Student Loan News: Burger King Giveaway, Morehouse Philanthropy

Welcome to Student Loan News, a weekly summary of developments and events affecting college debt in the U.S. Join us each Friday for a look at goings-on that could impact your own student loan situation.

Morehouse College’s best graduation gift ever

Tech investor billionaire Robert Smith made headlines last Sunday by announcing that his family would pay off all the student loans owed by Morehouse College’s Class of 2019. The price tag for unburdening the roughly 400 grads at the Atlanta-based men’s college could run to about $40 million, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The act of generosity has drawn huge media attention, leading to a larger conversation. Forbes, for instance, used the event to discuss how the student loan crisis affects black Americans. (Morehouse is a historically black college, and the report noted that Smith is currently the nation’s wealthiest African-American.)

Other reports looked at how some of the individuals receiving the gift have had their lives change, including one grad who described it as a religious experience. Smith’s philanthropy even spurred an argument on Instagram between celebrity Oprah Winfrey and an online critic who said she should pay off the student loans at a different school where she had given a commencement address. (In response, Winfrey noted she had already given millions of dollars in Morehouse scholarships.)

How it affects YOU: Although only this year’s Morehouse graduates will benefit directly, Smith isn’t the only wealthy benefactor of student loan borrowers — consider some of the others in our report on the Morehouse gift. If you’re still in school or haven’t started, then be sure to scour the internet for scholarship and grant opportunities. And if you’re already out and looking for help with your loans, check out the wide variety of student loan repayment assistance programs and forgiveness options available both nationally and in your home state.

Burger King ‘Whopper Loans’ is now a thing

If there’s a new, high-profile, high-dollar giveaway for student loan borrowers, then we want to tell you about it. The TV show “Grown-ish” did it, Budweiser’s Natural Light did it, and now the Home of the Whopper is also offering cash to pay back your school debt.

Up for grabs is a quarter of a million dollars in prize money, including a grand prize of up to $100,000. All the winnings must be used to pay down postsecondary education loans, however, so you won’t be able to keep any leftover funds if your debt is less than the prize.

Student loan lender Earnest is partnering with Burger King in the promotion, dubbed “Whopper Loans.”

Still, is it worth it for the company to help struggling borrowers? Perhaps it is: As Yahoo Finance reports, at least one contestant has promised to never eat at McDonald’s again if he wins the big prize.

How it affects YOU: To join the sweepstakes, you need to use the BK mobile app to order some Burger King grub, or — if you’re not keen on fast food — you can mail in your info and enter for free. Note that the promotion is only open to those with student loan debt. You can check out the full Whopper Loans rules on the company’s website.

Also in the news …

  • The Department of Education said Tuesday it has added 2,100 non-degree-granting institutions, such as vocational and trade schools, to the College Scorecard — the government-run website that provides consumer information about postsecondary schools across the country. President Trump has voiced support for vocational school as a possible substitute for college for some students.
  • Older student loan borrowers were in focus this week, with the AARP profiling those over 50 with educational debt, and a Forbes report looking at the rising number of retirees carrying student loans.
  • The host of the student loan repayment game show “Paid Off” told Teen Vogue that a key purpose of the show is to upset viewers with the grim reality of school debt. Michael Torpey, the TruTV program’s host and creator, said: “I want you to be pissed off that the show has to exist and that we’re leaving students out in the cold.”
  • Dutch student groups are threatening to sue the government of the Netherlands if it increases the interest rate on student loans, New Europe reports.

News can be useful, but if you want some deeper advice, take a moment to sign up for the Student Loan Hero weekly digest email and get valuable financial knowledge sent straight to your inbox … for free!

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