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by Kim Clark
The Facebook generation gets a new way to raise college financial aid
As budget-strapped states and private charities cut back on scholarship funding, a growing number of students are raising money for college through new "make your own scholarship" Web sites. These sites enable students to post pictures, profiles, and appeals for donations. The sites also help them market their appeals and collect and manage their donations. The sites also attract donors by verifying the student's college and offering anonymity.
While they don't work for everybody, the new sites provide much-needed alternatives to traditional scholarship competitions, which are being swamped with applicants.
Author Dave Eggers helped start Scholarmatch.org after his tutoring program, called 826Valencia, got flooded with scholarship applications. "It was heartbreaking to have to decide" which six out of 150 qualified and needy students would get some money to defray college expenses, he says. Now that the students who participate in his program are posting on scholarmatch.org, another 10 have received enough donations to fund their first year in college, he notes.
One of the lucky students, Dorrian Lewis, a senior at
But even with lots of tech and social networking savvy, it isn't easy to recruit scholarship donors. After noticing other students try to create Web sites and
One barrier that might discourage donors: unlike donations to colleges or scholarship foundations, donations directly to students seeking money for college don't qualify for charitable tax breaks. Mohr and the other operators of the new build-your-own scholarship sites hope, however, that donors will be willing to trade the tax deduction for the ability to pick which students to fund, and the assurance that the students will get (depending on the site) anywhere from 95 percent to 100 percent of their donation.
Here are three Web sites (listed alphabetically) that help students build their own scholarships:
In mid-2010, new owners turned this former peer-to-peer lending site into a peer-to-peer donation site. Greennote charges $20 to set up a profile and takes 5 percent of the amount students withdraw to cover credit card fees and other expenses.
This nonprofit site is free, but currently only features students from the San Francisco Bay Area. The founders are considering eventually opening it to other students.
This two-year-old site started by two
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New Websites Empower Students to Build Their Own College Scholarships