Using the Power of Crowdfunding Changed this College Student’s Life

Vanderbilt University just recently canceled a student’s financial aid, only for her problems to mount as her father lost his job and her mom committing suicide.  Cassie Wessely knew her only hope was to go online and see if other people’s generosity would help change her situation around. She set up a GoFundMe page and within a few days her worries were gone because so many people understood what she was experiencing. One comment a donor made was how, before the internet, he wrote to many family members asking for money to pay for school and now that he can afford to pay it back he took the chance to do it. He explained how stressful it can be and wanted to do something special.

Wessely’s case is not unusual today as colleges all over are raising tuition rates because of the rising costs they put on themselves. It’s amazing to think the thousands of students every year who have to drop out of school, not because they got kicked out or didn’t pass, but because they couldn’t afford to attend school. When you think about the economic cost that has to the future of this country, colleges should be held liable for those costs but their not and the future of this country will get a worse outcome because of it. Many of the students who cannot afford to attend school end up working in jobs that provide no potential for their skills. This is sad because these students worked hard in high school and after being told all 12 years in school that if you just get good grades then you will be taken care of in college because schools will offer you money to attend. Unfortunately that is not true and really has never been true so why don’t school stop lying to students? It would be great if parents could start getting after schools about that as well.

College Tuition Out of Control
In a recent article I wrote about the number of schools that charge more than $60k a year to attend, it should not surprise you to know that in a couple of years it will be standard for a freshman to be paying more than $100k a year for a BACHELORS degree! So you can imagine what Graduate school will cost. You will literally need to be rich in order to attend college and the future of America will show by the number of students who can not attend because of a financial barrier.

Why the rising costs? Well if you really want to find the reason why, the next time you visit a school of your choice take a look at how much construction is taking place. That is a good indicator of the raising costs. Schools that believe they need to keep building and building each year in order to attract more students increase the costs every year. If you think about it, they are squeezing out the very thing they need in order to support their own projects; students. Many schools tell you that student tuition only pays a small portion of their annual costs and if that was true then tuition doesn’t need to keep going up every year but it actually covers a lot more hence why it keeps going up. When you read the book College Unbound colleges are catering to a market of creating luxury resorts for students to learn at. Why would a school need to build a lazy river around campus? Dry cleaning and maid service for dorms? Are you kidding me? Students need to learn how to live on their own, not learn that they need to pay to have someone clean up after them.

So if they are squeezing out the very thing they need in order to pay for their bills then that will mean in a couple of years all these new buildings they are constructing will be in less than half use since less students will be on campus. Yes, more students are applying to colleges but the part they leave out is the number of students who actually attend. Just because University X got 10k applications and they only accepted 1k does not mean those 1k students could all afford to attend. That is why there is a waiting list, and for many schools, not all of them will meet their acceptance quotas because how can you when so many are unable to afford the bills?

Power of Crowdfunding
Cassie Wessely understood her situation very carefully and for the pressure of her school to just cut her off from financial aid and still think that she can attend is very arrogant of them to do that. Colleges are on this high that because they are a college, or university, people need them if they want to get a high paying job. Well when you have people like Scott Young who can show you how to get an MIT Computer Science education for free, it shakes up the model of thinking that you have to pay a lot of money to get a quality education, which is completely false. Watch his TED TALK here. Here you see that he used all his online resources to get, what would normally be, a very expensive and highly valued education for free. The only cost to him was $2000 dollars for books and supplies, which he could easily have raised online with crowdfunding sites.

When you look at what banks did with student loans and the number of financial aid program directors at many schools who were charged with accepting kickbacks for pushing loans over scholarships it’s no wonder that many students leave school drowning in debt. Banks and Creditors are happy about this because they get to make more money but, as congress is realizing their mistakes now, it is causing an economic downtown because so many young adults are unable to start their life because their student loans keep them from being able to buy a house, a car, save for retirement and invest in the economy. To learn more about the student loan scandal click here.

In order to avoid such a mess Cassie went to GoFundMe and set up an account and sent out the link to all her friends and family members with her facebook account. As of the writing of this article she was able to reach $50k, well past her goal of $25k. In a recent update on her GoFundMe page she said that all the money will be doing towards her next three years at the school. Even though she said she has scholarships and such, her costs at Vanderbilt are far from over, if you look at the page for tuition for the school year 2014-2015 you can see tuition alone is $42,768, which does not include books, extra fees, meals, campus events and more. Chances are she will need to do another campaign later on but the power of bringing people together shows that students are using this service more and more because colleges just don’t get the point that they can not keep raising prices every year. Otherwise only the rich will be able to attend because wages are kept down. I do want to point out that a nice older lady even offered Cassie a free room near her if she ever needed it.

These students are turning to crowdfunding as well from Draper University.
Louis Mikal is trying to raise money to attend school.
Edmilson Rodriguesn created his own platform to raise money for his own projects.
John Scianna is raising money to attend a program of his own. Read more about his story.
Sequoia Blodgett is another who is trying to raise money for college.

All these accounts shouldn’t come as a surprise seeing how the cost to attend college is getting out of reach for so many. If you were to meet all the students every year who have to give up their dream school because they couldn’t afford it to attend a more affordable school, you would spend the rest of your life meeting them.

If you want to find out what other sites are available for raising money for school you can use these.
GradSave (Read about how GradSave helps college students in this article)

How to Create a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign
If you are looking to create your own or want to get a start on paying for college here are a few tips you could know.

1. Round Your Goal Up, Tuition Costs change
If one year of college tuition will be $43,578 and the next will be $53,789, then it is better to round up to the nearest $5k so the goals will look easier to understand. The first one will become $45k and the second is $55k. If you give a precise number people will think that if you raise that exact amount then that is all the money you will need and no more. Goals that are rounded up help to covered unexpected costs plus the processing fees that each crowdfunding site uses.

2. Update Your Page weekly
People need to know that you are actively involved in your campaign. If they see that all you did was post a page asking for money then they will get a little nervous donating if that is all they see with no status updates. They want to see that you are heavily involved in what  you are trying to do.

3. Offer Rewards of Some Sort
Many sties offer the chance for you to give something back for those that donate. Even writing hand written notes of gratitude goes a long way for some people because it provides that personal connection to those that helped you. The larger the donation the large the reward. Many people offer personal Skype chats or even some will, those that live in the area, cook a meal for them. These are all suggestions so you need to come up with ones that match your style.

4. Be Clear and Upfront what the money is going to
I have read many crowdfunding campaigns that ask for a lot of money and then give no real description about what they plan to do with it. This confuses donors because it shows you have not thought your plan through. No one likes to donate to a cause that has no clear plan of action. People need to know exactly how the money will be used.

It’s sad to think that college will really only be for the rich but as I stated in another article, the students who are successful in school, and in life, know where to find all the money they need without with loans because they understand how the system works. It puts a lot of work on them but that is the responsibility of getting older and going to school. There is lots of free money out there you just need to be responsible enough to find it but it won’t be easy.

I included her page down below along with other articles that talk about her story and what she did. I also included similar stories about how spreading the news for a good cause changed the lives of so many.

Her GoFundMe Account
Donate to Cassie Wessely

News Articles

Students Turn to Crowdfunding Sites to pay for college

Vandy Article

ABC7 News

Finance Yahoo Article

Additional Generous Stories

8 Year old Boy Pays off Past Due Lunches

Students Help send school Janitor to visit family in Italy

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