Economic Opportunity

How eBay Is Helping Graduates Ease Their Student Debt

James Dobbins, eBay News Team

With determination and consistency, these sellers paid off their student loans using eBay.

Image source: screenshots from Glen Zubia's YouTube channel.

Glen Zubia grew up in the windswept border city of El Paso, Texas. As a teenager, he worked at his parent’s trophy and plaque business where he became interested in e-commerce. Glen soon began to strike out on his own. He sold custom sports figurines on eBay as a hobby, which eventually turned into a passion for selling sportswear.

At the University of Texas at El Paso, Glen studied graphic design, and took out $30,000 in student loans. At the time, he said, the debt wasn’t a problem. He was too young and inexperienced to understand the ramifications of borrowing such a large amount at a high interest rate.

In his sophomore year, Glen realized he enjoyed selling on eBay more than taking classes. He wanted to drop out of college and become a full-time seller, but his parents convinced him to stay and graduate.

“I worked full-time as a graphic designer after graduation, then I moved up to a marketing coordinator position,” said Glen. The debt, however, forced him to live with his parents. And when he sought a mortgage to purchase a house of his own, banks denied him due to the student loan. That’s when Glen doubled down on his eBay side hustle.

This September the three-year pandemic moratorium on student debt repayments ends. Many Americans carry large college debts, which in some cases have delayed life goals such as purchasing a house. Recent data suggests 45.3 million Americans carry an average student debt of $37,338 per person, according to the Education Data Initiative -– with an inflation-adjusted average payment of $503 a month. Some experts believe restarting the payments in the fall will result in reduced disposable income for millions.

Glen paid off his student loan in only four years selling activewear, sports jerseys, and sneakers at his eBay store, One Elite Sportswear. He also started the YouTube channel Hustler Hacks.

Selling on eBay has become a full-time job for Glen. With tools on the marketplace, hard work, and perseverance, he finally bought a house, and, recently, he and his wife welcomed their first daughter.

“For anyone trying to pay off student loans or debt, look to sell items in your house that you’re not using anymore on eBay,” Glen suggested. “Once you sell those items, and you get the hang of how to sell correctly, move on to thrift stores, swap meets, garage sales. Build a solid eBay side hustle.”

Glen is hopeful one day he will be picked to sell on his favorite marketplace feature, eBay Live! It is the surest way to reach a larger audience, he said. 

Fifteen-hundred miles northeast of El Paso, another eBay seller built his eBay side hustle into an effective debt eliminator for his family.

Travis Marsala has always been enchanted by performance art, tracing his love for puppetry back to his childhood fascination with Sesame Street’s Two-Headed Monster. Throughout high school and college, Travis enjoyed the artistry of short films and stage plays.

He graduated with a theater degree from a university in his home state of Arizona, and later, met his future wife and fellow actor in a Chicago theater.

In the Windy City, he worked odd jobs and pursued his passion for acting while carrying a $5,000 student loan. When the pandemic shut performances down in 2020, the couple had to get creative to pay the bills. To keep their dreams alive, and finally pay off his debt, Travis focused on growing his eBay store, Stuff Mom Threw Out.

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Travis Marsala with Star Wars Lego Minifigures he sells on eBay. The toys are prominently featured on his YouTube channel. Image source: Travis Marsala

Two years later, with the debt erased, Travis and his wife, Betsy, welcomed their first child in late 2022. Now Travis sells nearly full-time while, a few days a week, looks after the couple’s newborn, Emerson, while mom works a corporate job. They are saving money for the son’s college fund and a downpayment for their first home. Soon, Travis said hopefully, he and Betsy will return to acting.

“When I put more energy into eBay, I started paying off the debt,” he said. “I remember the first credit card we paid off, we were so ecstatic, and then I paid off the student loan. The relief not having to carry that anymore was immense.”

Ultimately, Travis knows he can lean on the scalability and flexibility eBay offers to financially support Betsy if she ever decides to change careers, or take a step back from working full-time.

Like Glen, 25-year-old Lauren Villarreal has been selling on eBay since high school. She also used her sales to help finance tuition at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, where she studied theater management. Between classes, she mastered the art of reselling finds scoured from auctions and yard sales. Eventually, her student apartment turned into a mini-warehouse. 

230629 Student debt story v1 image 2Lauren Villarreal inside her newly built warehouse for her eBay store. Image source: Lauren Villarreal

Lauren’s eBay store, Round Two Avenue, helped pay off a $2,500 college loan. She funded the balance of her education costs with grants, scholarships, and part-time jobs.

Only months after graduation in 2019, as Lauren began her new career in performing arts, the pandemic crippled the live performance industry. To make ends meet, Lauren turned full-time to eBay.

“I’ve learned so much in the past 10 years as an eBay seller,” she said. “I’m starting another business now because of the skills that I’ve developed selling on eBay. It’s a wonderful platform, anyone can do it, and anyone can succeed.”

After clearing her debt, Lauren built a dedicated warehouse for her flourishing eBay business. Today, her future is bright and her career is back on track. With the pandemic over, Lauren has returned to the theater.