Crowdfunding has become an increasingly popular way for aspiring students to find the funds for higher education.
Delia Caldwell is one of them. She started college classes at LSU-Shreveport in the fall, but she nearly had to put her dream of another degree on hold for lack of funding. Instead, she turned to crowdfunding.
She will go to school for the next four years to receive a degree in biological science. This will be her second degree after graduating from Northwestern State University a few years ago with a theatre degree.
"I love being on stage. I love performing. I love the arts in general, but ultimately I chose that because I was like. I won't have to do as much math. I'm not very good at math. When you're 18, those are the kinds of decisions you make."
Caldwell’s uncertainty in her future caused her to lose financial security. Since this will be her second degree, she was denied financial aid only weeks before school started.
"That was kind of a shock. If I was going to grad school for education, I'd be eligible for federal funding. But because it's a second bachelor's in something completely different, they're kind of like 'You had your chance, sorry.'"
Caldwell did the only thing she knew to do next, and that was to set up a GoFundMe account online. She hoped to at least raise the first payment for classes.
"I had two weeks to come up with $900. I still had to pay rent. I still had to pay bills. So there's really no way for me to come up with that much money in that short amount of time.
In a matter of days, she had enough for one payment for college. Crowdfunding has grown in popularity in recent years. It has been used to pay for medical bills, pet surgeries and even funerals. However, college crowdfunding has become the most prominent among sites like GoFundMe.
According to one report, more than 130,000 GoFundMe accounts were created this year. raising more than $20 million for students. That number was similar in 2014 with more than 140,000 campaigns and nearly $20 million in donations. The influx of people signing up to ask for help paying for college through crowdfunding has grown by more than 400 percent since 2012.
That is likely driven by the steady rise in tuition rates for public colleges, which have been climbing an average of 8.3 percent each year. At that rate, students will pay more than $100,000 in tuition and fees, not including books and boarding, within the next 15 years.
That number could be worse for students in Louisiana. Tuition at a four-year public university in the state has increased by an average of 67 percent over the last season years, which would make it fourth highest rate hike in the country.
At the end of the spring legislative session, current governor Bobby Jindal acknowledged the state’s budget shortfalls and the potential to see additional increases in tuition costs.
“Families could be facing the prospect of higher fees, higher costs to attend public universities or technical colleges in our state,” said Jindal.
Caldwell, who works 30 hours a week at a restaurant in Shreveport and takes 12 hours of college classes, cannot afford another hike. She said she only planned to solicit funds for the first payment of her college courses.
“I would definitely recommend it to people who are looking to do something that's their passion and don't have the funds for it themselves. You'd be surprised how generous people can be."
That generosity allowed Caldwell to have a second chance at her dreams.
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