Andrew Levin owes the bank $26,000 in student loans, and he'd like you
to help him pay it off.
Should you be inclined to reduce his bill, Levin, an Oakland musician and graduate of the University of Southern California, would be pleased to teach you to play guitar, bass, electronic drums or piano. Or he'd teach you to sing or to program a synthesizer. Maybe all of the above -- if you're generous.
It's crowdfunding for college costs. And websites for that purpose are proliferating at a rate that rivals the rise in interest on student loans.
"If you'd like to help people out who are bogged down by student debt, I would really appreciate your help," said Levin, 23, practicing his pitch for a new website called Piglt -- think piggy bank -- specifically to raise money for tuition and student loan debt, which hovers around a $1 trillion nationally among 37 million borrowers.
Crowdfunding is the direct appeal of one to many for help paying for something. The idea is as old as passing the hat. But the Internet has inspired entrepreneurs to make it easy for donation seekers to make their case, set a financial goal, and work their way toward it by a deadline.
The sites are tapping into a new and seemingly limitless clientele: the millions of needy students and former students around the world who need cash for college bills.
Some offer all-or-nothing deals, in which donation seekers get no money if they fall short of their fundraising goal. Other sites say it's OK to keep what you get. Most take a fee.
Levin's path to Piglt began with his childhood dream of enrolling in one of the world's great guitar programs, at USC, where yearly tuition, room and board cost about $60,000.
He managed it with financial aid and student loans.
Now, a year after graduating, Levin will hold out his hat on Piglt. The site is expected to go live this week with eight "Dreamers." That's Piglt jargon for people like Levin, who hope complete strangers will ease their financial pain in exchange for lessons in cooking, music, art, video editing, business plans, social media -- or almost anything else.
"I wanted to allow each person to use the skills they just paid a lot of money for to benefit themselves," said Casey Wallace, who co-founded Piglt a year ago in Los Angeles.
His competitors are also getting into the needy-student market:
-- Pave and Upstart let students use crowdfunding to attract tuition investors, who stake a claim in 7 to 10 percent of their future earnings.
-- Zero Bound, not yet live, will let students trade volunteer work for help with loan debt and tuition.
-- Indiegogo, a crowdfunding company in San Francisco, is attracting students who hope to raise cash for college extras: A UC Berkeley trip to Italy. A used car to get to college in Santa Rosa. A campus club for Hmong students at Cal.
-- Also in San Francisco is Kiva, a microfinancing nonprofit that last year began helping students crowdfund tuition loans in Africa and South America, where financial aid and student loans are rare. Students have a decade to pay the money back at 2 to 5 percent interest.
'World of possibility'
"College is just out of reach for far too many students, no matter how bright and hardworking they are," said Michelle Kreger, a Kiva director. "Crowdfunding
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