MassMutual takes on student loan debt crisis

SPRINGFIELD, MA: MassMutual Insurance has launched a Facebook campaign to help Millennials manage student loan debt.

SPRINGFIELD, MA: MassMutual Insurance has launched a Facebook campaign to help Millennials manage student loan debt.

The “Down with Debt” initiative, which will run through February 14, is encouraging college graduates and young professionals to propose ideas for paying back their student loans.

MassMutual launched a Facebook application that helps consumers share their strategies and read financial tips. The Facebook fan who proposes the best strategy will receive $20,000 toward paying back his or her debt.

MassMutual is working to raise awareness of the student debt crisis and give Millennials information to become more financially responsible, said Marie Politis, VP of online experience at the company. She explained that MassMutual decided to focus on combating student debt because of the company's longtime involvement with college education. For example, the insurer funds a national scholarship program for minority students interested in pursuing careers in financial services.

“As we were thinking about how to engage Millennials this year, this seemed like a nice way to marry our own interest in education with the growing national concern about the level of student debt,” Politis said. “Even when the campaign is over, we hope to continue to inspire dialogue.”

The average student loan debt for the college class of 2011 rose 5% compared with the previous year to $25,350, according to a report from the Institute for College Access and Success' “Project on Student Debt.” About two-thirds of those who earned bachelor's degrees in 2011 had student loans, and one-fifth of that debt was from private loans, the report found.

In addition to the Facebook app, MassMutual is promoting the effort on Twitter, Google+, and its corporate blog. The company has also partnered with personal finance expert Farnoosh Torabi, who will share financial advice on social media and discuss student debt during a live Twitter chat early next month. MassMutual will post a video featuring Torabi on its Facebook and YouTube pages this week.

The company is reaching out to media including personal finance and insurance trade publications. Ad agency Mullen is providing PR support for the campaign.

Once the initiative concludes, a panel of MassMutual executives and one external judge will choose the best proposal for student debt payback based on the creativity of the response, feasibility of the idea, impact, and estimated speed to pay down debt. The winner will be announced in mid-March.

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