Crowdfunding; modern financial aid


By Darrah Perryman

An acceptance letter to the University does not always equal attendance in the fall. For many, it comes down to dollars and cents, and if they don’t add up, the options can be slim.

As college tuition increases, many are prompted to find other means to pay for education. Crowdfunding websites allow individuals to request donations from friends and families for a specific cause, and many students are using it to help fund their education.

“I had done just about everything that I could and when I realized that the Financial Aid Office wasn’t going to budge at all (I turned to crowdfunding),” said Clay Shorten, freshman in LAS.

Shorten was first exposed to crowdfunding via social media for campaigns ranging from paying for medical emergencies to groceries. Once Shorten saw the success of some users, he decided to try it himself.

“Our most difficult conversations can occur when families have exhausted all resources and there aren’t any other options available to them,” said Charles Mayfield, associate director of the Office of Student Financial Aid. “Once all available options are exhausted, they’re exhausted. There’s no easy way to say that.”

Mayfield said some families may not qualify for loans due to adverse credit, and some families want to avoid borrowing.

While sites like GoFundMe and FundRazr offer individuals the opportunity to build their campaign, individuals must share it with friends and family to receive donations. Shorten said he credits his heavy social media presence to his success.

“There’s always going to be one person who logs on to Facebook that day and may not have seen your campaign before and share it — that could be the thing that starts it,” Shorten said.

Shorten said he started a GoFundMe site in December when he was in the process of transferring to the University. He received $1,700 in donations to keep him in school.

However, before his transcripts could be released from the previous institution he attended, Shorten had to pay his tuition bill and used GoFundMe to help generate the funds. Now, he is in a similar situation and has restarted his campaign on FundRazr to pay his $4,700 University tuition bill.

In the social media age, users can receive donations through crowdfunding for just about anything, whether it’s to study or volunteer abroad, to buy a new car or even to raise money for a startup company.

Katrice Perkins, sophomore in Media, said she used GoFundMe for an internship with a startup company. The company used the site to raise funds for equipment.

“I think some people overuse it and try and do other things for it, though. But overall it’s a really good thing to do,” said Perkins.

Perkins said she has seen her friends promote their campaigns on social media for study abroad trips in the past. She said that if she really needed the money for school, she would do the same.

Shorten said he is hopeful he will raise the rest of the money for his tuition bill this semester as he continues to promote his campaign and also works a part-time job.

He advises all students interested in crowdfunding to stay persistent and keep sharing their campaign via social media.

“I think that if you don’t have the money to do something and other people are willing to give you money, then why not?” Shorten said. “I think there’s no reason not to do it.”

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