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Taylor Swift helps fan shake off student debt

It's hard to shake off student debt, unless Taylor Swift is in your corner.

Parents of college students learn quickly that student loan debt can be big and bad these days that you can’t just shake it off, unless you happen to write to singer Taylor Swift, who just helped one fan pay down her debt.

Rebekah Bortniker of Overland Park, Kan. posted a YouTube video of herself opening the package from her idol after she sent a homemade video to the singer. The fan video featured Ms. Swift with her friends and was edited to “Friends” TV show theme song.

Apparently, Ms. Bortniker has written frequently to the star and mentioned the stress of having the student loan debt weighing on her.

Swift responded by sending a package containing a painting she did, and a clutch purse with the words “New York is my boyfriend” on it. When Bortniker opened the clutch, she found a $1,989 check. The amount corresponds with the title of her album ‘1989’ which was released late last year.

“Now you are $1,989 closer to paying off your student loan,” Swift’s note read.

I have two sons in college, each racking up student loan debt, as my husband and I do what we can to support them each semester with money for books and rent. This gesture from the star earns a big “Go Taylor!” from me. 

Sure, we had savings accounts for the boys college funds, but raising four sons total on a newspaper man’s salary and a freelance journalist mom’s pay has meant never having much to put aside.

It’s all too easy to feel like a failure in this economy with one child in college, let alone two, with two more headed that way.

The Taylor Swift news perked me up and gave me new hope for small miracles and the kindnesses of strangers that – while not to be relied upon – can give parents a little uplift.

Both of our college-age sons have part-time jobs and are grim about the amount of debt they are accruing at state colleges and how they will ever be able to pay them off without ending up on food stamps.

The new college semester for both sons began this week and both needed our help to get what they need to continue their studies despite the loans, grants, and working all the hours they possibly can while still maintaining their academic commitments.

Both sons scrupulously track each and every penny they have and save what they can, when they can.

As a parent, I have entered a very creative and receptive phase of motherhood as I look ahead to the loan pay-off solutions for my two younger sons following in the red ink footprints their older brothers are making as they walk the debtor student’s walk.

I am totally open to suggestions and solutions for getting four boys through even state or community college options and ways for the boys to repay their ever-burgeoning loans.

Last year I wrote about how Starbucks instituted a program to help its employees earn an online degree while they work, potentially benefiting families with kids heading to college, or parents aiming to complete a degree they never received. Sadly, that doesn’t help those already in college.

My son Zoltan showed me a website that discusses how, if you work full-time in a public service job, you may qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. That might be a good option for him since he is double majoring in International Justice and French and has a keen interest in doing good in the world.

My son Ian, a business major, is planning on running a martial arts dojo, so I’m not so sure option this would help him much. Perhaps he needs to start writing to MMA stars to help him knock-out his debt?

There might be some small hope for our two younger sons if we accept the notion of down-sizing their education plans by sending them to community college, as President Barack Obama’s plan, announced January 9, suggests. President Obama proposed that community college be free for all Americans willing to work hard.

"This proposal would make two years of college the norm in the way that high school was the norm in the last century," White House domestic policy advisor Cecilia Munoz explained in a story by The Atlantic.

The Project on Student Debt website breaks down student debt averages by state and says that our state, Virginia leaves students with an average of $25,780 of debt for four years of higher education. 

Since my boys have plans for Masters Degrees or higher, I sure hope more celebrities will follow Swift’s example and start helping fans get out from under their loans in any way they can. 

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