Lend a hand, pay a loan: Volunteering with SponsorChange.org cuts student debt

Jennifer B. Larson

In part one of this two-part series, Money College blogger Jennifer Larson explored how students can get student loans paid or deferred through their volunteer work.Here, she reports on loan forgiveness students earn through SponsorChange.org.

When Sheena Hancock received an e-mail from Pittsburgh Cares with the subject line "Volunteer to Pay Off Student Loan Debt," she was intrigued for reasons many college grads can relate to. At the time, she was looking for ways to pay off her debt, and also genuinely enjoys giving her time to affect change in society. She responded to the e-mail, filled out an application, and was asked to come in for an interview.

The rest fell into place.

Pittsburgh Cares is a volunteer clearing house for nonprofits in Pittsburgh and an affiliate of the HandsOn Network, a national organization. It partners with SponsorChange.org, which assists in outreach and administrative efforts for the fall program.

SponsorChange.org is currently located in Pittsburgh, but plans to expand to other major cities in the U.S. The program was created to address the national student loan crisis and to also assist nonprofit organizations with their goals. Volunteers get to employ specialized skills they otherwise might not get to use in their day jobs.

As for whether the experience changed Hancock, let's just say she's now director of internal and external communications of SponsorChange.org.