Being debt-free after college is the dream! And having Beyoncé pay off your student loans is a pretty cool way to get there. Famous donors that pay off student loans are more plentiful than you might think (and is more fun than taking on student loan repayment on your own).
Unless it’s a scholarship program, counting on donors (or something like GoFundMe) to pay off your student loans shouldn't be your only strategy. Be sure to look into grants, federal loan forgiveness with programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), and repayment plans so you’re prepared for the student loan bill that hits after graduation.
When considering all the programs out there like the PSLF Waiver and IDR Waiver, you probably don't even need a celebrity to pay off your loans to get some huge level of relief.
That said, who says being a super fan isn’t also a creative way to pay off your student loans? You’re probably at least a little crazy about one of these major celebrities who are helping students pay off their debt.
11 celebrity donors who pay off student loans
Celebrities aren’t blind to the insane prices of college. And some of them are doing something about it for their biggest fans. These donors are helping out in the form of one-time wipeouts of student debt as well as ongoing scholarships.
1. Taylor Swift sent student loan money to a super fan
Rebekah Bortniker made a fan mash-up video of Taylor Swift and Swift’s friends in sync with the “Friends” intro song.
Swift was so appreciative of the video and Bortniker’s constant positivity that she sent Bortniker one of the most memorable gifts. Alongside a painting and a card, she wrote a check for $1,989 to go toward Bortniker’s student loan payments.
2. Nicki Minaj helped students with school costs via Twitter
In 2017, Nicki Minaj sent out a tweet asking students to send her their straight-A report cards, and in return, she’d pay for their tuition. A few days later, Minaj posted on Instagram the names of eight students she had helped. She gave a total of $18,000 that week — which, in addition to paying for textbooks and tuition, completely paid off seven student loans for student loan borrowers.
In 2018, Minaj took to Twitter again and opened up the Student of the Game college fund. She asked fans to send out a tweet with the hashtag #StudentOfTheGame telling her how much money they needed and what it was for. She helped 30 students pay for their student loans and tuition.
This isn’t an ongoing scholarship. But Minaj is always outspoken about the importance of education on her platform, so you never know when another tweet might become the most creative way you’ve ever paid off a student loan.
3. Rihanna opened a global scholarship program
Rihanna has been at the top of the music charts on numerous occasions. She’s also made helping children in need a priority since 2006. She supports over 24 charities and foundations, including one of her own, the Clara Lionel Foundation.
In 2016, she added to her list of generosities by opening up a global scholarship program through her foundation. If you were born in Brazil, Barbados, Cuba, Haiti, Grenada, Guyana or Jamaica and were accepted to a four-year college or university in the U.S., then you may be eligible for Rihanna's scholarship. If you meet the requirements, you could be awarded between $5,000 and $50,000.
4. Drake surprised a student with a $50,000 scholarship
Destiny James knew that the rapper Drake was coming to the University of Miami to film his next music video. But James wouldn’t get to see it because she’d committed to filming an entirely different video that day. She had received a scholarship and agreed to make a film for future donors. James decided that if it was going to help others pay for school, it should take center stage.
Little did James know, Drake heard about her mission. He surprised her by sneaking up in the background of her video. Drake gave James a $50,000 scholarship toward her tuition.
5. Jay-Z sponsors scholarships through the Shawn Carter Foundation
The generosity doesn’t end with Beyoncé in the Knowles-Carter family. Her husband, Jay-Z, is just as involved with giving money to college students. During Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s OTR II Tour, scholarships were awarded at every stop. The recipients, who each received a $100,000 scholarship, were chosen by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, with the scholarship funded through BeyGOOD and the Shawn Carter Foundation.
The Shawn Carter Foundation, funded by Jay-Z, oversees the Shawn Carter Scholarship Fund for high school and undergraduate students. Participants must have a minimum 2.0 GPA, be a U.S. citizen and be 25 years old or younger.
The majority of the awards are given to students who come from single-parent households, are first-generation college students or have household incomes below $40,000 — or a combination of these. You can begin your application on April 1 every year.
6. Tyrese Gibson noticed an especially positive student online
Tyrese Gibson has always been someone to pay it forward. For years, he was the ambassador for the Coca-Cola Pay It Forward program, which gives teens scholarships. More recently, the singer and actor decided to be extra-generous to 21-year-old student Lorenzo Murphy.
