Shared Harvest Fund, the brainchild of Briana DeCuir, MD, NanaEfua B.A.M., MD, and Joanne Moreau, MD, is a newly launched organization as of November 2017 that promotes volunteerism and is on a mission to help reduce student loan debt, in turn “reducing the psycho-social impact that having debt without the opportunity to pay it down has on a person.”
“Given our fields as physicians, we see the stress that people are under physically and psychologically due to debt burden whether student loans or other kinds of debt,” DeCuir told TNJ.com. “We wanted to tackle student loans, specifically, because they resonate with so many people.”
Despite former President Barack Obama’s 2014 proposal to revamp the federal student loan program, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reports that about 44 million Americans are carrying some form of student loan debt.
DeCuir says part of the problem stems from the rising costs of education. “There’s no government regulation regarding how much universities can charge, and that’s at both the state level and the private level,” she notes. “Every day in the media, we see certain government policies that are being proposed that might make it even harder for people to get government loans; these policies also make it easier for predatory lending to take place. With fewer regulations on what private lenders can charge, loan originator fees tend to be high. The government recently made $1.6 billion on loan originator fees alone. This issue just is not at the forefront of policy and that needs to change.”
Shared Harvest was the answer.
For a small membership fee, volunteer users sign up for the platform, build a profile page, post their skills, social causes of interest, and start building their network. Once volunteers are paired with a nonprofit organization and complete the service, Shared Harvest Fund will award a stipend to the user and make a payment directly to the student lender in $500 denominations. Users can complete as many projects they desire, earning up to $5,000 a year max up to the maximum amount of their student loan debt.
Shared Harvest Fund benefits include:
- Student loan debt relief
- Student loan debt management education
- Promoting and supporting a culture of volunteerism
- Nurturing emotional, mental, and physical health through service
- Building a positive community network around a shared societal burden
- Organizations in need get the qualified help they deserve
- Changing the culture of employee benefit packages by promoting and supporting jobs that offer student loan repayment options
“Through Shared Harvest, we want to encourage community participation and volunteerism while helping people set up stable financial futures in assisting with paying down their student loan debt. We sought to marry the two,” DeCuir says.
“We want to use our platform as an educational tool for our subscribers and members to figure out other options besides student loans,” she adds.
With a goal of raising $20 million by 2020, DeCuir, NanEfua B.A.M., and Moreau want people to entertain the idea of Shared Harvest Fund as an option for consideration. Says DeCuir, “We like to think of it as ‘the mindful hustle.’ We are seeing a huge culture of freelance work due to the current lack of offerings of jobs, particularly in the millenial generation of students graduating without jobs being available. We would like to shift the mindset of freelance work in the community, so that you are not only getting the benefit of paying down on your student loans, but there is a satisfaction you get from donating your time to community organizations and social impact.”