tuition loans open up a world of possibility for these students and break the
cycle of generational poverty."
But how well does crowdfunding work?
At Indiegogo, a San Francisco choreographer raised more than $5,000, a third of what she needed to attend a dance program in Vienna, said Danae Ringelmann, the company's co-founder.
Other money-seekers have exceeded their posted goals -- including the family of a man executed two years ago in Georgia that is trying to raise money for his nephew's college tuition. Contributions stand at $7,413, prompting the family to double the goal to $8,600.
Not all students meet their goals. Bryan Sieber of Berkeley raised just $255 of the $2,000 he requested for the UC Berkeley program in Italy. He still made his flight, according to the thank-you he posted.
In Kenya, 20-year-old Wambulwa Ayub had better luck raising money.
"I was raised in an orphanage in Nakuru after my mother became chronically sick," Ayub posted on Kiva. He's seeking $14,625 for tuition at Kenya's Strathmore University, where he hopes to earn a bachelor's degree in business information technology.
"My father died when I was 4 years old," he wrote. "I have three brothers and four sisters in total. My mother is a peasant farmer but unproductive due to her persistent sickness."
In the first six days since Ayub posted on June 20, lenders pledged $1,100, or 7 percent of his goal. One day later, the figure more than doubled, to $2,779, and now stands at $5,850, or 40 percent of his goal.
Heartrending stories like Ayub's can intensify the competition, especially for guys like Levin, who grew up in tony Palo Alto and already has a bachelor's degree in music. Still, Levin's family is not wealthy, and he is a struggling musician. So he wrote a catchy jazz tune called "All the Things I'd Do," about being saddled with student loan debt, that he'll sing on his Piglt crowdfunding page.
"I hope one day I'll finally be set free. And I hope one day this debt will be relieved ... When I'm dreaming all that I can see is all the things that I'd do ... such a shame we're stuck here payin' when you think of all that we could do ..."
"This song is about me, but it resonates with a lot of people," said Levin, whose debt includes some federally subsidized Stafford loans.
The interest rate on those loans doubled on July 1, from 3.4 to 6.8 percent, after students spent months chewing their nails as Congress dithered along party lines. Republicans wanted to impose a variable rate on the interest, which Democrats said would be even worse. Their proposal was to postpone by one year the deadline for doubling the rates in hopes of reaching a compromise.
Meanwhile, Levin is pinning his hopes on Piglt.
Wallace, the co-founder, graduated debt-free from the U.S. Air Force Academy, which charges no tuition to those who serve in the military.
By contrast, his wife has student loan debt approaching $100,000 after graduating from an Ivy League university and a private law school, he said.
And so, Piglt was born.
For crowdfunders seeking tuition help on Piglt, the company says it will take a 5 percent cut if the goal is reached. PayPal will get 3 percent. The website automatically increases fundraising goals by 8 percent to accommodate those fees.
But if tuition-seekers fail to make their goal, all pledged transactions are void and no money will be allocated, Wallace said.
Crowdfunders seeking help with student loans can do it the same way -- or they can try a different strategy and keep all the money raised even if it falls short of the goal. The trade-off is an 8 percent fee to the company if the goal is missed, and 5 percent for successful campaigns.
Wallace called it an incentive to work harder.
"We want you to be successful," he said, adding that Piglt verifies enrollment claims of all donation-seekers and will send donations only to a college or bank, not the student.
The $50,000 that Wallace and co-founder Vidya Chokkalingam started the company with is now just some change in the piggy bank, he said.
"We've definitely been bootstrapping it," he admitted. "I haven't been paid at all."
So they need something creative to survive the first year, Wallace said.
They're going to try crowdfunding.
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