Penn State

More Pennsylvania students turning to crowdfunding to pay for college

According to a February report by GoFundMe, Pennsylvania students raised $1.9 million from 2014 to 2017 in crowdfunding for tuition and other college expenses.
According to a February report by GoFundMe, Pennsylvania students raised $1.9 million from 2014 to 2017 in crowdfunding for tuition and other college expenses. Centre Daily Times, file

Before the internet, there were loans or the trusty summer job. Now, in the age of crowdfunding, more students are turning to social fundraising platforms to pay for college.

Especially in Pennsylvania, which charges the third-highest in-state tuition (an average of $13,884 per semester) for a four-year, public university in the country, ranking only behind Vermont and New Hampshire.

According to a report released in February by GoFundMe, the world’s largest crowdfunding site, Pennsylvania students raised $1.9 million in funds on the platform to put toward books, expenses and tuition over the past three years — the ninth-highest mark in the country. California topped the list at $8.3 million, while Ohio rounded out the top 10 with $1.6 million raised.

From 2014 to 2017, students in the Keystone State launched 4,314 GoFundMe pages to help defray the costs of a college education. The company reported more than 130,000 campaigns were launched in total from 2014 to 2017, raising $60 million from more than 850,000 donations.

Around the country, GoFundMes have raised enough for year’s tuition at some of the nation’s top (and often most-expensive) schools. One campaign raised $48,925. Another, started by one enterprising mom, raised more than $21,000 for her son who was accepted to Harvard University. The “E-Jayy! .. ‘From COMPTON 2 HARVARD!’ ” campaign beat its initial $16,000 goal in two months.

However, scams exist and most campaigns fail. So, as with most things that involve money and the internet, exercise caution — whether you’re a donor or an ambitious but underfunded college student.

In Pennsylvania, the latter are alive and abundant. If they’re doing well, well …

From either a financial standpoint or a well-being standpoint, the returns are depressing. According to a 2016 study by personal finance website WalletHub, Pennsylvania ranks 47th in student debt health, boasting one of the highest average student debt burdens in the country.

Two of the state’s major public institutions, the University of Pittsburgh ($18,192 per semester) and Penn State University ($17,514 per semester) rank No. 1 and No. 3 respectively on U.S News’ 2015-2016 rankings for highest in-state tuition.

In finding relief, college kids are getting creative. Some have produced crowdfunding videos to win others to their cause and help make their education more financially feasible.

Because when debt is a large rock, tuition is a steep hill and you just learned who Sisyphus was in your freshman classics course, creativity becomes de rigueur.

Roger Van Scyoc: 814-231-4698, @rogervanscy

  Comments