I won’t get into how vicious school loans can be. We all are aware of that. And if you aren’t, lucky you!
The great news is now there may be a solution of sorts to help pay them down and make the world a better place.
Recently, a small nonprofit called SponsorChange.org received a community service award for finding a way to help college graduates battle student loan debt by volunteering.
Here’s how it works: Graduates with student loan debt sign up to volunteer at organizations that need manpower. The grads help their community by putting in hours toward that organization’s goals. Then donors who have also signed up at SponsorChange reimburse volunteers by paying down their student loans. So the donors help the nonprofit get free manpower rather than making a traditional donation. The volunteers get help with their student loans—and gain useful work experience along the way.
Raymar Hampshire, cofounder of SponsorChange.org, sees that work experience as a key to his organization’s power. Earning money toward loan payments is hugely helpful, especially for recent graduates who are underemployed. Many are also hungry for leadership opportunities, tangible work experience, and the chance to impress leaders in their community or industry.
Hampshire started SponsorChange in Pittsburgh in 2009. The organization is now based in Washington, D.C., with satellite offices in Pittsburgh and Chicago. Graduates who aren’t in those cities can sign up if they connect with a nonprofit organization in their area that has signed up with SponsorChange. Or, Hampshire says, some grads who already are volunteering with an organization in their area have invited that organization to join SponsorChange, so that they can turn a basic volunteer gig into one done for student loan assistance.
Hampshire is working on a program of “virtual volunteering” that he hopes to launch later this year—using digital technology to help graduates battle their crushing debt. Participants would contribute volunteer hours doing work that could be accomplished remotely—such as grant writing or web design—for a nonprofit in another city.