College can be a steep investment for many students and their families. According to College Board, the average cost of attendance, including room and board, for a private four-year college or university for the 2013–14 school year is $40,917. In-state students attending public four-year colleges or universities paid an average total of $18,393, while out-of-state students paid $31,703. Even with scholarships, grants and loans, some students still can’t afford the remaining costs and are turning toward the Internet for help.
In 2010, Brad Damphousse and Andrew Ballester launched a website called GoFundMe. Part of a trend called “crowdfunding,” the website allows people to create campaigns to raise money for various causes and publicize them on social media networks until they reach their goal amount. Such campaigns include sick pets, business startups and now college tuitions. GoFundMe deducts 5 percent from each donation made.
According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, students turn to crowdfunding websites to avoid falling into further student loan debt. Because crowdfunding for college tuition is uncommon, it’s considered a novelty, which attracts donors.
However, personal finance experts — like Beth Kobliner — are hesitant about the new trend. Kobliner said having to report the money collected from donations may change financial aid numbers for future school years. If a college finds that students are going to outside sources for money, they may provide less aid. She also poses the ultimate question: “When do you cross the line between being resourceful and begging?” Because crowdfunding can attract donations from strangers, critics see users as charity cases.
Using sites such as GoFundMe should not be the only choice for students to raise money for college. There are several scholarships students can apply for but do not often take the time to because of the application and essay-writing processes, or even the fear of denial because of limited resources. The time and effort spent applying for a scholarships evokes a feeling of accomplishment if received.
Crowdfunding can be a tool when trying to pay for college. The total cost of attendance for the 2013–14 academic year at Ithaca College is $52,300, which is considerably higher than the national private institution average. Add on the estimated personal expenses and book costs, and the total comes out to $55,587. With costs so high, students should not be ashamed to ask for help.