Working in the Financial Aid and Account Department of UCF during the 2013-14 school year, Camilo Parra met many students who were struggling financially with loans.
Educadebt, a start-up company founded by Parra, offers coaching to students designed to help them pay off student loan debt, and help them find jobs relevant to their respective majors.
"Educadebt helps students pay back their loans effectively, develop professional skills and gain work experience to help their marketability and future financial stability," Parra said.
Parra, a senior finance major, came up with the idea for Educadebt because of his own personal experiences.
"It's too easy to just click a button, accept a loan and see the money get deposited into your bank account," Parra said.
He conducted a survey to see what students spend their loans on and if they know how much they have already taken out. According to his survey, 96 percent of students said they took out loans to pay for college. From that pool, he asked how they used or planned on using the money. More than 66 percent of the students said they would use the money to pay for tuition and housing. However, 33 percent said they would use the money for non-academic expenses such as going out and fraternity or sorority expenses.
Furthermore, 21 percent of the students whom Parra surveyed said they didn't know the exact amount of money they had taken out.
Parra advises students to take out a subsidized loan to pay their unsubsidized loan in order to stop the compounding interest.
"I am doing it right now and it has been working," Parra says. "I help [students] understand to take out only what they need and not what they want."
The second facet of Educadebt is helping students find jobs that complement their majors so they can market their experience to future employers.
"The hiring costs for companies is really high from administrative costs to the interview process," Parra said. "This causes companies to go through a hire and fire process simply because they do not have the time."
Educadebt helps students get that job as well as help the companies cut down on their hiring costs.
Companies will tell Parra they are looking to fill a specific position and then Parra will go through his database of students and try to find a match.
"I will critique their résumé and show them how to be presentable and confident during the interview," Parra explained. "What for the companies is the prescreening process and I act as the filter system, which saves the companies time, money and resources."
Furthermore, Parra turns what students may lack in experience into leverage that will benefit the company and the student.
"For example, there was an apartment complex that needs a marketing major with social media marketing skills and experience in excel, but the student doesn't have social media marketing skills," Parra said. "The student had a great idea of making a video giving a guided tour of the complex and that can be turned into leverage."
There isn't a guarantee that student will get the job, but it gives them the tools necessary to succeed in the interview process.
"Eventually, I want to charge companies for this service but for now I want to build up my credibility and reputation as being reliable and successful," Parra said.
How did this idea take-off? At the Blackstone LaunchPad in the Student Union. The Head of Operations Management O Falade, who graduated from UCF in May 2014 with a degree in advertising-public relations, is one of the advisers there to listen to student ideas.
"We are a start-up coaching center, we listen to student's dreams, passions and side-projects that they want to start now," Falade says. "We help launch their idea to a reality."
David Freund is a colleague of Parra at the UCF Starters Lab. Freund, a junior interdisciplinary studies major, started My Content Hub which specializes in online markets campaigns for a variety of industries.
"I think Camilo's venture is pretty awesome and has a lot of potential. He can help students by being the connection needed to get talented students involved with organizations," Freund says. "I know his proposition is aimed to help student pay back their loans, which is a solid 'pain' and 'pain killer' to the problem."
Parra's intention is for students to be able to become successful and to give back to the economy.
"When students are paying back their loans with high interest they are paying back the government and not really contributing to the overall economy," Parra said. "I am addressing the issue in a smaller way."
Educadebt does not guarantee a job, but it does guarantee that students will learn valuable tools.
"If I could help one student to be successful and to realize their potential, then I am satisfied," Parra said.
Alahna Kindred is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.