Gibson offered Murphy a $50,000 scholarship. But Murphy wasn’t just sitting around, either. He was known on social media as “Zo the Motivator.” His constant encouragement of others caught the attention of Gibson, who decided to remove one barrier from Murphy’s educational path.
7. Nelly gives out scholarships without any publicity
Rapper Nelly seeks to make a change, not an impression. He worked under the radar to help fund education for several people in his community over the years.
The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri hit the surrounding community hard. Without taking any public stance, Nelly created a scholarship fund in Michael Brown's name. The fund initially supported Brown’s two sisters and brother through college.
Nelly has been outspoken about his belief in education, especially as a way to elevate the black community. For over 10 years, Nelly has helped send two kids every year to college with a scholarship. His education scholarships won’t be found on a website, as he chooses the students and does it all on his own. His years of service and helping other Americans has helped many avoid crushing monthly payments.
8. LeBron James founded a school with the promise of a full scholarship
Pop stars and rappers aren’t the only ones who are philanthropists for a college education. Lebron James, famous four-time NBA MVP, founded a school in his hometown Akron, Ohio for at-risk kids.
In 2018, the inaugural class of the I Promise School consisted of 240 third- and fourth-graders. It was founded in conjunction with Akron Public Schools, and the plan is to add 1,000 more children to the student population by 2022.
The best part about the I Promise School is the pledge James made for every student's future education. Students at this school have the chance to receive a full scholarship to the University of Akron. The LeBron James Family Foundation is the financial backing for this estimated $100 million investment in kids’ education. As you can see, he's serious about his volunteer work and is committed to serving students throughout their lifetime through his grant programs.
9. Chrissy Teigen donated to a student’s crowdfunding campaign
It’s not every day that your crowdfunding page for tuition gets noticed by a celebrity donor. This is exactly what happened to Mercedes Edney in 2017. Edney set up a YouCaring crowdfunding page. She was raising money to help pay for her fees related to her esthetician school program.
Chrissy Teigen heard about her need and promptly donated $5,605. Edney had already raised $300 but needed a total of $6000 for her program. Edney told NBC News that she thought there had been a glitch when she received the PayPal notification.
Teigen tweeted out her support for Edney and her future in beauty.
10. Oprah Winfrey is one of the most generous donors to pay off student loans
Oprah Winfrey is a billionaire, but she’s also a philanthropist. Her acts of kindness span the globe, and her media presence has won the hearts of many. Winfrey started a scholarship program in 1989 at Morehouse College that still exists today. This scholarship provides financial support to African American men who want to make a difference in the world through higher education. She’s donated $13 million with this scholarship fund.
She also donates a large amount to Tennessee State University, the United Negro College Fund and over 80 Chicago area organizations. Additionally, Winfrey set up the African Women's Public Service Fellowship at New York University.
Oprah is a household name, and she doesn’t stop with donations. For some young people, her generosity is the way they were able to get through school.
11. Ellen DeGeneres helped a nurse with student loan debt
Lauren Wakefield was a nursing major in some serious student loan debt. She saw the call to action on social media and left a response. Wakefield was asked to be in the audience, and none other than student loan donor Nicki Minaj was with DeGeneres. Wakefield's name was called, and she received a maximum of $50,000 in loan repayment assistance to pay off her student loans.
All of these celebrities are using their surplus of funds to help others get through school. With tuition rates never going down, interest rates for PLUS Loans high, it's a much-needed contribution to society. But this doesn’t mean it will happen to you, so having a plan is good if you can’t get Nelly to pay for your student loans.
Can’t find donors to pay off your student loans?
While it may be tempting to tweet at Ellen or send a direct message to Drake, it’s not always the most practical way to pay off student loan debt. By all means, try it! But research your other options. Most students leaving college have an average of $28,650 in student loan debt. If you’re planning on grad school, this number could easily triple.
Applying for some of the scholarships mentioned above is a great place to start if you’re still in school. Otherwise, Rihanna said it best: it's time to “work, work, work, work, work, work” on that student loan debt payoff plan.
Start by looking around the Student Loan Planner® blog. If you have federal student loans and need to lower payments, read about income-driven repayment plans. If you work in public service full-time, look into loan forgiveness. You can also look into a new loan with refinancing to pay less in interest, though it's important to be aware that your federal government benefits will be gone as you'd have a private loan.
Health professionals, those in Americorps, and the military can look into other state-based loan repayment programs. Also, see if there are student loan repayment assistance options for employees at your job or any other incentives. And you can always reach out for a consultation on your student loan debt.
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