With student loan debt in the United States exceeding $1.2 trillion, it should come as no shock that students are crowdfunding college tuition.
What may come as a surprise, however, is that they are actually able to raise a good amount of cash online from people who might not otherwise send a dime their way if asked in person.
“You never know what you’re going to get until you ask,” said Rhyanne Lynch, a Boston University freshman who recently raised $7,600 on GoFundMe.com to put toward her $64,000 tuition.
Twenty-three people contributed toward her education over the past six months.
“I have a lot of friends on Facebook who I wouldn’t normally call and say, ‘Hey can you give me money?’ but I figured if I did it on GoFundMe it would be a little more innocent. I was shocked at how much I was given,” said Lynch, 18.
GoFundMe is one of many crowdfunding sites to report an increase of education-focused campaigns in recent years.
“More and more students are turning to GoFundMe to help pay for school,” said said GoFundMe Spokeswoman Kelsea Little. “College is becoming more difficult for students to pay for, and scholarships are becoming increasingly competitive. Crowdfunding for college costs offers a fresh alternative that anyone can take advantage of.”
So far in 2014, over 106,000 campaigns have been created in GoFundMe’s “Education, Schools, and Learning” category, which have raised more than $13 million – or a 6,120 percent increase in donation volume between 2011 and 2014.
A year-by-year breakdown of GoFundMe’s “Education, Schools, and Learning” category:
Boston College: $62,822
Boston University: $63,644
Suffolk University: $51,576
Northeastern University: $59,910
Boston College Law Student Danielle Reyes, 29, also traveled to Boston to further her education, and said she saw online crowdfunding as a necessary way to supplement an academic scholarship.
“It was my first time living on the East Coast, and GoFundMe provided an avenue to help support myself,” said Reyes, who hails from Anaheim, Calif.
After months of campaigning, Reyes was able to raise $5,075.
“It really did help. The goal hasn’t been met, but it is still an open campaign, so there is still potential. The money helped purchase my books, and put a security deposit on my housing. It also paid for my one-way ticket over here,” she said.
Emmanuel College freshman Jonathan Rowe, 20, managed to collect $6,085 toward his $15,000 goal.
“I got more than 40 percent, so it’s getting their slowly,” he said.
Rowe’s advice to students interested in crowdfunding their college tuitions online is to keep donors abreast of how the money is being spent.
“Just give them an update at least once a month. Don’t wait too long, otherwise people will start getting suspicious of where their money is going,” he said. “And make sure you thank them. Even if they only give $1. Because you never know what kind of connections they might have.”