If you’re a college graduate staggering under a heavy pile of student loan debt, you may have dreamed about winning the lottery and paying off your student loan free and clear.
Of course, the odds of being a lottery winner are about 175 million to one, but what if you could play an online trivia game that gave you better odds of winning enough to pay off your loan – along with a built-in community and student loan counseling?
That’s the premise of Givling, a startup dedicated to stamping out student loan debt one student at a time. The roughly 200,000 people registered to play trivia on Givling’s free online game app are eligible to win daily cash prizes and up to $50,000 to pay off their student loans. If home ownership is the more urgent problem, game players can even win $25,000 to help pay down a mortgage. Through its partners, Givling also offers loan counseling and access to low-cost insurance.
Givling isn’t designed to solve the student loan crisis – even with its loan payoffs, daily cash awards and other benefits, the startup can only chip away at the surface of the $1.45 trillion dollars of student loan debt that weighs down an estimated 44 million Americans. But for many participants, Givling-sponsored counseling and tools offer new hope — and the awards can be life-changing.
“It was such an awesome, surreal moment,” says Jordan Shelton, 26, of Manhattan, Kansas, about finding he had won an award to wipe out his student loan debt. His $33,000 worth of student loan debt had barely budged, he noted, even after nearly four years of payment on an income-based plan. “I felt like I would be paying off this loan the rest of my life on that plan,” said Shelton, whose degree focused on intercultural studies, “but this freed me and my wife to do what we’re most passionate about.” (An Indianapolis TV station covered Shelton receiving the surprise award).
So far, the fast-growing startup has given away more than $606,000 and paid off student loans for nine Americans. Givling executives are quick to acknowledge the program’s limitations, but they’re gratified to be able to throw a lifeline to even a small group of Americans drowning in student loan debt.
“We know we’re not the answer to the student loan crisis,” says Seth Beard, MBA, Givling’s chief marketing officer. “But to be able to wipe out student loan debt for even a small number of people – there’s no better feeling. It’s so empowering; it’s wonderful. Every morning, I can hardly wait to get up and go to work. And that’s something I never fully experienced before. It’s more than a job; it’s a mission.”