With student loan debt weighing in at $1.3 trillion and technology and big data remaking finance, it’s no wonder startups like Sofi and CommonBond have been trying to apply advances in financial tech to one of the biggest crises of our time – and earn a steady profit in the process.
Today, Earnest, a personal lender known for an innovative algorithm that uses between 80,000 to 100,000 data points to loan to people with little to no credit history, joins them.
The San Francisco-based company, which provides personal loans to young folks whose credit scores belie their actual creditworthiness, is announcing the launch of a student loan refinancing product that will offer burdened graduates the opportunity to refinance their loans – undergraduate and graduate, federal and private – at rates as low as 1.92%, and topping out at 7.5% for terms ranging from five years up to 20 years.
“Student loan debt is the home loan of my generation. It’s nearly a universal problem for my age demographic. I am still repaying nearly $100,000 of student loan debt myself,” says Louis Beryl, 34, Earnest’s cofounder and CEO, adding that customers have been requesting a student loan refinancing product since the company’s launch last May. At the end of 2014, Earnest, which is in a couple dozen states covering 70% of the U.S. population, had processed $8 million in personal loans, and expects, with this product, to make hundreds of millions in loans this year.
They can swap between, say, a 15-year loan to a five-year loan with a more attractive interest rate – a feature appealing to, say, poor medical residents who can expect more generous paychecks in the future.
Earnest will allow her to opt for a 14-year loan and reward that commitment with a lower interest rate, saving the borrower $3,100-$3,600.
As more of the creditworthy student loan-indebted refinance with these venture-backed startups, the federal government could be left with a student loan debt portfolio with a much higher default rate.