As the economy roars and housing prices reach new highs, another financial reality has bubbled to new heights as well: student loan debt. Today the average borrower owes more than $37,000 and pays $393 a month. As the total amount of student loan debts eclipses $1.5 trillion, women and minorities are disproportionately burdened by educational loans and many young borrowers are delaying having families or home ownership because of their debt.
While it may seem like there's no end in sight to the payments, there are some unconventional ways to pay down your loans faster aside from the more obvious solutions like earning more money or sticking to a strict budget. Working for a non-profit to get your loans forgiven, volunteering, or even crowdfunding, are some alternate paths to reducing your debt. But you already knew about those right?
Here are some ideas that you probably never thought of—most of which require skill, luck or creativity. Because when it comes to waging battle against today’s historically high student debt no tool is worth discounting.
Be a game show contestant
Hosted by Michael Torpey, who plays the sadistic prison guard CO Humphrey on Orange is the New Black, Paid Off offers contestants on the TruTV show the chance to win money to pay off their student loans. (One woman won more than $24,000.) Torpey came up with the idea for the broke millennial version of Family Feud after paying off his wife’s student loan debt with money he made doing underwear commercials.
Dancing between the genres of dystopian and black humor, Paid Off attempts to offer an unorthodox solution to the growing problem of student loan debt. In each episode, three contestants answer questions about food, dating, history or science for a chance to win loan money. In a recent episode, contestants had to correctly distinguish between daytime and “big time” judges like Judy Sheindlin and Elena Kagan. While casting is closed for the first season of Paid Off, keep an eye out for future casting calls online on sites like Backstage.
Send a tweet to Nicki Minaj
“Show me straight A's that I can verify [with your] school and I'll pay it [...] dead serious” rapper Nicki Minaj said on twitter earlier this year when one of her fans asked her to pay his loans. The superstar rapper then paid off tuition bills and loans for some of her fans and launched Student of the Game, a non-profit that allows her fans to apply for money for their education.
In May she dropped the details for how to enter:
And in late June, Minaj announced the second group of winners, paying out $5,000 to $25,000 each to 37 of her fans.
Salvador Oliveros, a dental student, was one of the first winners in Nicki’s program. “I was so happy I almost cried,” he said. He used the money he won to pay his tuition bill from the previous semester. “I felt like I was able to continue with my career.” Nicki’s non-profit pays tuition bills, public student loans, and private student loans.
Play a trivia game app
Are you great at answering random questions? Then you might be able to put your skills to use with Givling, an app that gives borrowers the chance to win loan money playing trivia. To date, it’s paid out nearly $1 million to contestants who download the app.
To play, contestants answer true or false questions as part of a three-person team. The team with the highest number of correct answers gets to split the cash reward. In July, for example, Jonathan Simbol (shown above) won around $7,000, along with his team members.
Use spare change to pay student loan debt
ChangED, backed in part by billionaire Mark Cuban, helps students pay down their loans a little faster by rounding enrollees’ electronic purchases up to the nearest dollar and putting the difference towards their loans. The app also tracks your spending and shows you how close you are to being debt free.
For those that want to add a little more than spare change to their repayment, an app called Momentum takes it to the next level, adding $1 to $10 to every electronic purchase to go toward their student loans. Fifth Third Bank, which created the app, claims it has helped borrowers pay down $1 million in student loans and shaved years off their time in repayment.
Get your employer to pay the bill
As the labor market tightens, a growing number of companies are offering student loan assistance as part of their benefits package. Currently just four percent do so, according to a 2018 employee benefits survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, but the payments can be substantial.
For example, the tech firm Nvidia will pay up to $30,000 of employees’ student loan bills over the course of five years. Fidelity will pay $2,000 a year (up to $10,000 total), Staples pays eligible workers $1,200 a year (up to $3,600 total), and PwC (PriceWaterhouseCoopers) pays associates and senior associates $1,200 a year up to a maximum amount of $10,000. Aetna, Penguin Random House, and entertainment company Live Nation all have similar programs.
To find out if your employer offers a student loan assistance program, just ask your benefits department.