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Let’s take a trip back to 2004, way before Facebook swelled to 900 million members worldwide and generated its colossal IPO. It was then that Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his Harvard dorm room and gradually let his target audience take the site for a test drive.
That’s right. Us. College students in the mid-2000s.
Way before your grandmother ever learned how to tag herself at a family reunion, Facebook was ours. The social network spread like wildfire across college campuses, and we provided Zuckerberg with crucial feedback to keep the site rolling in its most formative stages.
Colleges and universities were the perfect laboratories for product testing. Insular communities overflowing with chatterboxes that needed a place to share anything and everything. Facebook transformed college life way before it changed the world.
Now, people are salivating over Facebook finally going public. Early investors could become overnight billionaires and even California – which will receive $2 billion in state taxes in just the next year – stands to win big.
Everyone is cashing in on the Facebook IPO except, of course, those who made it all possible: young professionals like you and me. Zuckerberg had the sheer brilliance to bring Facebook into the world, but we had the collective enthusiasm to make it a reality.
Problem is, most of us are struggling to pay our water and electric bills and can hardly spare $38 a share (the initial price on Wall Street). We should reap the benefits from Facebook as much as anyone, but our generation is saddled with an interminable enemy: student loan debt.
An actual student loan horror story:
Original Balance: $199,256.90
Current Balance: $253,015.63
Paid so far: $29,242.15 (I’ve never missed a payment)
Interest rates: up to 10.7% (Citibank)
So here’s an idea: what better way for Zuckerberg to thank the people who made him the 35th richest person in the world than helping alleviate our financial burden?
Perhaps Zuckerberg can start a new movement with his old pals from 2004. He should use his vast resources and influence to design an online program that helps us pay down our student debt in constructive ways. Maybe we could “earn” the aid by volunteering in our communities. Facebook could strike partnerships with banks and loan organizations to tackle this crisis head on.
A comprehensive student loan strategy from Facebook would be more than a thank-you to its earliest adopters; solving this problem is essential for the long-term growth of our economy and the future of the middle class.
It’s an idea that makes people sense as much as business sense.
I think Zuckerberg knows a little something about that.
Danny Rubin is a national news consultant for media research firm Frank N Magid Associates. He is a former television news reporter, lives in Washington, D.C. and tweets as @dannyhrubin.