Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Strangers fund education

College debt is a topic every college student dreads dealing with.

Seventy-one percent of all students graduating from a four-year college have student loan debt, according to The Institute for College Access and Success, a non-profit that works to make higher education more available and affordable.

Nineteen-year-old University of Kentucky student Michael Lewis has created FinanceU, a website that allows students to market themselves to potential donors according to WLKY.com. It is a new way for students to market themselves and finance their college careers.

Students can make a free account through the website and highlight their passions, accomplishments and unique talents. They can share their page through social media for their peers to donate money.

This crowdfunding site helps students raise money through many donors using an online platform.

“It’s kind of hard to crowdfund individual students because you have to have a lot of people giving relatively small amounts to a lot of students,” Plattsburgh State Finance Professor Colin Read said.

Read said the site has the most potential if students can find a few people that are willing to invest heavily on an individual student. He said students who have high potential but don’t have real access to funds from their family are most likely to utilize the website, as well as students who don’t want to be ladened with student debt should use the website as well.

“It’s kind of a clever concept. It’s trying to get people to invest in individual students almost if it’s a venture capital fund, hoping that it pays dividends to the students later in life,” Read said.“If a bunch of students subscribe to it, but not many people come forward to help those students, I think it would be very discouraging for students.”

Computer science major Kassi Abbott said the website is important for college students because the cost of college rise every year.

“You get money from people that know you. That’s pretty sick,” Abbott said.

Abbott said that if she made a profile for herself, she would say she’s lucky to come to Plattsburgh, play hockey and to get an education.

“You can get any potential money you want. It could be $200 or $20,000 just from people donating to you,” Abbott said, “It’s not like a scholarship where you have to get over 25 on your ACT’s or getting a presidential scholarship.”

PSUC international business major and global chain supply and management minor Madelyn Villanueva said people would donate if they knew the student and his or her story. Villanueva said she’s never heard of FinanceU, but the idea intrigues her.

“I can see English and journalism majors doing this. They want to get themselves out there so they can get a job,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva said she also thinks there are communication benefits with making work relationships through the website.

Twenty-one percent of employers surveyed by CareerBuilder said they didn’t feel that colleges were doing enough to prepare students for the working world and that students lack basic communication skills in the work industry, according to a USA Today article.

“If I used the website, I would highlight my volunteer work and highlight that I was in the National Honor Society. But I would also highlight the reasons why I need it,” Villanueva said. “My family has a lot of medical bills, so tuition is hard to pay for.”

All donations through FinanceU are stored and protected until the student is able to pay for college expenses. The money will be transferred directly from FinanceU to the university the student attends.

Read said if the site could figure out a way for the people to invest in these students to somehow earn some sort of dividend themselves, it could be more successful.

“In other words, they’re truly investing in the student, not only for the student’s interest but for also some self interest,” Read said.

He said the only problem with the idea is that it would be difficult to write contracts for the students to pay back that contribution.

“That’s what we do in the economy,” Read said. “Investors come in with new ideas, but they get some sort of dividend share. You can do that with corporations, but it’s not as easy with human beings.”

The website launches during the first week of November. Villanueva encourages students to use the site.

“I think it will be successful if people really want it,” Villanueva said, “If you really want it and try your best and go for it, anything is possible.”

Email Kavita Singh at kavita.singh@cardinalpointsonline.com

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