May 9, 2020

Student loan startup offers free assistance to borrowers amid the coronavirus pandemic

Student loan startup offers free assistance to borrowers amid the coronavirus pandemic


Startups are popping up to help student loan borrowers navigate a complicated system.

One of them is Summer, which provides borrowers a full view of their student loan situation and suggests optimal ways to repay the debt. The service is free for now during the coronavirus pandemic and can be used by federal and private student loan borrowers.

“Unfortunately, with the loan servicer and the borrower, that’s a zero sum relationship,” Summer Co-Founder and CEO Will Sealy, who previously worked at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Elizabeth Warren’s senatorial campaign, told Yahoo Finance. “You either pay them or you don’t — and they’re trying to get as much money out of you as possible as a borrower.”

(Graphic: David Foster)

‘Many of our residents are facing unprecedented financial hardship’

There are about 44 million student loan borrowers across the U.S. holding $1.5 trillion in debt, with outstanding private student loans approaching $130 billion.

Private loan borrowers who want to use Summer would need to be in one of the ten states — New York, Connecticut, Illinois, California, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Colorado (as well as Washington D.C.) — that entitle borrowers to a 90-day payment pause.

The move by states is significant as many private student loan borrowers did not see relief in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. And with the unemployment rate hitting nearly 15% for the month of April, the financial pressure is setting in even deeper for many.

(Source: Student Loan Borrower Protection Center)

Sealy said that Summer was created as “an allied entity with the borrower that would function as being in the borrower’s best interest.”

The company designed an algorithm that can tell each individual borrower or user what they should do with their student loans, based on the existing plans there are out there. 

“We took over 2,000 pages of higher education, code and policy, and put that into the code base,” Sealy explained. “That’s everything from state policy initiatives … to forgiveness programs.” 

Since it launched in 2017, according to Sealy, the company has worked with 25,000 borrowers and the average savings for each borrower has been $300 per month. For borrowers now facing unemployment, Summer offers an opportunity to quickly enroll in an Income-Driven Repayment plan that can reduce monthly payments to as low as $0.

Graduate student Tyleah Whitlow puts a mask on her face as she arrives to pick up her diploma at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School on May 6, 2020 in Bradley, Illinois. (Photo: KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Connecticut and Rhode Island have both signed on to specifically provide Summer as a free resource to their residents with student loans.

“Many of our residents are facing unprecedented financial hardship that is pushing those with student loan debt onto a financial tightrope,” Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said in a press release. “We are grateful for Summer and its sponsorship of much-needed assistance to our residents who are struggling with their student loans.”

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo echoed his comments.

“We need to do everything we can to support those who are most at risk during these challenging times,” she said in a statement. “We’re grateful for Summer’s generosity in helping borrowers enroll in loan assistance programs that can potentially free up thousands of dollars.”

Aarthi is a reporter for Yahoo Finance covering consumer finance and higher education. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.

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