You'd think it wouldn't be too difficult to track down an expert on student loans who has been quoted in some of the nation's biggest media outlets. It actually proved impossible because, as the Chronicle for Higher Education explains, Drew Cloud doesn't exist. After more than a week of digging into the supposed founder of the Student Loan Report, the Chronicle noticed Cloud's name had been scrubbed from the "independent, authoritative news outlet" known for unconventional surveys of indebted students. Shortly after, a statement revealed Cloud was one of several pen names used by the website's editors to "share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face while funding their education." As surprising as that was, it was actually just the tip of the iceberg, per NPR.
The statement went on to explain that student-loan refinancing company LendEDU was behind the SLR site and Cloud, who was known to tell students to refinance their loans, per the Chronicle. Its website claims founders started LendEDU "to offer transparency in the student loan market," and CEO Nate Matherson says he regrets deceiving people in regard to Cloud, who was given a detailed backstory—it mentioned "a knack for reporting throughout high school and college"—and whose purported photo actually showed one of the founders' college friends, per the Chronicle. Still, Matherson maintains all data published on the Student Loan Report "was vetted, accurate, and licensed from the related polling companies." That includes surveys claiming 62% of people would star in a pornographic film to erase student debt, despite vague methodology.