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Smarter student loans

Americans now owe $1.5 trillion in student loans—more than is owed on cars and credit card debt—and for many, making those monthly school loan payments is a huge burden. That’s where the financial technology firm, CommonBond, comes in. Founded in 2011, it’s built on a simple premise: by staying small, and using technology to keep running costs to a minimum, it can offer borrowers refinancing rates substantially lower than the federal government or private banks. “We don’t have to pay as much to operate as a large, legacy financial services firm does, and we’re able to pass on those savings to the borrower,” says CEO and co-founder David Klein. The company estimates it saves borrowers an average of $24,000 over the life of their loans. But what really sets CommonBond apart is its commitment to social equality. The firm offers its services to anyone with a degree from a not-for-profit American university regardless of citizenship, so long as he or she meets the other criteria. The company is also the first and only finance firm to offer what it calls a “one-for-one” social mission: for every degree fully funded on the company’s platform, it also pays for a year of education for a child in a developing nation. —TIME Staff

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