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These startups with Philly links can help you with student loans, before you borrow

Entrepreneurial companies like Frank and PayForEd are also helping parents and students tackle financial aid.

Ease of issuing loans combined with rising college tuition led to student debt exploding over the past decade.  (Dreamstime/TNS)
Ease of issuing loans combined with rising college tuition led to student debt exploding over the past decade. (Dreamstime/TNS)Read moreTNS

Do you need financial help filling out the dreaded student aid form — known as the FAFSA? Want to avoid taking out big loans for college?

There are two start-ups with Philadelphia ties that can help.

The rising cost of college and the ensuing student loan crisis are creating ripple effects, for example a decline in home ownership among young people. The New York Federal Reserve Bank recently issued a report that found a direct link between burgeoning student loans and a decline in home buying by millennials.

First things first: Check your state’s financial aid filing deadlines — some of which come up in the next few weeks. If you have questions, visit the Department of Education website to find out your state’s deadline at

Entrepreneurial companies like Frank and PayForEd are also helping parents and students tackle financial aid.

Charlie Javice, a 2013 University of Pennsylvania graduate, founded Frank, which aims to check the $1.5 trillion student loan market by making the application process easier and faster. Since 2016, her company has helped more than 300,000 students apply for financial aid and get more money from universities in lieu of borrowing.

TechCrunch called Frank “like a TurboTax for college loan applications.” Frank has raised money from investment fund Aleph, WeWork, Reach Capital, Bradley Tusk’s Tusk Ventures, and fellow Penn graduate and mega-donor Marc Rowan, co-founder of Apollo Global Management.

Newtown Square-based PayForEd last year launched a software program that helps recent graduates navigate their student loans — before and after they go to college.

In America, students default on a college loan every 28 seconds, with the number of those forced into default growing each year. Pennsylvania graduates rank first in the country for student debt with an average of $36,193.

The software program launched by PayForEd provides a tool for financial planners to help people find the best option for repaying their student loans.

“It is the first student-loan repayment tool that helps recent graduates, married couples, and engaged couples navigate their various student loan repayment and forgiveness options,” said PayForEd founder Fred Amrein. “Most people don’t realize there are over 126 combinations of repayment options for a single person and a married couple.”

PayForEd software can help with both Parent PLUS as well as loans for retraining.

Parent PLUS — loans to help parents pay for their kids' college education — comes with life and disability coverage for both parent and student, deferred payments, and flexible repayment options (although not as good as student loans). But those loans can be expensive and interest may be charged even during deferments, he explained.

“With our software, parents and student can compare the various college award letters. It will project their debt and repayment at graduation based on the options selected. We believe transparency is the only way to solve this problem. The college financial decisions are the only major financial decisions where advice is limited and not reviewed by a third party for approval,” Amrein said.

Recognizing that student loan payments can leave employees struggling to save for retirement, some employers have started offering help.

Unum, a Tennessee-based Fortune 500 insurance company, will offer a new option to any U.S. employee who has student debt, including parents who have taken out educational loans for their children.

Starting next year, in January 2020, Unum employees can opt to transfer carryover paid time off, turn that into money, then into a payment against student debt. Beginning in their first year at Unum, full-time employees receive 28 days of paid time off, including holidays and personal days. Each year, employees can carry over up to five days (40 hours) of unused paid time. In January 2020, those in the Student Debt Relief Program will be able to transfer up to 40 hours of carryover time off into a payment against student debt.

It’s not just home ownership that’s suffering because of rising student debt. A recent study found 72 percent of Americans surveyed would reconsider a romance with a person who had unsettled debt.

More than one in two (56 percent) Americans said credit card debt was the most unacceptable debt for a partner. Just behind credit card debt was student loan debt, with two in five saying they would give a relationship a second thought if their partner carried college debt.