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The Daily Tar Heel

Students turn to friends for tuition

GoFundMe, a website that provides an online platform for users to crowdfund for personal causes, has attracted students to create pages to fund their education.

The website allows users to share their personal story on the internet to encourage the public to donate to their specific cause.

Sophomore Kyle Strickenberger has been using the website to raise money to cover the cost of his tuition after his private scholarships, grants and financial aid weren’t sufficient.

“It was a little difficult for me to put out my personal circumstances for everyone to see ... but then I realized its not shameful to ask people for help because people do it all the time, and it’s just a part of life,” he said.

Strickenberger’s goal is to raise $30,000 in order to fund two semesters of tuition, and he plans to leave up his page until he either reaches his goal or graduates.

“In my mind I would leave it up on the off chance that somebody passes by and sees it,” he said.

Senior Evan Adair used GoFundMe to raise money to help pay for his trip to Italy to participate in two productions of the opera “La serva padrona.”

“I think GoFundMe is a huge step in trying to be proactive in whatever situation you’re in,” he said.

Adair said his campaign was extremely successful. He only had a month to collect all the money but was able to raise it in two weeks.

“It shows how much people actually believe in what I’m doing,” he said.

Kelsea Little, a GoFundMe storyteller, said nearly $20 million has been raised in the Education, Schools & Learning category from more than 246,000 donors.

Though GoFundMe applies a 5 percent fee to each donation, which helps cover all of the organization’s operating expenditures, Little said the website allows users to receive financial support while removing the physical barriers usually associated with fundraising.

“With GoFundMe, you can raise money from anywhere in the world,” Little said in an email.

Shirley Ort, associate provost and director of the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid, said the website is not the final solution to students’ financial dilemmas.

The University administers $400 million per year in scholarships and financial aid, and Ort does not believe social media fundraising will become successful enough to replace this aid.

“It may be something that would help a student here or there, but it’s certainly not going to be a solution,” Ort said.

She said that if students using this website are already receiving financial aid and have their full needs met, then any money raised through GoFundMe would need to be reported to the financial aid office, which in turn would reduce their aid from the University.

If students are not receiving any financial aid or are not having their full needs met, then they would not need to report this outside income.

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“If they are successful, then more power to them,” Ort said.

Despite these dilemmas, students continue to be attracted to the idea of crowdfunding to help raise money for their education costs.

“Education is the keystone of the U.S. and the world, so if we don’t give an education to those who need it, it will be difficult for those people to make a difference in the world,” Strickenberger said.

Adair said funding for education is crucial.

“Education is probably the most vital cause that you can give to, just so we can make sure other problems can be rectified,” he said.

Strickenberger said raising money to pay for tuition casts a far wider net than just the student receiving the funding.

“Sometimes you need to help others so that they can help people, too.”