Raise.me startup awards students for academic achievement

By Samantha Jones Toal

Raise.me is a 3-year-old startup company based out of San Francisco that allows high school students to type simple criteria into their website and recieve miniature scholarships from a variety of participating universities.

If a high schooler has a certain amount of A’s, community service hours or involvement in different extracurricular activities, they will automatically receive scholarship money toward a certain university.

For example, perfect attendance could earn a student up to $600, while students taking International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement courses could earn $2,500.

On average, students using Raise.me earn $2,500 in microscholarships. However, after acceptance into a university, they will often be given more, according to Aneesh Raman, vice president of growth at Raise.me.

“We’ve seen tremendous impact,” Raman said. “We know with students, this is helping them do better in high school and prepare better for college.”

While microscholarships don’t guarantee admission into the university, students can count on the guaranteed funds over a period of four years if admitted.

“For colleges, they’re encountering really high-achieving students, building a relationship and those students are getting accepted at higher rates and going to those schools at higher rates,” Raman said.

No teacher recommendation or essay is needed to earn money; students must simply type in what they have done in high school.

Around 150 universities are involved in the system, including Penn State University and DePaul University.

“For many students, early information about scholarships and financial aid can make a dramatic difference in their goals and aspirations,” said Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president for enrollment management at DePaul on the Raise.me website. “We, at DePaul, look forward to encouraging the dreams of many aspiring students via our partnership with Raise.”

Each university specifies their plan and is able to determine how much money they want to assign for each accomplishment.

They are also able to focus on the demographic they wish to attract, whether those are in-state students or first-generation college students.

“I think the biggest benefit is that they get to be a part of something that’s expanding access to higher education,” Raman said. “Right now, higher education is essentially the gateway to the American Dream. I think the biggest benefit to colleges is that they’re showing an active desire to be a part of the solution to what we think is a broken system.”

Currently, the University of Illinois has no plans to become a partner with a microscholarship website such as Raise.me.

“We have not explored participation with Raise.me or other crowdfunding sites,” Director of Student Financial Aid Dan Mann said in an email.

Raman said the idea of Raise.me could easily be applied to current university students, but for now, college students may have to rely on their parents and other sources to award them money for A’s on their transcript.

“The most important thing about what we’re doing is trying to use technology for broad social good,” Raman said.

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