Congratulations!

JOSEPH TILLMAN

#2BillionTogether Winner!

Watch the video reveal

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINNER!!

We’re thrilled to announce that Joseph Tillman is the winner of our #2BillionTogether student loan payoff contest!

Joseph, a graduate of Cal State Bernardino and NYU, received more than 14,000 votes in public voting! A huge thank you to our community and all who participated throughout the #2BillionTogether contest period.

To start, we want to recognize the nearly 2,400 SoFi members who submitted nominations. You shared very heartfelt and inspirational stories about how refinancing with SoFi has impacted your life and how having your loan paid off would make a difference in your plans moving forward. We’re proud to have you as members, and we’re humbled by your accomplishments and aspirations.

We also want to acknowledge our 19 other finalists. These members participated in a week of very spirited (and nerve wracking!) public voting. All of the finalist stories can be found below; we hope that you take a moment to read them again.

Lastly, thank you to the more than 53,000 individuals who voted and helped change a life. We’re more committed than ever to help those burdened by student debt pursue their passions and reach their life goals.

We’d love to stay in touch and invite you to join us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.


Joseph Tillman
Joseph Tillman

Joseph Tillman

Cal State San Bernadino & NYU

14556 Votes

My entire life has been peppered with obstacles that put me in danger of becoming yet another African American male that failed to live up to his potential. My father was murdered when I was five years old. After graduating high school, our family lost our home. Finally, during my second semester of college, I lost my girlfriend to a severe car accident. These experiences have taught me always to persevere through life’s obstacles–and graduating from NYU Law was proof for myself and my family that I could do just that.

My mother had always supported our family on a custodian’s salary. As a result, I decided to become an attorney that I could help to support her financially. However, after graduating from law school and starting my job, I learned quickly that simply becoming an attorney would not be enough for me to realize this goal as student loan debt would remain a very real obstacle in my path. I spent the entirety of my first year working paying off only accrued interest on my loans. Paying $2,000+ per month into a seemingly endless void had started to cause depression. I was always reminded of struggles back home and I often wondered if I would ever be in a position to help my family. Fortunately, through SOFI, I was able to cut my rate in half and lower my monthly payment. The shortened loan repayment schedule reduced my stress and the lightened monthly burden allowed me to send more money back home. SOFI gave me legitimate hope for mine and my family’s future.

If I did not have loan payments, I would save for a down payment on property for my mother. She would be able to move out from her mobile home and quit one of her grueling custodial jobs. I would provide opportunities for my younger cousins and members of my church to attend better schools, so that they might escape the cycle of violence and poverty that plagues the community I grew up in. In short, winning this contest would help me affect immediate and significant change in other’s lives.

Jordan Prieto
Jordan Prieto

Jordan Prieto

Cal State Fresno & USC

8160 Votes

“Congratulations Doctor, you have just won the SOFI #2BillionTogether contest to have your student loans paid off,” the email will read. If this dream for me is realized, an overpowering sense of hopelessness will be lifted from my shoulders. I enter with little expectation of winning because, quite frankly, there are a lot of people that deserve this repayment. I am not the only one who has been anxious, stressed beyond words for the last 5 years, and at times in utter despair over the burden of student loan debt. It made the American dream of buying a home a complete disaster; without a last second miracle my wife and I would have lost our first home prior to even moving in.

Refinancing with SOFI was my first big break from the chains of despair which are my student loans. With no sympathy from the federal government and a 7.8% weighted average on my loans since dental school graduation in 2010, I was just scraping by and looking for help. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able make my loan payments, nor be able to practice my passion. In 2014 SOFI took a chance on me that no bank would and consolidated my huge interest loans down to 5%, reducing the term from 25 years to 10. The 3% reduction in interest and term reduction of 15 years will save me close to $100,000!

The money that I have, and will continue to save by refinancing with SOFI has allowed me to open my first pediatric dental office that serves the Medicaid and other underserved populations in my community. This is truly a blessing because I’ve dreamed of improving the quality of life for impoverished children since volunteering in rural areas during dental school and pediatric residency. In a city of nearly 1 million people, I am the only certified pediatric dentist treating this population. My hope is that with total repayment of my loans, I will be able to hire more staff, not only to create more jobs, but also to serve more patients and families each day in my community.

