Like a lot of graduates, Luke Livingston faced a mountain of student-loan debt when he finished up last spring at Clarke University in Worcester, Mass.
Unlike a lot of graduates, though, he's since cooked up an ingenious way to pay it back: Ask sponsors to pay his loan back for him. Livingston, 22 years old, says he "tried to think of something that hadn't already been done, and would also be beneficial to me and to the person who would be the source of my funding."
His plan involved putting together a Web site, sponsormyloans.com, where he offers to provide a month of advertising to anyone who will pay him $200. The $200 will then be used to cover his student loan payment for that month.
Livingston is not alone in graduating college with seemingly unmanageable student-loan debt. About 50% of students graduate college with student loans averaging just above $19,000, according to Aurora D'Amico of the National Center for Education Statistics.
Just less than half (45%) of undergraduates enrolled in a public four-year institution took out student loans, according to the National Center for Education statistics tracking the 2003-2004 school year, while over half of undergraduates attending all private four-year institutions took out student loans: 56% at not-for-profit schools and 73% at for-profit-schools.
With the cost of college continually increasing, the numbers are bound to go up. These staggering statistics have caused some graduates to think outside the box when it comes to thinking of ways to eliminate their debt.
Livingston put his diploma and entrepreneurial skills to work when he began sponsormyloans.com late in 2007. After sending out a press release and getting some coverage, he received a sponsor for the month of January almost immediately. He is hopeful that more sponsors will sign on and his site will prove successful.
"I'm hoping the increased attention I'm getting ... will help drive some sponsors my way," Livingston says. "If it catches on at all, [paying off my loans completely] would certainly be possible ... sponsormyloans.com is unique enough and beneficial enough to sponsors that it's certainly doable."
Other college graduates have had similar ideas recently. With a simple search of Google or Yahoo!, anyone surfing the Web can find people aching to pay off their student loans.
Like Livingston, Derek Bender brought his loan-paying cause to the Web when he started helpmepaymyloans.com. Unlike Livingston, however, Bender's Web site simply asks people to have sympathy for a college grad with debt and donate money to help him pay it off.
Bender, who has over $50,000 in student loans, decided that he couldn't pay them off on his own. He decided to rely on perfect strangers to help him achieve his goals of buying a house, traveling the world and getting involved in investments.
Another graduate, Chris Pirillo took a slightly different but still unconventional approach to paying back his loans. Pirillo currently runs his own blog at chris.pirillo.com but he also helped pay off his student loans by writing a book.
His book Poor Richard's E-mail Publishing is a guide to successful email publishing, one of Pirillo's passions. Pirillo applied his earnings to his student loans.
"It didn't pay my full loan amount, but it pushed me to completion quickly," he says.
While these unconventional loan repayment methods are working for some, they are not always a sure-fire way to earn money and pay off loans. Audrey Padilla posted her site helprepaymystudentloans.com when she learned how much in total she owed in student loans.
"I actually created the site out of sheer desperation," she says. "I thought what better way to reach people than through the Internet."
Padilla recounted her financial situation for anyone to read hoping that it would inspire people to donate money to her cause. Unfortunately, the site has not been successful.
Although she has not received help from her Web site, Padilla says that she is still hopeful. She recently wrote to her local congressmen and attached her site in the hope of getting support from another source.
—For more ways to save, spend, invest and borrow, visit MainStreet.com.