Of the many commercials and advertisements displayed during Super Bowl LVI on Sunday, perhaps the most prominent was for the personal finance company with naming rights to SoFi Stadium, the game’s multibillion-dollar venue in Inglewood, California.
SoFi offers a range of financial products and services, but what drew the most attention — and ire — during Sunday’s game was the company’s role in the lucrative student loan refinancing business, which is set to receive a major boost if President Joe Biden allows the federal student debt repayment moratorium to expire on May 1.
“How does it happen that SoFi, a student loan refinancing company, could spend $625 million to put its name on the LA Rams football stadium when 45 million Americans are drowning in $1.8 trillion in student debt?” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted during Sunday’s game. “Today would be a good day for the president to cancel student debt.”
Despite sustained pressure from indebted former students, civil rights groups, and progressive lawmakers who say he has the authority to do so via executive order, President Joe Biden has thus far refused to enact broad-based cancellation of student loan debt, opting instead for more narrow forgiveness.
According to data from the Department of Education, cancellation of $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower could fully wipe clean the debt burdens of 36 million borrowers, many of whom fear they won’t be able to make their monthly payments amid pandemic-related financial struggles.
Nevertheless, Biden signaled in December that he intends to let the repayment moratorium expire in May without any sweeping cancellation, potentially spelling political disaster for his party in the upcoming midterms.
SoFi — which also offers private student loans — stands to benefit hugely from the fast-approaching end of the repayment pause, which has been in place since March 2020 and has saved borrowers tens of billions of dollars. In November, SoFi CEO Anthony Noto said his company’s “student loan business got cut in more than half” following implementation of the federal moratorium on repayment.
“It was our largest business, it was our oldest business,” said Noto. “That business has been running at about 50% of the pre-Covid volume for the last 20 months.”
SoFi made clear Sunday that it viewed the Super Bowl as an opportunity to advertise its services in front of a massive audience. The company is reportedly set to pay $625 million for naming rights to SoFi Stadium over the next two decades.
— SoFi (@SoFi) February 14, 2022
“I still can’t believe this game is being played at Student Debt Stadium,” Nina Turner, an Ohio congressional candidate and an outspoken proponent of student debt cancellation, lamented during the Super Bowl.
“Student loan providers shouldn’t have $625,000,000 sitting around to buy naming rights to a stadium,” Turner tweeted. “It’s immoral.”
The Debt Collective, a debtors’ union pushing for total cancellation of federal student loan debt, echoed Turner’s message.
“Remember,” the group tweeted, “your debt is someone else’s profit.”