Nick Stahlschmidt
Nick Stahlschmidt

Nick Stahlschmidt

Notre Dame & St. Louis University

7304 Votes

SoFighting Ebola

“Aminata, your blood test came back positive for Ebola.” Through my face shield I watched the reaction on her fatigued face, she already knew. “Dr. Nick, am I going to die?” “No.” I said. “You’re going to stay strong for your baby.” Jiah, her baby, had been lying in this room for days, surrounded by death. He did not have Ebola, yet. I moved his cardboard box bassinet to a safer ward, empty of patients. He looked healthy and alive, and I smiled. This was the motivation I needed to keep going, to do the work that a lifetime of education was finally affording me. My goal to bring medical care to people in the most dangerous places on Earth was being realized.

SoFi approved my refinanced student loan two days before I left for Sierra Leone to fight Ebola. The interest rate on my mountain of student loan debt had been cut in half. I was ecstatic. In medical school and the 3 years of residency training that followed I studied Family Medicine, the specialty where you do a little bit of everything, because so many skills are needed when treating the world’s poorest people. Family doctors are among the lowest paid in the United States, but incur the same debt from their med school as the specialists who will go on to earn much more. After completing my residency this past year, I was lucky to have the opportunity to spend 6 weeks in West Africa responding to the Ebola crisis before starting my new job. Now I am back working full time in the United States and must face the reality of paying off my debt, and I can only wonder how long it will be before I get to dedicate more time to my passion of global medicine.

SoFi has given me hope that my student loan burden has an end in sight. The day when I can pursue the less compensated work of responding to earthquake victims in Nepal or sick refugees in Syria will come sooner than I had previously thought. For that, SoFi, I thank you. I know Aminata and Jiah do as well. They survived.

Patricia Griffin
Patricia Griffin

Patricia Griffin

University of Michigan

4378 Votes

Refinancing with SoFi has enabled me to launch my dream of a base of the pyramid social enterprise in Africa faster than previously thought possible. Moving to Kenya 5 years ago, I knew I wanted to launch a sustainable social enterprise but was $80K in debt for my MBA so lacked the ability to do so immediately. Instead I cut my teeth inside other social enterprises. Serving as an Operations Manager, I lived as meagerly as possible to pay back debt as fast as possible. To that end I ate rice and beans for most meals. I lived in a modest 1-bed apartment. I walked or took public transit even after dark when others considered it unsafe. Ultimately I was mugged one night when walking home and almost gave up the dream. But I continued to struggle and long for the day I could launch my own business, as no other challenge was so enticing.

I had successfully saved & paid back $40K in 5 years so expected to wait another 5 years to launch the company. However, SoFi refinancing enabled me to launch in 2014. Today Inagape Ltd. purchases fruit and nuts from poor Kenyan farmers whose produce otherwise rots on trees. We dehydrate, package, market, and sell the dried fruit and nuts as a healthy snack. We received our first local purchase order last month. We expect to ship our first export to Europe next month. The potential impact of such trade on Africa’s poorest farmers keeps me steadfastly pursuing the dream despite muggings, financial hardship, ebola, terrorist attacks, etc.

Receiving loan forgiveness would enable faster bootstrapping of Inagape Ltd. Still working full-time for other social enterprises, I pour my salary into the company and my debt. Without this burden, I could quit my day job, give 100% to Inagape, and already be bringing hope and prosperity to thousands of Africa’s poorest farmers. Meanwhile, I sacrificially pay back this obligation and am grateful for the assistance offered thus far.”

Cacky Calderon
Cacky Calderon

Cacky Calderon

Northwestern & University of Pennsylvania

3619 Votes

Eight years ago, my mom and I decided to have ice cream for dinner. We used to eat salad every night, so this was a special treat and we did it right – butterscotch topping and everything. But just two bites in, my mom stopped eating because her stomach felt weird. I think I knew then that something was really wrong. Two weeks later, she had a stage 4 stomach cancer diagnosis and 6 months to live.

