunding student loans, for example, one lump-sum payment could shave months off the length of your loan term. That’s real debt help.

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Crowdfunding Student Loans is not the same as loan forgiveness, but it could keep you enrolled like Rocha or make timely payments like Legg. Use their lessons if you give crowdfunding a go. This is their way of giving back to you.

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1 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes.

2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student Loan RefinanceFixed rates from 3.999% APR to 7.804% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.480% APR to 7.524% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.480% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.07% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

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  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.72%-8.17% (2.72%-8.17% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.50%-8.69% (3.50% – 8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Average savings based on 18,113 actual customers who refinanced their federal and private student loans through our Education Refinance Loan between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. The calculation is derived by averaging the monthly savings of Education Refinance Loan customers whose payments decreased after refinancing, which is calculated by taking the monthly student loan payments prior to refinancing minus the monthly student loan payments after refinancing. The borrower’s savings might vary based on the interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of the loans they are seeking to refinance. The borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if their monthly payments are lower.
2.57% – 5.87%Undergrad
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2.80% – 6.38%1Undergrad
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2.48% – 7.52%2Undergrad
& Graduate
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2.47% – 7.99%Undergrad
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2.57% – 6.65%3Undergrad
& Graduate
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2.72% – 8.17%4Undergrad
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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.