Understanding the Student Loan Debt Crisis

Understanding the Student Loan Debt Crisis Currently, 44 million Americans hold over $1.5 trillion in debt and over 40% of borrowers have defaulted on their loans. Managing student loan debt has been a struggle for many and some policymakers are beginning to view it as a crisis.

Understanding the Student Loan Debt Crisis Currently, 44 million Americans hold over $1.5 trillion in debt and over 40% of borrowers have defaulted on their loans. Managing student loan debt has been a struggle for many and some policymakers are beginning to view it as a crisis.

Understanding the Student Loan Debt Crisis

Currently, 44 million Americans hold over $1.5 trillion in debt and over 40% of borrowers have defaulted on their loans. Managing student loan debt has been a struggle for many and some policymakers are beginning to view it as a crisis.

The Recent History of the Student Loan Debt Crisis

In order to get out of the crisis, it’s important to first understand how we got here. Contrary to popular opinion, the rising student loan debt crisis in the United States is not solely due to individuals’ poor financial habits. It is also a result of a system that has mortgaged its future to benefit a small few.

Over the last twenty years, tuition has steadily risen. At some universities, this rise has been over 200%. Generally speaking, the rate of tuition has risen eight times faster than wages, according to the Federal Reserve of St. Louis. For those that are currently considering higher education but lacking funds, enrolling in community college to save on costs may be an option worth considering. 

Additionally, consumer protection regulations have slowly been removed from student loan debt. These regulations include truth-in-lending and bankruptcy protection. Without these protections, tuition has been able to increase at hyperinflationary rates and has contributed to the current default levels. 

It is imperative to review the fine print of student loan documents and ensure that the lender is accurately calculating the balance totals each month. If borrowers are unsure or uncomfortable analyzing this themselves, there are financial counselors that will be happy to provide expert guidance. Many financial wellness programs offer free access to certified financial counselors to assist borrowers through tough financial conversations and decisions. 

Understanding these systemic issues surrounding student loan debt helps borrowers better grasp how the financial system works. By understanding the system, borrowers will be better equipped with the knowledge, and confidence, they need to ask qualifying questions when assessing their student loan balances. But that only provides a baseline. Here are some options for building an effective repayment plan

Loan consolidation

Consolidation combines several student loans into one larger loan under a single lender. This option is available for most federal student loans including Stafford, PLUS, Perkins and Direct loans. 

In order to consolidate federal loans, individuals will work through the Department of Education. The government will pay off the loans and replace them with a direct consolidation loan. 

Some lenders also offer consolidation for private student loans. Once the loans are consolidated, the interest rate is the weighted average of the interest rates on the loans being consolidated, rounded up to the nearest 1/8 of a percent. This new interest rate should be fixed for life. If it is not, negotiate for it to be a fixed rate. And the consolidation process should be free. If a service provider requires a fee, borrowers should assess different lenders. To begin the consolidation process for federal loans, visit studentloans.gov. Keep in mind that consolidating student loans will likely not reduce the debt amount but it will make it easier to manage.

Employer support

Some companies like Hulu and PwC are now offering student loan repayment programs to employees. These programs either match the monthly payment or offer repayment benefits regardless of how much is paid each month. 

There are many employers that now offer student loan debt services through employee benefits, such as a financial wellness program like FinFit. HR departments will be happy to discuss and explain the available benefits to employees. 

Refinancing student loans

Refinancing is similar to consolidation in that the loans are paid off and replaced with a new loan. The difference is that this new loan is refinanced at a lower interest rate, saving the borrower money in the long run. There are qualifications that must be met in order to be able to refinance. These can include elements like a steady income, good credit score, and/or a co-signer. 

There are some common myths when it comes to repaying student loan debt. One said myth is regarding the student loan forgiveness program. This program was created for citizens devoted to public service. Typically, these jobs do not have a high salary but do require higher education. In theory, an individual who graduated with student loan debt could work in public service for ten years and if they made their monthly payments on time for the entire ten years, the remaining balance of their student loans would be forgiven. 

Unfortunately, 99% of individuals who enrolled in the forgiveness program were denied at their 10-year mark due to a technicality. Senators across the nation suspect fraud and are calling for an investigation. Until this is sorted out, do not expect student loans to be forgiven.

