In a Nutshell: With student loan debt in the U.S. surpassing $1.7 trillion, millions of people face years of repayment at rates they can’t always afford. Laurel Road is a tech-based bank and online lender geared toward the needs of student loan borrowers. The company makes it easy to refinance at competitive rates. It also offers products and services designed to meet the unique borrowing and financial needs of the healthcare community. Laurel Road also provides personal loans and mortgage options. The company was acquired by KeyBank in 2019 and continues to expand its services.
Student loans and student loan debt in the U.S. have come under scrutiny in recent years. The total amount of student loan debt in the country stands at more than $1.7 trillion. Only mortgages and credit card debt surpass this amount.
Many experts agree that the amount of debt students, graduates, and former students owe has become a full-blown crisis that needs to be addressed by the federal government. While President Biden feels pressure to forgive a portion of or all student loan debt, other entities are working to address the problem in their own ways.
Financial literacy is one key component.
Financial experts have stated that, at just 18 years old, many students entering college don’t fully understand the implications of taking out large loans in their name or how the debt can stay with them for decades.
Some companies, such as Laurel Road, understand the importance of financial literacy but also provide solutions students and graduates can undertake now to help them in their current financial situations.
We recently spoke with Laurel Road’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, Kaitlin Walsh-Epstein, to learn more about the company’s background, Laurel Road’s products, and how it leverages technology to make lending and borrowing more convenient.
“Student loans have always been part of the national conversation, but it has been a focus even more so over the past two years, with student debt topping $1.7 trillion,” Walsh-Epstein said. “It’s concerning — the impact it’s having on people. It’s such a unique form of debt because borrowers often take it on when they’re so young and don’t have a full financial plan on how to pay it off — especially if it’s for an undergraduate degree.”
Originating Student Loans Since 2013
“Laurel Road is a digital lending platform offering student loan refinancing and lending, mortgages, personal loan products, and digital bank offerings,” Walsh-Epstein said. “Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013, and, since then, we’ve helped thousands of professionals with graduate and undergraduate degrees refinance more than $9 billion in federal and private student loans.”
Walsh-Epstein explained that the mission of Laurel Road is not only to provide these borrowing options to students, but it’s also to raise awareness about the importance of financial literacy. The company also aims to help people feel empowered to make the right financial decisions.
“When people have bad credit, part of the process is understanding the steps that you can start taking to build that credit,” she said. “And, once you’ve improved your credit, it’s important to be aware of what products are available to you and how to maintain that financial health.”
Walsh-Epstein said long-running financial institution, KeyBank, acquired Laurel Road’s digital lending platform in 2019 and has opened the doors to a lot of great opportunities for the platform.
“It’s been really exciting,” she said. “I’ve been with Laurel Road for four years, so I saw Laurel Road as a small community bank as well as through the acquisition and where we are now as a brand of KeyBank. It’s been great to see the trajectory over the past four years and how Laurel Road has been able to expand as a National Digital Bank offering a suite of financial products for our members.”
Laurel Road combines technology and human expertise to offer competitive rates in a variety of lending areas.
“You could save thousands on student loans,” according to the company. “With low APRs and new banking solutions, discover new ways to tackle student loan debt with Laurel Road.”
A Full Suite of Products, Including Personal Loans and Graduate School Loans
Walsh-Epstein discussed the wide range of financial products and services offered by Laurel Road, including personal loans and loan products aimed at members of the healthcare community.
“Level-up to reach your goals,” according to Laurel Road. “Pay off high rate credit cards and other high-interest debt, get money for home improvements, start your business — whatever the need, we help you achieve it with low APRs and flexible terms. Check rates in just five minutes.”
Potential borrowers can complete the full personal loan application online and, if approved, receive funds deposited directly into their bank account. Borrowers are also eligible for a 0.25% rate discount when monthly payments are made automatically from a bank account.
Supporting the financial needs of the healthcare community has also been a priority for Laurel Road since the company’s inception, Walsh-Epstein said.
“Doctors and dentists tend to graduate school with six-figure student loan debt. Most doctors’ average student loan debt is over $200,000. So it’s a significant financial burden,” she said. “Refinancing their student loans is an important financial option for these professions. Laurel Road understands that Doctors and Dentists have unique financial needs and we design our products, experiences, and benefits with that in mind.”
Laurel Road now offers a number of products designed specifically for those in the healthcare community.
“We started off by designing a refinancing program for residents, understanding the challenge facing many residents, namely that they have great future earning potential but unable to find a lender willing to offer low rates because of how much debt they carried compared to their salary as a resident,” Walsh-Epstein said. “Through Laurel Road’s program, residents have an opportunity to refinance their loan using their future earning power to help them get a potentially lower rate, while paying a low flat payment during residency.”
The company recently launched a whole suite of products called Laurel Road for Doctors that meets the financial and banking needs of this unique community.
“Doctors, you deserve a bank that works as hard as you do,” according to the company. “Laurel Road now offers more solutions for physicians and dentists, including new banking products that help manage med school debt.”
Refinance Options and Mortgages Without the Hassle of Traditional Lenders
As Walsh-Epstein mentioned, when Laurel Road launched in 2013 refinancing student loans was a major focus for the company, and it remains so today.
The company states that its student loan refinancing options come with fast, easy options without the kinks that can make more traditional borrowing processes cumbersome, such as easy online solutions and trusted technology. The process also comes with zero added costs or origination fees.
Interested parties can visit the Laurel Road website to discover their rate options in as little as five minutes, with no hard credit inquiry required.
“Student loan interest rates are low right now, so we are seeing a significant number of borrowers, especially those with private loans, continuing to refinance their loans, knowing that interest rates are as low as they are,” Walsh-Epstein said. “And taking advantage of that, our customers could save thousands over the life of their loan by securing a lower interest rate or shortening their loan term.”
“Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan,” according to the company.
Laurel Road added mortgages to its suite of products in 2018.
“What makes our mortgages so unique is that you can do the entire end-to-end process almost entirely online,” Walsh-Epstein said. “You can take out a mortgage without ever having to call someone. But we do have people available the second you want to pick up the phone and talk to a representative.”
The mortgages are particularly appealing to doctors and dentists, she explained. These professions often have demanding shifts at odd hours so it’s not always easy to conduct personal business during normal office hours.
“In addition to offering specialized Physician mortgage options, Doctors really value the online experience and flexibility the Laurel Road platform provides. Doctors are often starved for time and Laurel Road allows them to log in at their convenience move things along at their own pace — whether it’s in the middle of the night or at early morning hours,” Walsh-Epstein said.