Using The Web, Students Ask ‘Crowd’ To Help Pay For College

"As students confront rising college costs and a labyrinthine financial-aid process, some are turning to crowdfunding websites like GoFundMe to cover their expenses," The Chronicle of Higher Education reports

"While the approach is still novel and hardly widespread, financial-aid officials say, enthusiasm for online campaigns is very much a reflection of the times. Students are frustrated with the aid process, eager to avoid student-loan debt, and worried over a weak job market. They are also comfortable with social-media networks and willing to share personal information online.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that some students seek help on such platforms. The technology may be new, but the idea—think tip jars for college—is not. ...

Crowdfunding seems like a new way for students to pay for college. Is it?

Tales of financial adversity have long been told on scholarship applications. And in fund raising, colleges often rely on students—in print or in person—to share their stories to appeal to prospective donors.

Justin Draeger, president and chief executive of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, thinks crowdfunding sites may be more familiar than different. They essentially set up 'a communication tool and a bucket,' he says, for students to receive money.

'It’s a good-will gesture: ‘Here’s some money to go to school,’' says Mr. Draeger. 'It’s no different than if your grandma or aunts or cousins gave you money.'

Financial-aid officials don’t talk much about crowdfunding, he adds. It’s still a niche. But it aligns with one of the principles of federal financial aid, he says: that the primary responsibility of paying for college rests with students and their families. 'If going out and crowdsource-funding your education is part of you fulfilling your ability to pay,' he says, 'that’s a great thing.'"

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