We had an incredible bond; losing her seemed unimaginable. There was so little time for her to teach me final lessons on adulthood, how to be a good mom someday, and that I would survive without her. But during those months, I was also a primary caretaker. Feeding her was a continual challenge.

Everything she ate tasted gross or upset her stomach. I tried so many different foods to find something she could tolerate. We settled on sugar-free cranberry juice, powdered mashed potatoes, and tuna salad (I hid almonds in there for extra protein) – the best I could do at the time.

Since then, I have learned a lot about diet and the healing power of food, things I wish I had known when caring for my mom. I have overhauled my own diet and helped my boyfriend heal from severe intestinal distress his doctor told him he’d have forever. I’ve been advising an organic baby food business with home distribution in my spare time.

My dream is to found Palate Love Care, a program for cancer patients and their families that will deliver nourishing, chemotherapy taste bud approved, organic meals. We’ll help families suffer less, stress less, and focus on relationships and healing.

My graduate school education has opened so many doors and I’m grateful for the flexibility and savings that refinancing with SoFi has provided me. The minute I pay off my debt, Palate Love Care will become my full-time job. Losing my mom at a young age was the hardest thing that has ever happened to me. I can imagine no better tribute to her memory than to care for other families who share our struggle.

Erik Edstrom
Erik Edstrom

Erik Edstrom

USMA (West Point) & University of Oxford

3496 Votes

I choked on fine particles of sand as the Blackhawk helicopter hovered before flying to Kandahar Airfield, carrying four injured soldiers from my platoon. I was a lieutenant serving a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan, attempting to safeguard both the Afghans and my men.

My service indelibly shaped who I am today. I was enrolled at West Point at the age of 17, and for the next 9 years I gave much of myself to the Army. I was entrusted with great responsibility early in life, and led highly complex missions that required thoughtful action. However, I wanted life experiences that I could not pursue within the military.

The hard-earned skills I had developed would only get me so far. I needed both exposure and technical skills to start the career I desired.

When the acceptance letter to study climate change at a world top-5 university arrived, I was equal parts overjoyed and confronted with the daunting financial burden of self-funding $110k. Nonetheless, I knew that I couldn’t pass up such an opportunity.

Over my two years at graduate school, I challenged my pre-existing notions, grew passions for fields of study that I barely knew existed and re-imagined the blueprint of my life. Originally, I had financed my education through a stock-lender. The rates were oppressive, compelling me to prioritize servicing interest payments over my love for the field that drew me to college in the first place. It was a financial prison sentence.

A savvy friend recommended So-Fi. The application was simple, the team guiding me was responsive and genuine, and the rates I got were best-in-class. Now I am in control of my debt!

Although So-Fi has already improved my life, debt forgiveness would allow me to invest in two of my passions: 1) Building AFG2USA—a non-profit I founded that helps Afghan veteran interpreters find employment and educational opportunities in the U.S. (for them, I already recommend So-Fi), and 2) Taking the best climate change jobs, regardless of salary.

Trevor Miller
Trevor Miller

Trevor Miller

UC Berkeley & UC Davis

2841 Votes

When I told family and friends I had decided to go to veterinary school an all too common response was “why not med school? You’ll make more money.” When you’re following a dream paychecks are an afterthought, so off to vet school I went. After four years of school and a year as an intern I had my dream job. I also had a seemingly insurmountable pile of debt.

Refinancing my loans with SoFi provided me with a sustainable interest rate and a repayment plan that didn’t mortgage the rest of my life. At a pivotal moment, I was able to make career decisions uninfluenced by my debt and find a job that allowed me to develop into the best veterinarian I could be.

One of the inevitable challenges of being a vet is how often money plays a role in helping a family make treatment decisions for their pet. For many people even basic medical care for their animals is impossible. For this reason, a major goal of mine is to donate more of my time as a veterinarian. If my loans are forgiven, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

I plan to establish a pop-up clinic to provide free veterinary care to the pets of the homeless. Currently no such service exists in the East Bay Area. Every day in my home town of Oakland, CA I encounter numerous people living on the street, many living with pets. Animals provide invaluable companionship, protection, and affection to people who are largely overlooked or avoided in our society. Animal companionship is a frequently utilized tool in the hospital setting and I believe the same benefit applies to the homeless. The mere presence of animals is soothing and the act of caring for another living creature reflexively makes a person better care for themselves. I plan to help keep the pets of the homeless healthy so they can do the same for their owners.

