BOSTON - The United States has a $1.5 trillion student loan debt crisis right now, but Boston 25 News found thousands of borrowers hoping to chip away at their debt by playing trivia on an app.
Attorney Sunday Vanderver won $50,000 towards her law school debt.
“I thought, ‘What can it hurt? Just sign up and see what happens,’" Vanderver told Boston 25 News.
She says she started using the Givling app in October of 2017.
The creators of Givling describe it as “gamified crowdfunding.”
“The idea is that if every person gives five or six dollars here or there, then it adds up very quickly,” said Vanderver.
Money is raised a few ways: the most interactive method is by playing trivia. Everyone gets two free games a day. Players can buy more games for 50 cents each. Players are randomly placed on teams of three. One trivia team wins a cash prize each week.
Vanderver won that prize a few months after joining.
“I got a check for $5,700,” Vanderver said.
She rolled that money back into Givling to earn big points on the app's leader board and set her sights on the top prize. Whoever is at the top of the leaderboard when Givling hits a funding goal wins $50,000 dollars.
You earn points with trivia, but can earn more by watching ads and shopping with sponsors. Those ads and sponsors help fund the jackpot as well.
Vanderver estimates she plays 10-15 minutes a day and she says her efforts paid off.
She won $50,000 last month. She says she'll pay off her loans a decade earlier now.
“It'll go directly to my lender and I'll just watch that balance drop,” Vanderver said.
Players can also win a $10,000 random drawing. Givling surprised Dartmouth resident Nicole Camelio at her office in March with a giant check.
Camelio is planning to use the money for a college fund for her baby girl and tells Boston 25 News she believes the system works.
“Following them on social media it was pretty obvious to see that the community of them is real,” Camelio said.
Givling is closing in on $3 million in funding right now.
Givling has its critics. Some users claim the company is intolerant of any criticism on social media and can be unprofessional when dealing with posts. Others talk about frustration over the app changing the rules or being plagued by technical glitches.
Givling Chief Marketing Officer Seth Beard told Boston 25 News with 400,000 players and more joining each day, they do have growing pains from time to time.
“Sometimes it does overwhelm the servers,” Beard said. “We try to be open and honest about changes along the way. Not everyone's going to win right away, it may take some time.”
But Sunday Vanderver says the time and money invested is worth it, knowing she is helping support someone else.
“It gives you hope. And I think we can never underestimate the power of hope," she said. "Especially when you're staring at massive student loan bills."
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