Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florida. ...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Mar 9, 2013

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There are millions of people in America with student loan debt. While you can’t turn on the TV, go to a news website, or read a newspaper without hearing about the Student Debt Crisis or the Student Loan Bubble, chances are you haven’t heard about a new breed of startups built to tackle this swelling problem.

These new student loan debt managers are giving a helping hand to borrowers by offering them some great tools to help track, understand, and pay off their often crippling levels of debt. Three companies are leading the charge into this new field of innovation and aid for over-burdened borrowers: Tuition.io, ReadyForZero, and Student Loan Hero.

While each of these three startups claim to offer unique services, they have several common characteristics.

Birds of a Feather and Peacocking

Borrowers essentially do the same thing on each website. They input their debt amounts along with their personal information, and in return users receive balance tracking and debt reduction tips. Each of these websites boast easy-to-use user-interfaces and also offer ever-important mobile apps to serve today’s smartphone-laden world.

Andy Josuweit, CEO and co-founder of Student Loan Hero, took some time to tell us how his company works to help manage student loan borrowers’ debts.

“It’s really just a simple set of financial metrics. The first problem is that loans are scattered all over the place. The second thing is that we are adding a layer of financial analysis on top of the loan portfolio. The third thing is when a user creates profile we use their profile information to help identify which government programs they are eligible for. For example, a public section job can get public service loan forgiveness. The forth piece is, once their data is on our system we can analyze their interest rate and find new financial products like private consolidation,” he said.

Common attributes aside, there are some unique aspects that struggling borrowers should keep in mind when considering which student loan debt management service they will go with.

Tuition.io President and Co-Founder Steve Pomerantz explained that his company’s free services are the core product.

“Through a series of partnerships and because of the advanced backend tools we’ve taken the time to build, we’re able to show you all your loans in one place, whereas some other tools out there are only able to show you loans from certain lenders,” he said.

Tuition.io isn’t the only company setting itself apart though. Like rival peacocks in mating season, the various startups flash and fan their feathers—or in this case their attributes—in a myriad of ways to court student loan borrowers.

ReadyForZero, far from being simply limited to managing student loan debt, can monitor all of the debt that a user has. For adults with mortgages, credit card debt, and a car loan on top of their student loans, ReadyForZero’s “one stop shop” approach to debt monitoring could be a lifesaver.

For people who aren’t juggling so many types of loans or debt though, more niche websites and apps like Tuition.io and Student Loan Hero may be far more useful.

Ruffled Feathers

While these startups are not only innovating  but also helping student loan borrowers, the necessity for these services begs the question: Why is there a demand for “student loan debt management” in the first place?

The answer is that the massive cost of a modern education has caused the Student Debt Crisis. Borrowers, needing all the help they can get, and entrepreneurs, having the tools that can help borrowers, are a match made in heaven.

…Or in crisis.

Startups and their founders are well aware of this situation.

“Obviously, I think we can all agree that tuition is unsustainable at the moment,” said Josuweit. “The cost of education is rising at an unprecedented rate and there needs to be greater accountability on behalf of colleges to help with job placements.”

He continued to say that the coming age of online universities will shake the foundations of education to its core.

“I don’t think the traditional brick and mortar college is going to be able to compete on price point,” he said. “I think the traditional college industry is seriously being threatened by online education.”

His sentiments were echoed by Pomerantz who said that students where “by necessity, becoming more discerning as they choose where and what they study, with a pragmatic eye toward attaining skills that translate into sustainable careers.”

Pomerantz and Josuweit — and no doubt many other industry insiders — can look into the future and see how trends are developing both inside and outside of education.

“I have a belief that we are approaching an environment of micro-education where the typical citizen has to be retrained several times over their life since we are being replaced by technology or robots,” he predicted. “I think the cost is going to be a lot lower; under $10,000 or $5,000.”

If Josuweit’s prophetic guesses prove true, then the Student Debt Crisis will be nothing more than a footnote in a historical ebook. Until then though, startups like Tuition.io, ReadyForZero, and Student Loan Hero will be welcomed with open arms by the swelling ranks of indebted student loan borrowers. Hopefully, these startups offer a lifeline before the crisis reaches a catastrophic conclusion.