Web site created for student aid

By Stephanie Saviola

Paying off student loans can be a burden for most college students, recent graduates and alumni. However, four women in Riverside, Ill., have created a Web site, LilysList.com, to help ease the burden.

With Lilyslist.com, friends and relatives can help students pay off existing student loans.

Jennifer Taylor, site creator and president of Lily’s List, helped her daughter, Lily, search for colleges. After discussing finances, she and her daughter were overwhelmed with the cost of her upcoming student loans.

“I explained [to my daughter] what the debt would be like and she got freaked out,” Taylor said. “She asked me, ‘How am I ever supposed to pay that back?’ I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a place that could do it for you?’”

Taylor’s daughter is now a freshman at the University of Iowa.

“I was sort of like the guy from ‘Close Encounters,’” Taylor said. “I became obsessed and started drawing graphs for how it would all work.”

Taylor played around with the idea for the next few months and sought out help from her friends.

“I asked about 20 people, and three people stuck with it in the end,” Taylor said. “We got office equipment donated to us. We called banks and loan places and [the concept] just kept evolving.”

Taylor’s son, Riley, graduated from Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in photography. When he moved out, his bedroom was converted into an office for the four women.

“Since this was a new, innovative idea, we really wanted it to go as quickly as possible and yet do a good job,” said Beverly Gibson, marketing director for Lily’s List. “Last May, we started working on the Web site and haven’t stopped since.”

Taylor was joined by Gibson and Nancy Hejna.   All were close friends before the project.

“We needed a fourth person, someone who could handle numbers and finances,” Gibson said. “I brought in another friend of mine, Nancy Hopkins. She has gotten to know the other two women very well now.”

All four women have children in college or  children who are approaching college age.

Less than one year after Taylor came up with the idea, LilysList.com is up and running. Students or parents can sign up for $15 annually and have their student loan account directly linked to the site.

Once the accounts are linked, relatives, friends or anyone who wants to give back to students can donate money to help pay off one’s student loan.

“Sometimes if you give a gift, that may not be what the student needs,” Gibson said. “It is good for the students and it is good for

the givers.”

After signing up, a copy of a loan statement has to be submitted to a P.O. Box address, and the women take care of linking the accounts to the site.

“We need students to know this is a safe and legitimate site with top security,” Gibson said.

According to the Web site, donations are directly deposited in the loan account and never sent directly to a member to

prevent scams.

“I think it’s a pretty smart idea,” said Taylor Linhart, a sophomore Art and Design major at Columbia. “If [your relatives] are sending you a decent amount of money, I think it’s a smart program to set up, especially if this is your dream and this is what you have always wanted to do.”

Anyone with a current student loan is eligible to sign up. Taylor said they would also like to give students the opportunity to be their own personal fund raisers.

“People need to realize this is like a gift registry,” Gibson said. “It is not tax deductible, but when you buy a birthday present for someone, that isn’t tax deductible either.”

For the first 100 students who sign up, LilysList.com will put $10 back into the students’ membership account.

“We are just starting out, we have a strong beginning and we hope it grows into more than that,” Gibson said.