Another commonly misunderstood program is an Income-based Repayment Plan (IBR). Should individuals encounter financial challenges and cash is tight, borrowers have the option to reduce monthly student loan payments by enrolling in an IBR plan. However, once the borrower’s income increases and the IBR status is removed, the lender often applies interest capitalization causing the balance to balloon. This is something to watch out for prior to enrolling in this type of repayment plan. 

Setting a goal to pay off your student loan debt

With varying options when it comes to student loan repayment, an effective plan begins with the end goal in mind. The borrower should set a desired payoff date. With this date established, the next step is to reverse engineer the repayment plan to determine how much should be paid each month in order to achieve this goal. 

Once the borrower has determined how much they will pay each month, it is recommended to check on the student loan status on a monthly basis to ensure that the payments are being applied to the principal. Otherwise, the lender may only be applying the payment to the interest, which means it will take longer to pay off the loan. 

Student loan repayment can be accomplished, but due diligence is required by the borrower upfront and during the repayment plan to ensure proper follow-through. 

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Kristen Stringer

Vice President of Banking & Credit Services

Kristen Stringer came to FinFit in 2010 and has been instrumental in the development of the proprietary FinFit systems and processes. Kristen served as FinFit’s Director of Operations for 7 years before being promoted to Vice President of Banking and Credit Services. She is responsible for managing strategic partners including the Celtic Bank and Ares credit relationships, in addition to establishing new relationships in the sponsor bank market. Kristen also oversees the underwriting and credit areas and is involved with development of underwriting models and new credit products, expansion of credit offerings, auditing and compliance, and the overall performance of credit products.

Kristen holds a bachelor’s degree in business with a concentration in finance, and is currently pursuing her MBA at Old Dominion University. She began her career at HSBC Bank in the customer service and collections departments and later was responsible for process improvement and project management. She was selected to lead numerous special projects including a foreclosure avoidance project that liquidated over $2 million dollars in less than three months. In her spare time, Kristen enjoys photography and is an avid sports fan.

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David Kilby


David Kilby has been President/CEO of FinFit since its founding in 2008. He has grown the company from a single idea into the nation’s largest, most comprehensive Financial Wellness Benefit platform. Chosen as one of the top 100 companies to work for three years in a row (2014-16), FinFit pursues a mission of changing employees lives one employee at a time. Prior to FinFit, David led a multi-million-dollar financial institution holding company, where he was inspired to find a way to help employees get more financially fit. At KPMG Peat Marwick, Norfolk, Virginia, he worked with a variety of public and private organizations in a variety of industries including automotive, chemical manufacturing, consumer finance, managed health care, retail, real estate and wholesale organizations.

David received his CPA designation in the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1991 and graduated from Old Dominion University. Today he serves as the President of the Ability Center of Virginia, a charity devoted to helping children and adults with disabilities serve productive lives. He is also an active member with the Young Presidents Organization, an active Board Member of Old Dominion University Business School, a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants.

Jennifer Creech

Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships

Jennifer Creech brings more than 20 years of sales and marketing experience to FinFit. Jennifer is accountable for the overall sales initiatives, client acquisition and strategic relationships. She is also responsible for client retention strategies and the development and management of sales agents.

Jennifer previously served as VP/Director of Marketing at Bank of Hampton Roads/Hampton Roads Bankshares, Inc. As an officer of the bank, she was responsible for the development and implementation of the bank’s sales and marketing programs and was a member of the Retail Leadership Committee to expand the retail banking division.

Jennifer is currently the President of It’s A Surprise and offers support to various community charities.

Kristen Gaskins

Director of Client Engagement and Awareness

Kristen Gaskins brings more than 20 years of sales and marketing experience to her role as Director of Client Engagement and Awareness. She leads a dynamic team of onboarding specialists whose focus is ensuring employers understand the benefits of FinFit and are ready to roll it out to their employees. She works closely with the FinFit marketing department to craft and measure the omnichannel onboarding experience, working to retain and engage existing partners, clients and employees.

She’s a Virginia Beach native who enjoys travel and cooking, just not at the same time.

Cliff Kiel

Senior Vice President, Sales

Cliff Kiel brings almost thirty years of industry experience to the sales team. He joined the company in 2017 to oversee new revenue channels for the business. Cliff is based in Atlanta, Georgia, overseeing sales and business-to-business prospect marketing. Cliff leads the broker and employer growth strategies for the company.