I followed by career dreams with a reckless abandon of their financial viability, and I would do it again tomorrow. Thank you SoFi for helping make it all possible.

Jonathan Fleurat
Jonathan Fleurat

Jonathan Fleurat

Occidental College & USC

1914 Votes

When I was only seven months old, an ER doctor discovered that I had neuroblastoma, a form of childhood cancer. While my chances of survival at the time were only a few percent, three years of chemotherapy and multiple surgeries gave me a chance at life. I was not aware of it at the time but this childhood event would have a lasting impact on my family and me, both personally and financially. It inspired me to become a doctor in emergency medicine and after eight years of school and residency, I finally achieved my goal in June 2014. I am now grateful for the opportunity to care for others in their time of need, just as someone once helped me.

However, along with this privilege came nearly half-a-million dollars in debt. SoFi gave me an opportunity to consolidate all of my debt into a single loan and thus, helped me save approximately $50,000 in interest. While I am exceedingly grateful for these loans since I would not have been able to afford my education otherwise, I have had to place important aspects of my life on hold to manage this debt. My fiancé and I have postponed our wedding and considered not having a ceremony due to the expense. Secondly, as a result of the chemotherapy, I am sterile and will have to explore alternative fertility and adoption options for the chance to have a family with my fiancé. While we both wanted to start having children now, especially since I am 34 years old, the process of trying to get pregnant will involve tens-of-thousands of dollars — a cost not covered by insurance and that we can’t currently afford.

Having my loan debt forgiven by SoFi would allow my fiancé and I to start living the life we have spent years trying to achieve. We would be able to put our money towards a wedding, start a family and eventually move from renting an apartment to owning a home. Although I think it’s nearly impossible that I strike luck twice in my life, I am hopeful for even the smallest of chances. After all, I am a pretty lucky guy.

Patrick Ho
Patrick Ho

Patrick Ho

Princeton & Harvard

1236 Votes

Refinancing with SoFi made it possible for me to focus on growing my start-up and making an impact on global healthcare access instead of worrying about my law school loans.

My company’s mission is to develop technologies that lower the barriers to healthcare around the world. I helped start it during my last year of law school when my co-founders and I were introduced to an exciting technology that could preserve vaccines at high temperatures. Vaccines are typically heat-sensitive and must be kept refrigerated, which is an important limitation on delivering them to hard-to-reach places. I was inspired by the chance to prevent some of the millions of deaths that occur each year due to vaccine-preventable diseases. My co-founders and I developed a business plan to make this vision a reality, and when it came time to graduate I decided to take a leap of faith and build this new business instead of taking a lucrative offer at a big law firm.

However, this decision came with a heavy burden. I had graduated with six figures of debt, and all we had was some prize money from business plan contests – barely enough to scrape by while we bootstrapped the company. It took 12 months and a lot of sleepless nights worrying about my financial situation before we finally raised venture financing. This is why I was extremely interested when I found out about the opportunity to refinance with SoFi. By refinancing I substantially lowered my monthly payments and could feel confident again that I was on track to pay off my debt. More importantly, it lifted the weight of the “golden handcuffs” of my loans and gave me the freedom to pursue a cause that I deeply believed in.

Whether my loan is forgiven or not, I am grateful for SoFi’s help. But if my loan were forgiven, I would be even more free to take the risks that I believe can make the biggest impact, such as continuing to be involved in entrepreneurial endeavors that take aim at improving global health.

