A turning point for student loan borrowers

By Chris Turner

When I applied for a content strategist position at Fidelity Labs, I was asked about my experience with student loans. “I have lots of student loan experience,” I replied. “I’ve known everything about them since I graduated from college.” In spite of my weak attempt at humor, I was hired. Soon after, I was assigned to a student loan incubator. It turned out I knew far less than I thought.

Student loan debt is one of the largest forms of debt in the United States. At the staggering cost of $1.4 trillion, it’s second only to mortgages. As a student loan borrower, I’m not surprised by these facts. They confirm what I’ve known for years: Student debt is massive and relentless.

Since college, I’ve paid toward my student loans while getting married, buying a house, and having kids. Student debt has been a constant unwelcome companion in my life.

Every student debt story

I learned my story isn’t so different from those who shared their student loan experiences with us:

  • Millennials entering the workforce, trying to pay off five- or six-figure student loans
  • Parents, unable to save for college and taking on loans, realizing retirement is not an option
  • Employers, trying to attract, keep, and help employees

As these people shared their stories, it became clear student debt is no respecter of persons. It affects a diverse population in very similar ways.

Our approach

Learning from these stories, with all their worries, frustrations, and delights, is central to our approach. It enables us to explore new ideas and challenge pre-conceived notions. We deepen our understanding and create new products and services. We give people’s stories a more positive outcome.

With student loans, any meaningful solution would have to handle debt in more than one way. It would need to help borrowers better understand and handle their student loans. It would need to give tangible support.

We dug into concepts, tested them, asked for reactions, listened to feedback, and applied what we learned. Each task involved refinement: rethinking ideas, tweaking designs, and reworking content. The research participants’ stories (and our own) fueled our efforts.

Ready for launch

After research, testing, design, and development, we’re excited to roll out our pilot effort, the Student Debt Program.

The program helps borrowers manage their loans and receive financial support from their employer. It gives those with student loan stories the chance to change those stories for the better. It’s a program I wish I’d received earlier in my career. It would have made a huge difference in my life.

Fidelity Labs boasts a diverse group of individuals that develop innovative products and services. I’m proud to be a part of such a talented and passionate team. We’re eager to see how participants respond to the Student Debt Program, but we know we’re not finished.

Student debt isn’t going away. Neither are we.

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