SALT partners with SaveUp to fight student debt

By Eleanor Harte

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

SALT, a non-profit free educational resource created by American Student Assistance to assist students in making better decisions about finances, partnered earlier this month with SaveUp, the nation’s first free rewards program for paying down debt.

SaveUp is a free online program that offers users an opportunity to save money and get out of debt through a reward system. A for-profit social enterprise, SaveUp is funded through sponsorships and partnerships. It was founded in San Francisco in 2011. Since that time, it has helped users rebuild over $1 million in savings. The site includes financial education tools and aims to help people become more aware of the issues surrounding debt and its causes.

SALT provides free resources for students to take control of their finances, so it was a natural partnership, according to SaveUp CEO Priya Haji. The website features videos, articles, and a “Money Coach” designed to help students learn about savings plans, repayment options and how to control their debt.

“SALT is one of the largest student loan guarantors in the country,” Haji said. “They are very motivated and they moved quickly on the partnership.”

The two organizations have entered into a collaborative co-marketing agreement in which they will be helping each other reach millions of new people, according to Haji.

“It’s designed to appeal to people used to social interaction,” Haji said. As a result, it’s the 20-35-year-old crowds that use the site most often and benefit the most, according to Haji.

This age group is the one that faces the most debt. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 14 million people under the age of 30 held student loan debt in 2012. The average amount of loan debt is more than $26,600, according to the Project on Student Debt.

“We want to reach every campus in the US,” Haji said. “We want to make SaveUp the tool of use for college students.”

Haji noticed that while the recession was affecting younger people as they tried to establish their professional lives, at the same time student loans were growing in record numbers. In response, she created SaveUp, which she calls “a fun way to organize your finances and get rewarded for doing the right things.”

According to Haji, the program is designed using behavioral economics. It is specifically designed in such a way that people will become addicted to it. The addiction, however, is not to spending, but to saving money. The user receives points for saving money and paying off loans and credit card payments, as well as for watching educational videos related to finances.

“The goal is for people to strategically rebuild their savings,” Haji said.

Credit card debt can also be a severe problem for recently graduated students.

“Credit cards are not inherently bad,” Haji said, “if they’re used the right way. Building up credit is important, but not at the expense of your future.”

Presently, the two websites differ in that SALT provides information and resources for students, while SaveUp provides incentives and games for anyone facing debt. It’s a partnership that makes sense, according to Haji, and it’s her hope that the two websites can help eradicate student debt.

Eleanor Harte can be reached at [email protected]