Erin Costello
Erin Costello

Erin Costello

Virginia Commonwealth & NYU

1145 Votes

Before refinancing my student loan with SoFi, my interest rate was close to 8.5%. I made payments of almost $700 a month for the past four years but my principal balance was only minimally reduced due to interest that had compounded on my loans. When I took out my undergraduate loans I didn’t fully understand the financial commitment I was making. When I entered repayment I was frustrated by the lack of cooperation and repayment plans from my loan servicer. I found SoFi in the fall of 2014 and was pleasantly surprised by the level of cooperation and information they provided. Their representatives walked me through various repayment plans and set me up with one that was right for me. Refinancing with SoFi has reduced my interest rate by almost 3% and has reduced my monthly payments to $580 a month. More importantly, SoFi has given me a plan to pay off my loans in ten years and the peace of mind that comes with knowing my student loans are with the best provider possible.

After completing my undergraduate degree, I went on to earn my Master’s of Science in Human Rights and Humanitarian Assistance. For the past four years I’ve worked within the legal services industry to try to combat the high cost of my undergraduate and graduate degrees. Paying off my loans with SoFi would allow me to return to the work that I love and had endeavored to do. This has become increasingly important to me as I was recently diagnosed with renal cancer. Kidney cancer represents .037% of the estimated new cases of cancer in the United States in 2015. I represent a small subset of young adults who get kidney cancer, which usually occurs in individuals who are in their 60s. Once my tumor is removed I plan on running the NYC Marathon this fall in support of Memorial Sloan Kettering. I would love to continue advocacy work in the cancer community long afterward and paying off my SoFi loans would go a long way to helping me make this a lifelong career.

Ashley Hartmeier-Prigg
Ashley Hartmeier-Prigg

Ashley Hartmeier-Prigg

University of Portland & Willamette University

1084 Votes

Refinancing with SoFi will save me $9000 on interest in the first year alone; and the life of my loan has been cut in half, which will save me a ton over that time (since I have six figures of debt). I have had the best experience with SoFi’s customer service team, and I have nothing but positive things to say… which is an absolute rarity when dealing with student loan providers.

If my student loans were forgiven, it would be life changing. Having that type of financial freedom would allow me to train full time. I am a competitive race walker, and currently trying to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials. In order to train at the elite level, I have many costs including coaches, physical therapy, massage, travel expenses for out of town races, and nutrition costs to fuel my body for performance. I have to work full time to afford both my training and student loans. Without the burden of my student loans, I could reduce my work hours and maximize my training time. It would truly be life changing and would play a major part in making a dream come true… and allow me to set a new goal to make it to Tokyo in 2020.

Additionally, we would be able to pay off our home loan much quicker, allowing us to then increase our investment in our retirement fund and ensuring financial security for our lives. Having my student loans forgiven, would have an impact for years to come, creating stability and flexibility, and relieve a major burden in our lives. I would not take for granted or waste this chance, it would change my life.

Jeremiah Gitiha
Jeremiah Gitiha

Jeremiah Gitiha

Truman State University & UCSF

1048 Votes

My father was the biggest champion of education, a firm believer that education is the ultimate equalizer. From early on he taught my six siblings and I the power that lies in lifting each other and “Next man up!” has been my family’s motto since I can remember. Thus, each sibling was expected to financially contribute to the education of the younger ones, as soon as they joined the workforce. With his children helping educate each other and with his meager earnings, my father selflessly endeavored to provide education to underprivileged children in my community in Kenya. He passed away on January 15th this year but his lessons remain with me.

In his honor, my family came together and funded the construction of two classrooms in a new school supported by his church. My contribution would have been difficult if not impossible with the large monthly loan payments I was paying before refinancing with SOFI. Additionally, being the last born in my family means I am forever indebted to my siblings who supported me through school, and facilitated the process of acquiring loans for my graduate school. There may be no siblings left in line, but I now have ten nephews and nieces, and my savings with SOFI have enabled me to start contributing to their education. I have also been able to become an Agent of Change” for MUYOG, a non-profit in Kenya,that allows education sponsorship to one needy child through their Elimisha mmoja (Educate one) campaign. After all, it took a village to fulfill the dream of becoming a doctor in America for this small boy from a tiny village in Kenya.

If my loans were forgiven, my first priority would be to acquire desks for the classrooms built in my father’s honor. I would also be able to put more towards the education of my oldest nephew who will be joining college later this year. Maybe I could even squeeze in two savings funds; one for a house down payment, and a travel fund to enable my quest to visit all the national parks in America!

