Student loan debt is a staggering financial problem. In a January 2, 2018, update on studentloanhero, it was reported that: “Americans owe over $1.48 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among about 44 million borrowers. That’s about $620 billion more than the total U.S. credit card debt.”
Dan Stelmach was no exception and struggled with the feeling that it might take him an entire lifetime to pay off his student loans. He knew that paying even a little extra every month would be helpful in reducing his debt and shortening the time it might take to finally be free of his obligation.
Dan realized that, like most everyone, he often had spare change in his pocket or sitting in a jar on the shelf. He estimated that it totaled up to around $50 a month. What if there was an easy way to have that spare change applied to his student loans? He talked it over with his brother, Nick Skrzyniarz (better known as Nick Sky), who had student debts of his own. Both of them had earned degrees that prepared them to create a unique solution. Dan had a degree in small business management from DeVry University and Nick in entrepreneurial studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Combining their educational background with their personal financial situation, they created ChangEd.
Knowing that many people don’t really like thinking about saving and budgeting, their app analyzes an individual’s spending habits, automatically rounds up purchases, and keeps track of the results. For example, if you spend $2.45 for a latte, the app will round it up to $3.00, depositing $0.55 into an individual, FDIC-protected account. Whenever the total saved reaches $100, the app automatically sends it to the lender designated by the user. The app’s dashboard allows users to track their savings, loan balances and payments. Initially the brothers used the app themselves and in late 2016, they launched a beta version testing the concept with friends who found potential for the same type of savings that Nick and Dan had experienced.
Dan invested $20,000 of his own money and Nick left his job running an ecommerce store to devote full time to manufacturing and marketing ChangEd. The app was launched in April of 2017 after it was featured in Apple’s App Store as one of the “New apps we love.”
Mike Land, who had spent several years working as a freelance developer with Chicago-based startups and had helped develop the ChangEd platform, was added to the team as CTO in June of 2017.
Signing up for ChangEd is simple and secure. ChangEd uses bank level security encryption and never sees or stores sensitive bank details. Downloading the app is free, but there is a $1 per month fee for using it. It is currently available only for iPhone or iOS devices. The company plans to include Android by mid-2018 and is working on ways to enable parents, spouses or other family members to sign on so they can help pay down the loan with their spare change.
In a May 2, 2017 article in the Chicago Tribune, ChangEd reported that it already had 1,700 users and was working with about 80 percent of the banks in the US. The company estimates that a borrower who pays $50 extra each month could save up to $10,000 in interest, based on a $37,000 loan with a 25-year repayment plan. Student loans may be a trillion dollar problem, but Dan Stelmach and Nick Sky created ChangEd to help “nickel and dime them” to death!