As college becomes decreasingly affordable, students all over the world are looking to alternative methods to make ends meet. Even though Sarah Lawrence College did not increase tuition for the 2015-2016 academic year, $65,242 is no easy sum to match. Which is why, in recent months, many SLC community members have looked to crowdfunding to meet their pecuniary needs.
Crowdfunding is a means by which individuals raise money for themselves or a specific project or cause online through sites like indiegogo.com or gofundme.com. The fund seeker outlines a general campaign and timeline on the site, while at the same time site users search through posts to find causes worthy of donating money to. In return for hosting their fundraiser, the site then takes a portion of the proceeds raised. In the case of Sarah Lawrence students, fund seekers generally share out the link to their fundraising campaigns via social media and then hope that the community responds positively to their efforts.
Senior Aislinn Garner (‘15) just created a new GoFundMe.com campaign in an attempt to raise money for an upcoming move to Japan: “I decided to crowd fund because I was just accepted into a teaching abroad program. I come from a family with limited means, and the money I am currently raising through my job is only enough to pay for bills and basic living expenses like food,” she explained. “Sarah Lawrence has given me the full amount of aid possible, but that isn't enough to cover the entire cost, so I still have to take out federal loans and use the lowest meal plan so that I can buy my other food, since AVI is so expensive. Basically, I don't have the money to spare to raise enough for the initial month or two that I would be living in Japan to teach abroad. I will have to pay for things like rent, utilities, food, and travel upon arrival, so I can use all the help I can get.”
Garner’s campaign will extend through the summer up to her departure to Japan, with the goal of raising $2,500. At the time of our interview, just six days after the campaign had begun, Garner had already raised $665 from 17 different individuals online.
“I'm mostly hoping to rely on cumulative $5 and $10 gifts to reach the goal,” Garner said, “but so far, most people have given more than that. I was surprised, actually.”
Another student, Juna Drougas (‘16), used crowdfunding to finance her latest project—a film that she wrote entitled Unlikeable. The campaign, which ran for just over two weeks in March, raised $816 for the project—this exceeded her goal of $500 for estimated production costs. The film is a murder-thriller centering around Millennial-specific issues and the emotional stress that social media can inflict. For funders, Drougas and her team offered a ton of cool prizes starting at a handwritten thank you for $5 contributors all the way up to a private magic show and night out in Manhattan at the $75 contribution level and executive producer credits at the $100 level.
One of the most dramatic cases of crowdfunding for good at SLC was for the case of Thomas Speta (‘17), who took on the totality of his financial burden, both personal and academic, from his parents this school year. Despite applying for numerous loans and accepting as much aid as SLC could possibly offer him, Speta was still $7500 short of what he would need to return to SLC in the fall of 2015. “I crowdfunded as a last resort, I never wanted to be reliant on other people; but, when resources fell through, I had to trust in my friends to help me.” Speta explained
Initially, Speta created an Indiegogo campaign with the set goal of $7500 to span from April 2-15. Just eight days into the campaign at the time of this writing, Speta’s campaign has already reached $8,018 coming from 190 different donors. With just a few keystrokes, the SLC community came together and organized in to keep Speta at SLC and without any single person bearing too large of a financial burden.
“I think I made my goal because the SLC community is a very intimate, supportive community that knows how to help a struggling member when they need it. It's a compassionate community who take care of their own,” Speta said. In times of true stress, the community which at other times can be dissonant comes together to accomplish really powerful things: “this kind of circumstance really shows the true colours of the students, who are supportive, empathetic and driven,” Speta added. “So many people made donations even though they're also in debt, and the posts that they shared were so inspiring and humbling to read. It goes to show that SLC students never give up and never back down, especially to protect their community.”
Drougas’s campaign is long over, but you can stay up to date with the progress of Unlikeable here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/juna-drougas-s-indie-film-unlikeable
Speta’s campaign will have come to an end by the time this is published, but you can still get involved with his story here: https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/help-a-stuggling-student-finish-his-sophomore-year;
and, Garner’s gofundme campaign is ongoing! You can help fund her trip to Japan here: http://www.gofundme.com/AislinnAbroad.
by Wade Wallerstein