Drew Cloud, a student loan and personal finance journalist who has been quoted by a wide array of news outlets, is a fictitious person manufactured by a for-profit student loan refinancing firm called LendEDU, the company acknowledged Wednesday.
Cloud’s identity — including a photo and a description of his background — was manufactured when LendEDU created a news site called The Student Loan Report in 2016.
Cloud, whose now-deleted author profile described him as the publication’s founder, was actually a “pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education,” LendEDU chief executive Nate Matherson said in a statement sent to The Post. In the statement, which was also published on The Student Loan Report’s home page, Matherson apologized for not disclosing that “Drew Cloud” was not real.
Cloud had frequently been quoted by national media outlets, including CNBC, The Boston Globe and The Washington Post. The Chronicle of Higher Education was the first to report Cloud’s fake identity Tuesday.
Matherson also acknowledged that The Student Loan Report had written about LendEDU without acknowledging that it had a relationship with the company in those articles.
“There have been nine Student Loan Report articles that mention LendEDU,” Matherson wrote. “We now realize that we should’ve had a disclosure that the sites were owned by the same company.”
Matherson wrote that when launching The Student Loan Report, his company created a background for Cloud and used a photo of one of Matherson’s friends from college “to round out the pen name.” Matherson also wrote that other pseudonyms were used to publish content on the site, though he did not specify what those pseudonyms were.
When consulted about what people should do about student debt, Cloud often encouraged them to refinance their loans — one of the services provided by LendEDU. In an interview with CNBC, Matherson said LendEDU advertised on the website of The Student Loan Report.
“Drew Cloud’s” identity was also used to respond to reporters’ emails and interview requests. Upon confirming Cloud was a fake person and the affiliation between The Student Loan Report and LendEDU, The Post removed quotes from Cloud and information from The Student Loan Report from a June 2017 article.