Prior to his tenure with FinFit, Cliff served four years with Purchasing Power as Vice President, and General Sales Manager. He was instrumental in onboarding many Fortune 100 clients. Under his tenure leading the sales team, the company's revenue doubled and he recorded record sales years for the organization. Prior to Purchasing Power, Cliff worked for leading health and welfare companies such as MetLife, United HealthCare, CVS Caremark, Cigna, Value Options, and Alere.

He earned his BA degree from the State University of New York at Oneonta, and his Certificate in Healthcare Management from the State University California, Irvine.

Cliff has been a featured speaker at the annual Voluntary Benefits Conference and many other leading conferences.

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Senior Data & Financial Analyst

David Hockstad came to FinFit in 2015 and has led the development of FinFit’s custom underwriting algorithms and employee assessment questionnaire. As Senior Data and Financial Analyst, David is responsible for identifying portfolio trends and KPIs, implementing business intelligence tools, creating visual ad hoc reports, and enhancing predictive modeling capabilities. David also assists various departments in finding actionable insights in their data, be it understanding successful company demographics, employee contact methods, or customer propensity to borrow.

David obtained his Bachelor’s from Lee University. After graduating in 2012, he began his career at PNC Bank as a commercial underwriter where he was responsible for optimizing business cashflow and underwriting loans.

Kim Miller

Director of Marketing

Kim Miller joined FinFit in early 2018 to build their marketing department, re-energize the brand and establish FinFit as the industry expert. She is an experienced marketing director with a demonstrated history of developing brand identities, increasing brand awareness and creating optimal customer experiences. Skilled in strategic product development, content creation, user experience, cross-channel marketing and customer engagement, she is passionate about moving the business forward and establishing FinFit as the industry leader.

She started her career at Brunner, a national advertising agency, helping to create a digital footprint in the emerging space. She supported a variety of brands including Consol Energy, Cub Cadet, Longhorn, Aquafresh, WesBanco and Huffy, and worked in every discipline from project and account management to copywriting to site architecture.

She moved to Virginia in 2010 and joined Dominion Enterprises, working in the marine, automotive and powersports divisions during her tenure. She helped build and grow their marketing departments, create brand identities, develop sales processes and tracking capabilities, and drive the product development for both B2B and B2C audiences.

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Matt brings extensive financial and operations management experience to FinFit, primarily in the technology industry. Before joining FinFit, Matt served as CFO and Executive Vice President of Global Services for AgilQuest Corporation, a Workplace Management Enterprise SaaS company. Prior to that, he served as CFO for Public Access Technologies, Inc. and QualityClick.com Inc. and oversaw the rapid growth of these Internet companies. Matt was also a Senior Manager for KPMG in the Information, Communications and Entertainment practice serving public and private media, entertainment and technology clients. Matt began his accounting career with Paul Scherer & Company, a boutique CPA firm in New York City serving Advanced Publications and Newhouse Broadcasting Corp., the largest privately held media company in the world.

Matt is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, specializing in Accounting & MIS. Matt received his CPA designation from the state of Ohio in 1993.

Paul Grosch

Chief Technology Officer

Paul Grosch is a seasoned technology executive with over 20 years of experience growing business through software development, infrastructure management, data analytics and customer support. He brings a wealth of experience with strengths in areas such as technology process standardization, measurement and disciplined innovation. Paul has worked across a broad spectrum of industries including construction, retail, hospitality, financial services and Department of Defense.

Paul joined the FinFit team in Q3 2018. Prior to joining FinFit, Paul served as the Vice President of Information Technology for Gold Key Hotels and Resorts, the largest and most demanding hospitality developer, owner and operator in the Mid-Atlantic. Paul led the technology team through a series of rapid growth, innovation and exit cycles. This included the $168MM sale of Gold Key Resorts in and recent sale of oceanfront Hilton properties valued over $87MM. Paul has also led state of the art development projects within Lockheed Martin and the Department of Defense.

Paul Grosch obtained his Bachelor and Master of Science in Computer Science from Old Dominion University. He holds an MBA from University of Virginia Darden School of Business. He is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and Certified IT Service Management Expert (ITIL).

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