Tuition Woes: Is crowdfunding the answer?

The Web has changed many things about how we access education. Massive open online courses have made Ivy League classes available for free across the world, online university programs allow students to earn a degree from home, and now the Internet gives people the opportunity to raise tuition money from strangers.

Since the popularization of crowdfunding in the early 2000s by sites like Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and Indiegogo, people and organizations have been tapping the resources of the masses to raise money for everything from documentaries and books to toys and video games. However, as crowdfunding grows, it has become accessible to people looking to fund more personal causes including things like college tuition.

This growing trend has initialized the creation of crowdfunding sites solely for higher education, giving donors a focal point for investing in students. These sites give supporters the opportunity to make contributions, which then go to the student for tuition and fees. Students create a fund, then invite family and friends to contribute via Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

While sites like Campus Slice and GoFundMe are solely donation-based, other sites such as Pave allow students to sell themselves as investments, promising donors a return on their money once a career pans out.  

So is crowdfunding the future of higher education? Despite a variety of platforms giving students the resources to request donations, many campaigns are still unsuccessful. A quick perusal through one of these sites will reveal many heartfelt stories and requests for thousands of dollars, but few fully funded or even nearly funded campaigns.

The success level of this trend remains to be seen. However, as the Web’s reach expands, communities develop of people who would otherwise never meet. This allows for easy connections between students who need money and those who believe higher education is an investment.

Modern internet tools allow for the marketing of almost anything, including yourself. While there are no guarantees that a student will receive enough, if any money at all for their efforts, here are a few tips to consider if you do give it a try.

First of all, read the fine print. Some sites are straightforward, simply acting as a platform for the exchange of money between creators and donors. Others expect users to act as investments, giving returns to those who pay into their accounts. Some, like Kickstarter are all or nothing, only giving creators their money if the entire goal is reached.

Once a platform is chosen, the most important aspect of a campaign will be a detailed story that includes why the student needs funding, as well as the details on education and future plans that make them a worthy investment. Use pictures, video, or any other media that will best tell the story and give it an edge.

Lastly, as with most things, the success of a campaign will lean heavily on how well it utilizes social media. Spreading the campaign to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.will give it some traction among a variety of people to whom a student may not have personal access.