Crowdfunding for College

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It costs thousands of dollars now to go to college and if you aren't lucky enough to get a scholarship or have parents willing to pay the bills, you may be facing years of paying off loans.

Sure, you can work and try to pay your way through school, but how many 20-somethings can make the big bankroll needed for each semester? Or what if you just need help temporarily? Like funding a semester abroad, or supporting a particular study, or even just some help buying materials?

Just go ask the crowd for some help.

There are several crowdfunding sites that have an educational component to them. They won't give you a full ride, but they do present options for raising some cash without asking your parents.

Angeldorm is an education-funding platform that helps students raise money for their education. The money goes directly to the university, so donors don't have to worry about it being used for pizza and beer.

Angeldorm.com makes its money by charging a fee from the donor. Plus, every student who launches a site on Angeldorm is automatically entered to win a scholarship. Each student site is filled with information about the student's college and goals.

Angeldorm looks to the students, though, to help build the buzz for donations. Most students who were featured had raised under $2,000.

CrowdfundEDU is another site created to raise money to help pay for tuition, books, equipment and even workshops. It isn't just limited to college. Even K-12 students can begin fundraisers on this site.

The model is similar to Angeldorm, in that it makes its money from the donors, while the student isn't charged anything. It uses PayPal to facilitate the money transactions. There isn't the same accountability on this site as there is on Angeldorm; the money raised is given directly to the student and there isn't any follow-up to see if the money was spent in the way promised.

This site didn't seem to have as many contributors and, again, it expects the student to do the social media heavy lifting.

Fundageek has a more specific goal than the others. Here, technology projects, scientific research and inventions are the main subjects for the fund raising.

Fundageek charges 5% on the funds raised, unless the student chooses to use premium Marketing Resources, in which case a 9% fee is charged. This site also uses PayPal, which will charge a credit card processing fee.

The project's contributions varied from a few dollars to over $2,000. The geeks also tend to promise rewards to donors, not unlike Kickstarter.

Upstarts is a little different from the other crowdfunding Web sites because the students take the money up front, but then are willing to fork over some of the income for ten years. The site was started by a team of ex- Google ( GOOG) employees and is backed by some well-known venture capital funds and investors, like Salesforce.com ( CRM) CEO Marc Benioff and Mark Cuban.

Some Upstarts are looking for money to start business ventures, but many are just looking for help to retire loans or pay for workshops. Backers can follow the Upstarts' progress.

If an Upstart doesn't pay back the money, the obligation is turned into a standard loan at a fixed rate of 14.99%. It looks to have a good success rate, with seven out of ten upstarts funded successfully.

Piggybackr.com isn't a site to raise money for tuition, but it is focused on kids and school projects.

Some are sports related and some are travel related. There are some requests for funds to travel to competitions and some for parts for a project. One team is raising money for a robotics competition and needs money to build the robot, plus travel costs to submit the robot for competitions.

Piggybackr also helps the student with guidelines on how to create a fundraising page and drive the social media attention to get donations.

Granted, these aren't scholarships, nor are we talking about huge amounts of money. However, a few hundred dollars could make the difference for many of these students.

Selling cupcakes for a dollar just doesn't cut it these days, when you need hundreds of dollars to attend a competition, build a robot, or to buy helmets for a team. Plus, as schools cut back on the funds available to students, the student has had to get creative in order to have the same experience as people from wealthier schools.

In other cases, it's as simple as a single working mom that just needs some help buying books and materials. These crowdfunding sites are today's equivalent of selling candy and the results can be sweet.

--Written by Debra Borchardt in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Debra Borchardt.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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