Could an Online Trivia Game Help You Pay Off Your Student Loans?

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Trivia whizzes just hit the jackpot. Pay a little money to play an online game and you may just be able to pay off your own or someone else’s student loans a bit faster. At least, that’s what Givling, which launched in March 2015, is promising.

Givling works by combining crowdfunding principles with online gaming. When you sign up with the site, you’re randomly assigned to a team of three. You then pay 50 cents (plus a 30-cent processing fee) to compete in rounds of true or false trivia (one round of play is free every day). The highest-scoring team takes home cash prizes every day. Meanwhile, some of the pay-to-play fees go into a “Givling loan bundle” and another portion goes into a pot of money that will eventually be awarded to the game’s highest-scoring players.

When the Givling loan bundle reaches $5 million, the money will be distributed to people who’ve joined a queue of people who hope to have their student loans repaid. Another $4 million is split among the three players on the funding team with the highest score.

For people with student debt, there’s no fee to join the queue and you don’t have to play the game to have your loans erased. You simply have to create a Givling account, and the site will let you know when spots in the line open up.

“It’s a wonderful combination of many concepts pulled together: the interest in crowd funding, the interest in online games and more casual games like the trivia kind of games,” Gayle Okumura Sullivan, Givling’s director of marketing, told USA Today. “It’s applying these two concepts toward something good, which is helping fund student loan debt.”

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It’s not hard to see the Givling concept taking off with millennials. After all, 71% of people graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 2015 took out educational loans totaling an average of $35,000. Those loans are holding many back from taking the next big steps in their lives. Forty-two percent of young people surveyed by Study.com said that their debt was keeping them from buying a house or a car, 30% said it was a major factor in where they chose to live, and 28% said it played a role in their decision to get married or have kids.

Millennials also spend an average of 12 hours a month on gaming, according to a study by Financial Finesse. That’s more than four times the amount of time they spend managing their finances, says the company that specializes in financial wellness, and which wants to use social media and online gaming as financial education tools for young people.

“If we could combine gaming and finances, we could help them focus on their financial future,” Liz Davidson, the company’s founder and CEO, told U.S. News & World Report. Givling appears to be taking a step in that direction.

So far, one person has had their loans fully paid off by Givling. Kevin James Foster, a youth pastor from Burlington, Okla., received a check for $32,000 in June 2015. Foster told the Helena Independent Record that being debt-free will allow him to pursue his dream of moving to the Philippines and opening an orphanage for children who are victims of sex trafficking.

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Givling may sound too good to be true, but according to the website, it’s perfectly legal, unless you live in Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, or Tennessee. People in those states can’t pay to play Givling nor are the eligible to have their loans paid off by the site. The site even gives people the money they need to pay any taxes that result from having their loan paid off. Overall, 45% of the money raised goes to pay off loans, 45% goes to prizes for players, and 10% goes to Givling and to cover PayPal fees.

While Givling offers an intriguing solution to the nation’s student debt crisis, some people point out that it doesn’t really get to the core of the problem.

“If I’m being honest, I’d say it strikes me as a bit of a non-starter,” Alan Collinge, who runs StudentLoanJustice.org, told Wired. “Stepping back and taking a larger view, it does nothing to address the problem of student loan debt generally, and deal with the predatory dynamics that have wreaked havoc on people. I give it an A+ for creativity though.”

Even the people behind the site admit that Givling by itself won’t make much of a dent in overall student loan debt – which currently totals more than $1.2 trillion – though it may well make a big difference in the lives of a lucky few.

“Considering how large the student loan debt is, I don’t think I can say that we’ll make a chip in it, but any chip is better than no chip,” Givling Vice President Preston Blakeley told the Helena Independent Record.

Follow Megan on Twitter @MeganE_CS

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