- Student Loan Hero, a personal-finance site, was acquired last week by LendingTree for $US60 million.
- In the years since launching his business, Student Loan Hero CEO Andy Josuweit has changed his view of the student-loan industry and realised that not everyone can pay off their loans at the same pace.
- Millions of people depend on student loans to attain a higher education, leading Josuweit to call them “a net positive on our society.”
When Andy Josuweit founded the personal-finance site Student Loan Hero in 2012, he was struggling to pay off more than $US100,000 in student-loan debt.
In the early days of his business, Josuweit made several sacrifices to pay off his loans: He worked 14-hour days, didn’t own a car, and even moved to Texas to lower the amount he had to pay in taxes before finally becoming debt-free in 2016.
Last week, LendingTree acquired Student Loan Hero for $US60 million. In an interview with Business Insider, Josuweit reflected on how his view of the student-loan industry had changed since launching his business.
One of the biggest changes for him was recognising that many of his clients didn’t share his financial background and had different trajectories for paying off their loans.
“I treated my debt like it was a sprint and got out as quickly as possible,” he told Business Insider. “I encourage others to do that, but I realise it’s not possible for everyone.
“Some people want to start a family; some people want to buy a house. With paying off student-loan debt, you need different approaches based on your goals and your financial capabilities and position. There are a lot of variables. In the beginning I thought it was a lot more straightforward than that.”
Today, Student Loan Hero offers users financial-comparison tools and personalised advice for paying off student loans, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach.
Josuweit said he had also softened his stance on student loans in general. Where he once saw them as predatory, he now considers them a valuable tool when used wisely.
What turned the tide for him was a conference he attended about the importance of increasing access to financial aid for disadvantaged students.
“I am a white, middle-class male, and I have access to a lot of things a lot of other people don’t,” Josuweit said. “My view going into that conference is there is too much student-loan debt, and people shouldn’t be able to get in these situations.”
But for millions of people, student loans are their only hope of attending college – something Josuweit realised had more of an impact than he had thought.
“Getting a higher education is one of the most important things to improve your income potential and create job stability. I was looking at it from a selfish perspective,” he said. “Overall, with student loans, there are some predatory things that happen, but they are a net positive on our society. We have to create better controls and safeguards to protect consumers.”
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