After graduating from Columbia University in the height of the recession and acquiring $120,000 in debt, including 12 student loans from seven servicers, Brendon McQueen was left with a film degree and a six-month grace period before his first loan repayment was due.
Frustrated by the lack of options in tracking and managing his various loans, McQueen, like many other entrepreneurs, took matters into his own hands.
"I tried to find a tool out there that offered a comprehensive solution, and I couldn't, so I said, 'Well, let's create one,'" McQueen said.
The solution: Tuition.io, a free one-stop-shop website that consolidates all your student loans -- public or private -- into one interface.
The platform, which came out of the Santa Monica start-up incubator Launchpad LA, enables users to load all of their student loans into one site and get detailed information on loans, including servicers, monthly payment, how much is owed, when the loans will be paid off and how much they'll pay over the life of a loan.
Currently, more than 37 million people in the U.S. have outstanding student debt. Given the growing student debt crisis, McQueen's website is catching on with college students and graduates navigating their financial future.
Although university financial aid offices, lenders and the federal government have resources to help, "they are outdated and rely heavily on paper and fairly basic online tools," said McQueen, who is the chief executive. He co-founded the company with Steve Pomerantz after being set up by a mutual friend.
The founders said Tuition.io aims to help borrowers manage their student loans and pay off debt while educating them on the best ways to save money.
The start-up has raised $1 million in seed funding from an array of investors (including Mohr Davidow Ventures, Jerry Neumann, Richard Wolpert, Rob Glaser, New York venture firm Mesa+ and AF Square's Troy Carter).
In all, it now manages more than $400 million in education debt across more than 10,000 individual student loans that originated from 130 universities, including the nation's top 25, since its public beta launch in January.
Here is how it works:
Tuition.io shows you what company is servicing each of your federal and private student loans and sorts your loans graphically, letting you see which have the highest interest rates — and therefore which you should pay off first.
Pomerantz said a mobile app will roll out by the end of the year and remain free. Although the start-up does not currently have a monetization strategy, it may at some point charge for some features, or perhaps originate and consolidate loans.
There are numerous financial sites to help manage money, but Tuition.io focuses strictly on student loans. That makes it simple and easy to use.