Grad Selling Ad Space In An Unlikely Place

by Nuzha Nuseibeh

Graduating college is always a scary business, no matter where you stand financially. For many of us, though, it's the looming doom of student loans that makes that hat-and-gown look particularly Grim Reaper-esque. But not for everyone: A college senior is hoping to raise the $30,000 to pay off his student loans, by selling ad space on his graduation cap to advertisers (or anyone who'll buy it, really.) And he's doing surprisingly well...

The University of Michigan-Flint international business major, Alex Benda, is planning on selling 100 one-inch by one-inch squares for $300 apiece. "It's scary to think I'm about to go out into this economy and try to find a job and have all this debt I'll have to start paying," said Benda. "I started thinking, 'Do I have anything available I could sell?"

Inventive? Definitely. Crazy? Not so much. He's already raised $1,255 from ten backers via his crowd-sourcing website, and he's still got a hundred days to go. On his website, Benda writes:

My goal is to try and pay off my student debt so I may be able to concentrate on making a difference in the world. If you could please help me in one of three different ways. Purchase an ad on my cap or even just sponsor my campaign. Please share my link with everyone on your FB. Also if you know anybody looking to hire a motivated, creative, and driven business student so I can start by paying off my own loan.

Benda isn't alone. Seven out of 10 college seniors in the U.S. — 71 percent — graduated with a massive student loan debt last year, an average of $29,400 per student. In New York, 60 percent of students left college last year with an average debt of $25,537. Kids in New Hampshire have it the worst: 74 percent leave with an average debt of $32,698. On average, debt at graduation has gone up by a whopping six percent every year since 2008.

"I took out FAFSA loans all four years of college… I didn’t really think about them until they made me do an exit interview at the end of school where they break down how much you’re going to be paying every month," one student previously told Bustle. "I’m going to be paying $264 a month for the next 10 years to Sallie Mae and the federal government.

"At the beginning, my parents and I thought it would be $100 a month for 5 years… so yeah, it was pretty shocking. I felt a lot of pressure to get a job right away, and I was lucky that I did find one before my grace period was over."

The big picture? Student loan debt has topped $1 trillion. More than 60 percent of the $1 trillion is held by those over 30 years old, and 15 percent is held by those over 50. Some economists are comparing student borrowing to the mortgage crisis.

Meanwhile, University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer takes home an annual income of more than $3.3 million, and 41 other private-college presidents take home more than a million dollars each year.

In short, I'm off to McDonald's now to see if I can get a job.