College tuition: you may have more help than you think

Financing your college education doesn’t have to be between you and a bank anymore. With the advent of the Internet now your friends and even strangers can help you pay for it.

Erini Shields, a 2007 Goshen College graduate, is getting help from others to pay for her education.  Through edulender.com she was able to set up an account that enabled people to submit donations and help her out with tuition.

Shields’ path to edulender.com started three months after snagging a marketing job with a Chicago heating and air-conditioning company. The company went out of business, Shields lost her job, and she was broke. Shields moved back home temporarily and decided to go back to school. After searching for a post-graduate program, she came across her dream school: the Chicago Portfolio School which offers a yearlong program that helps to put together a portfolio of artwork.

“I found the school and felt strongly that this is where I needed to be,” said Shields.

The Chicago Portfolio School accepted her as one of two participants for this quarter, but the only problem was funding. Since the school isn’t accredited, she couldn’t get financial aid to attend. Without a job and still loaded with undergraduate debt, Shields didn’t know how she would be able to make it until a friend suggested that Shields turn to crowd-sourcing through edulender to pay for her education.

Edulender is a Web site that offers students help with loans and scholarships but also offers a platform to form an account that lets friends, family, and even strangers donate money for a person’s education.

“All I did was set up a goal on the website and then start emailing,” said Shields. “People have been a blessing, they’re so generous.”

Shields’ goal is to raise enough money for the 1st quarter tuition by June 13. Since starting her account on February, people donated enough money for the first month of her term. By advertising through Facebook and Twitter, Shields has reached different people, both those that she knew and those she didn’t.

“I’ve received donations of $11 and donations of $500,” said Shields. “I even had an alumnus of the Chicago Portfolio School find me and donate money because he wanted to support others to attend the school.”

After June 13, Shields is unsure whether or not she will keep up the fundraising. “I would really like to finance school myself,” said Shields. Once she finishes school, Shields would like to get a graphic design job in Chicago. She also plans to give back to others who have helped out by getting involved in service and wants to pay it forward once she gets enough extra money.

“It’s really hard to let go of your pride and ask for help, but there are times when you have to do that,” said Shields. “If you feel strongly just do it and ask for help because people want to help.”

For anybody interested in crowd-sourcing, edulender.com has a user-friendly sign up process so that you can start fundraising right away. If you want to donate to Shields or read updates on her progress check out her edulender website http://www.edulender.com/college-tuition-fundraising/erinichristine/.

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Written by Sara Alvarez

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