David Carbonell
David Carbonell

David Carbonell

Columbia & North Carolina State University

698 Votes

I graduated medical school with $180,000 in debt, which ballooned to $240,000 during my residency training to become an ER doctor. That sum was awful, staggering, and scary! In my last year of training, I was diagnosed with leukemia as well – which only added to my mounting fear that I would never pay my debt in a reasonable amount of time – or EVER.

Three years after my diagnosis, I have finished chemotherapy and am still in remission from my leukemia. Treatment was such a long journey, one that I never wish to repeat, but . . . it has turned me into a stronger and better person. The most salient lesson I learned is that life is short, and I do not have time to waste with things that hold me down – like student loan debt! So I live my life to the fullest extent that I can, balancing part-time work in the ER with family, friends, and world experiences that I care most about. And I LOVE the life that I have made.

SoFi has helped make this life possible for me. I was worried about paying off my debt while working part-time, but refinancing with Sofi knocked two years worth of interest and loans payments off of the final total. So what do I do with this extra time that I WON’T spend working?

For me, that means coaching my local high school mountain bike team (go Redwood!) and staffing the Send It Foundation, which improves the lives of young adults with cancer through outdoor experiences! Thank you, SoFi, for giving me the time to make this happen!

Stefan Provost
Stefan Provost

Stefan Provost

Bridgewater State University

545 Votes

My grandfather was a Cuban refugee who fled to the U.S with his family during the Cuban Revolution. It was not home, but it was a chance for a fresh start in a free country. Determinedly, they mustered together enough to open a family-operated candy distribution warehouse in the heart of Boston. Although candy distribution wasn’t my grandfather’s dream, he continues to work six days a week in his mid-80s. His dream was to fly: building wooden model airplanes as a child, memorizing the types of aircraft that flew over his home, and watching everything flight-related on TV. After our first Blue Angels’ air show, his obsession became mine too; their aeronautic acrobatics completely awed me. Serendipitously, a nearby college had a top-rated flight program and my future seemed clear.

After two years of flight training, our small class was told that pilots were becoming one of the top furloughed jobs nationally. The idea of forfeiting felt like failure, but it would be worse to be in overwhelming debt with no recourse. After graduation, I was sentenced to make interest-only payments for four years that would eventually double. Starting a family, buying a house, and getting rid of credit card debt were the goals my wife and I had been working so hard to achieve. Losing the career I dreamed of as a child was bad enough. I would not let my debt interfere with the family we hoped to create.

While researching consolidation companies, I found SoFi. Their rates and options were so much better than other banks that I badgered the representative with repetitive questions to ensure I’d understood correctly. With SoFi, not only were the monthly payments smaller, the interest rate and repayment period were significantly lower. If my loans were eliminated, I would continue my grandparents’ entrepreneurial spirit by purchasing their warehouse, allowing them to finally retire. With no looming debt, I would start a business that would create jobs and help sustain the local economy.

Sarah Krygowski
Sarah Krygowski

Sarah Krygowski

Williams College & Harvard

497 Votes

I hope to improve access to dental care for children and adults living in isolated areas of New England. In dental school, I was drawn toward procedures aimed at alleviating pain and eliminating infection. I also noticed patients living in remote areas without fluoridated water or easy access to oral hygiene instruction had a greater need for dental intervention to retain their teeth. I was drawn to this patient population and decided to specialize in endodontics, a field of dentistry focused on infection inside a tooth and in surrounding bone.

I attended a community service project during the first year of my endodontic residency in 2014. My role was to provide free root canal treatment to as many patients as possible in a makeshift outdoor clinic. The July weather was inexplicably cold and rainy during the three days of the project, but patients attended in droves. I vividly remember a twelve year old girl who walked by my tent that weekend. She just had all of her teeth extracted due to extreme decay, was soaking wet from the rain, and bright red gauze was dripping blood down her chin and onto her white sweatshirt. I asked her to sit down in my chair so I could rinse her mouth, examine the extraction sites, and place new gauze. She didn’t flinch. As I got to know her, I understood she wasn’t surprised by the need to have her teeth extracted. A number of her contemporaries had recently received the same treatment and were unable to afford dentures. They could only manage to eat soft foods, possibly for the rest of their lives.

