Crowd-funding college tuition is growing Internet trend

(WJLA) - The cost of higher education keeps going higher and higher, but for at least some college students, a new internet trend seems to be helping them stay in school.

It's called "crowd-funding." It involves family and friends, even complete strangers making donations online.

Howard University sophomore Le'naiya Blackwell is a Jazz Studies major, but she won't be doing any studying this semester if she doesn't raise $3,000 to pay off her outstanding tuition balance.

Even after loans, financial aid, and a variety of jobs, she said she has run out of options.

“I'm not a sob story,” Blackwell said. “And I don't want people to think I'm a sob story. I want people to be cheering for me and to give me this opportunity because they know I can do it.”

She continued, “I want them to donate because they know I'm worthwhile and that my education is going to go somewhere and that I'm going to be able to do this.”

After posting her story on the website Go Fund Me, Blackwell started a social media blitz. She was re-tweeted by D.C. Council member Marion Barry and featured in a Washington City Paper article.

But as of Friday afternoon, she had only raised about $200 and January 17 is the school's class registration deadline. “I'm not gonna make it unless by some chance it all happens today,” she said.

Blackwell is not alone, and crowd-funding is not unique to Howard students. But they do make up the majority of tuition requests among D.C. college student Go Fund Me profiles (it’s worth noting that in the past five years, tuition at Howard has jumped 40-percent).

Howard University junior Rome Miller
has had more success. As of Friday, he raised $830 through the website, but he's nowhere near his goal.

“I ended the year with an $8,000 balance,” Miller said. “And with a balance that high, you're not able to register for classes, get your transcripts – so I wasn't able to apply for internships or jobs or anything. And you really can't even transfer if you have a balance that high because you can't get your transcript.”

Howard University officials argue this crowd-funding concept is really nothing new.

Maybe not on the internet, but for many years, they say college students have found unique ways to fundraise to off-set the costs of higher education. But with those costs only rising each year, many college students believe this will be a growing trend.

Of course, when soliciting donations online, friends – even strangers – feel comfortable giving their two cents.

Blackwell repeated some of the negative feedback she has received: “Why are you doing this? You don't need to be begging for money. You should just go get a job and just stay out of college for a while.”

But Blackwell said she refuses to quit school, even temporarily. She said she would rather have school pride than too much self-pride.

“And if going to people who I don't know who have that compassion is what I have to do, I don't mind,” she said.