Actress Jane Lynch stars in TV’s ‘Glee’ and has personal experience with the burden of student-loan debt.
The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) is partnering with a seemingly unlikely public figure to attack a problem that most college students and their families face: student loan debt.
The “Don’t Major in Debt Campaign” was something NYPIRG — who worked with the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) and The Field (Social), a boutique media agency — had been discussing for awhile.
According to Rebecca Weber, executive director of NYPIRG, the original idea for the project came from the office of New York’s attorney general.
The result was the National College Finance Center Website.
NYPIRG’s wanted a familiar, relatable public face for the venture, someone who knew – through first-hand experience – what a burden paying for college can be.
“It’s so very, very important to work with a well known figure who had wide appeal,” said Weber.
After exploring the many possibilities, Weber and her team started communicating with Jane Lynch, the award-winning actress most noted for her portrayal of Sue Sylvester: the snarky, William McKinley High School cheerleading squad coach on Glee.
“She was on the larger list, and as we zeroed in and started communicating with different well known people, her experiences in terms of family members and her level of awareness about the problem was really quite pronounced,” said Weber.
In a press release, Lynch explains her involvement: “I have several people in my own family, graduating nieces and nephews, both in school or just out of school, and they all have a mountain of debt,” she said. “In fact, one of them is now dealing with the collection calls because they are unable to pay off their student loan. They didn’t read the fine print. I’m doing this because I don’t want other kids to be saddled with that kind of debt.”
The site’s main goals are to provide the best resources and information for “a higher education finance plan,” guiding students to take advantage of any available grants and scholarships, minimizing student debt and understanding the differences and implications of student loans.
Families are encouraged to find “free money,” by first looking at scholarships and grants before even thinking about borrowing, explained Weber.
“My personal role at the launch itself was to represent the idea that higher education should be accessible and affordable, and to really drive the message home that this website is a safe place to explore your options for financing college education,” said Weber, who has been with NYPIRG for 22 years.
The NYPIRG-Lynch relationship “was really like a match made in heaven,” said Weber.
“The truth of the matter is, it’s been such a pleasure working with my colleagues and most importantly NYPIRG’s student base to put this together. A lot of people worked really hard, and will continue to work hard to get the word out,” she said.
Weber most looks forward to attracting people who really need the information that the website provides, whether it is for students, prospective students or parents.
“Getting the word out there – that’s what will give me a tremendous sense of satisfaction.”
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