My goal is to give patients living in rural areas a different set of expectations for dental care. I am joining a practice in rural western Massachusetts following graduation from my residency program. Any money saved due to SoFi’s refinancing program I will put toward oral health education in the local community and other service projects to provide free care.

Vanessa Richards
Vanessa Richards

Vanessa Richards

Oberlin & Columbia

383 Votes

My story began on the west side of Cincinnati, Ohio, where I grew up in a crumbling house living below the poverty line. I found escape through studying at school, and I worked hard for good grades from the age of five. Although my parents provided all of the necessities for me–and I’m grateful for that–I knew that they wouldn’t be able to help with college tuition. I started working in a restaurant as soon as I could find one to hire me, at the age of sixteen. I earned two scholarships and worked throughout college to make ends meet, and was able to obtain my Bachelors in Neuroscience from Oberlin College. I became the first in my family to earn a college degree. After working in research for a couple of years after college, I decided that my calling was to help others as a primary care Nurse Practitioner. I went back to school and earned a second Bachelors and Masters in Nursing from Columbia University.

Unfortunately, I never had much of an education in finances. I chose bad loan providers and, despite my good credit, had a student loan interest rate close to 10%. Before I realized that there were much better options, I had already accrued thousands of dollars of interest. When I heard about SoFi, I was thrilled at the opportunity to cut my interest rate by more than half. Since refinancing my loans, I’m on schedule to be debt-free in 15 years rather than 25.

Sadly, my brother was diagnosed with a brain tumor in January of this year. He is doing well, but I know that his medical bills will make it impossible for him to support his daughters when they go to college. If I could have my student loans forgiven, I would jump at the chance to pay it forward. I would start putting money aside now for college tuition, so that my nieces will have the chance to earn college degrees as well.

Darcy Phillips
Darcy Phillips

Darcy Phillips

Univ. of Illnois Chicago & Northern Illinois University

275 Votes

I was a teacher. A teacher that never stopped dreaming, and now I still dream but as a businessman. Specifically a product manager for a privately held mid-size manufacturing company. Not my dream job, but that is where SoFi saves the day. The fact that I was able to refinance the balance of my student loans from my MBA has allowed me the peace of mind to keep dreaming!

There is nothing more frustrating than taking out $60k in loans for a 2 year graduate degree, begin paying off the loans prior to graduation, and realize upon year-end the principal balance has not even moved! SoFi extended the credit to realize I was able to achieve an aggressive pay-off of 5 years at a lower rate. And now more than 6 months into making payments, I actually see my balance declining. Light shines at the end of the tunnel which allows for financial peace of mind.

My dreams of helping others create and sustain active lifestyles is coming to reality. I was physical education teacher for 6 years prior to returning to school. Nearly every day for the last 7 years, I awoke each morning to hop on my bicycle and start my commute. Even now, with a 25 mile ride through Chicago’s south side and into suburbs, I am filled with joy.

While finishing my graduate business degree I founded ridingdaily.com, a small cycling group that provides tours around the country. In addition we are a HUGE bicycle advocacy group with a concentration on commuting. The financial peace of mind allotted by SoFi has allowed more focus on my 9-5, which has freed up mornings, evenings, and weekends to better contribute to the cycling community. Further support would allow efforts to get more bikes into schools which will help build healthy habits earlier! Thank you.

LeighAnne Schwartz
LeighAnne Schwartz

LeighAnne Schwartz

Purdue University

155 Votes

Student loan debt is like quicksand. The more you struggle to get free, the more it sucks you down like a weight shackled to your body. Earning a Doctorate of Pharmacy degree provided me with a vast foundation of knowledge and robust experiential training to deliver the highest level of patient care. However, an extrication from this mass of debt seemed very daunting until I refinanced my loan through SoFi.

As a pharmacist, I am devoted to helping and improving the lives of patients on a daily basis. There is more I can and there is more I want to do in order to facilitate a change on a larger scale. The greatest impact of refinancing allowed me to explore and focus on my long term goal of volunteering with Timmy Global Health on medical service trips. On an international level, healthcare disparities exist at a greater degree outside of the United States and I want to be a part of the effort to narrow this gap.

Timmy Global Health is locally based and offers one to two week service trips to Ecuador, Guatemala and Dominican Republic. The personnel for a trip are determined by the need for medical professionals in each of their various expertise. Therefore this lends greater flexibility to volunteer based on my work and personal schedule. Trips return to the same communities every two to three months which fosters an environment of lasting relationships and therefore continuity of patient care. I am enthusiastic for the opportunity to be a part of multiple trips and be able to afford the cost because of SoFi and making other financial sacrifices.

Serving others is an all-encompassing and passionate vocation that I strive to imitate in my own life. With my loan forgiven, I can make a difference in the lives of patients not only at a local level, but also on a global healthcare level. I want to be the helping hand to patients like SoFi did for me, by providing a means to pull myself out of debt and into a realization of selflessness by aiding others.

Kimberly Huson
Kimberly Huson

Kimberly Huson

University of Richmond & Duke

128 Votes

A significant challenge when deciding to pursue higher education is to, in simplest terms, determine whether or not it’s worth it. Will the benefits outweigh the costs? I decided to pursue a graduate degree during the financial crisis, when jobs were hard to come by and where I hoped attending a prestigious university would provide me a competitive advantage in the job market. And although I’m sure the name of the university did help me start my career, I spent years wondering, really, if it was worth it.

Before SoFi, I was paying $882 per month in grad school loans, an amount that was tough to swallow and at times felt unsustainable. When I refinanced with SoFi, I reduced my loans 36% per month, with an extended term that still lowered my total payoff. Refinancing my loans provided me with monetary relief, easing my finances, and emotional relief because I know that going to grad school, frankly, was worth it.

So what would I do if all of my student loans were paid off? Funnel a greater amount of my disposable income into founding the Richmond Tool Library. There are 58 tool libraries across the United States where members can borrow a tool instead of purchasing one. This is what I want for Richmond – to create a non-profit tool where membership fees are based on ability to pay, classes are offered to learn new skillsets, and members have a community-focused environment with access to a large variety of tools.

I intend to found the Richmond Tool Library regardless of this contest – but having my school loans paid off would reduce my reliance on grants and donations for start-up costs and help provide general financial insulation against fluctuations in the library’s income.

Refinancing with SoFi made me finally realize attending grad school was a great decision for me, and I am excited to continue to make other decisions based on other passions – bringing low-cost access to tools with the foundation of the Richmond Tool Library.

Andrew Korney
Andrew Korney

Andrew Korney

Massachusetts Maritime Academy

84 Votes

Refinancing my student loans with SoFi, has both short and long-term benefits that not only directly affects myself, but will also to others in the future. There are the obvious short and long-term benefits; lower monthly payments, lower APR, shorter loan duration and principal balance. The interesting long-term benefits are more unique to my personal situation and goals. I am both personally and professionally involved in the development and commercialization of products to enable off-grid sustainability. In simpler terms, waste to energy appliances, and clean water technology. It’s well documented and more than evident that the world as a whole has a problem with garbage and the negative impact of burning, land filling and other processes. Parallel to garbage issues, is the need for clean water in the world. By implementing a new process at the household level, we can reduce water consumption by up to 75% in the home. This translates to excellent cost savings – and of course, and most importantly, the positive environmental benefit. With both my monthly savings and overall savings from the duration of my loan with SoFi – I can focus on the development, implementation, and commercialization of these technologies. As with any new idea, it takes money to get things off the ground and running. I am able to nearly double my yearly investment into the company – I addition to my day-to-day duties on the engineering and development side. The money is just as important as the idea – it makes it possible. The bigger picture is in achieving global recognition and acceptance of something positive – cleaner air, energy from waste, cleaner water, and availability of water. The financial restructuring with SoFi that happened for myself recently – does not only assist me today, but hopefully, the world of tomorrow

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