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Crowdfunding: the Cambridge students asking complete strangers to pay their university tuition fees - up to £33,400

posted Aug 6, 2014, 12:26 AM by Siamak Ebarhimi
Coming up with tuition fees to study in Cambridge is an issue for students the world over. But where do you go if your parents can’t afford to bankroll your further education costs, if you have no savings, and government schemes and loans are not an option either?

A growing number of prospective students are trying a new tactic in their search for fees – online crowdfunding. is a crowd funding platform based in the US, and the focus of many young people’s bids to raise the capital they need.

The site allows people to present their ‘project’ and ask for funding from the online community. Those that are interested can donate money.

It is here that at least 18 British, Australian, Swedish, Canadian and American citizens are trying to raise sums from £888 to a hefty £33,400 for a chance to study in Cambridge.CrowdFunding advertizing

These campaigns are on the rise with one listed from 2012, six from 2013 and 11 already in 2014.

In May, the News reported on Cambridge University student Louis McBride’s plan to raise £5,000 through to charter a helicopter to get him from his physics exam to his sister’s wedding 125 miles away.

As news of his success spread, eight students started campaigns for tuition to study in Cambridge.

One raised more than £3,565 in the two months following the McBride story. An earlier successful campaign raised £891.41 in 2013.CrowdFunding marketing

Among the other Cambridge campaigns, nine were still short of their goal long after their deadlines passed and seven are ongoing.

So, what has moved these students away from the more traditional forms of funding?

For Lisa Ann Wade, a 23-year-old from Bourne in Lincolnshire, it was the limited funding for arts programs and competitive scholarships.

“All the funding goes to science and medicine. We need people in the humanities too, you know, cultural contributors as well,” said the aspiring historian aiming for a MPhil in Modern European History at Cambridge University.Kickstarter Marketing

Even after turning to the Professional Career Development Loans (PCDL) scheme, she discovered she wasn’t eligible for the maximum loan amount. Students can only borrow up to 80 per cent of their tuition cost if they have been working the previous three months, according to the National Careers Service.

“I’m being punished for working as an undergraduate. A couple people have told me to get a job, but I have one. In fact, if I hadn’t worked I would be in a better position now,” said Ms Wade, who has raised £137 of the £8,500 she needs since she launched her appeal on July 21.

In addition, only two banks offer these loans: Barclays and the Co-operative Bank.

Foreigner students are faced with similar issues.

Cherise Glodowski, 22, from California, USA, sent more than 50 letters to different companies and scholarship organisations asking for help in funding her studies.

Preparing to study for a Master’s degree in Genetic and Stem Cell Research at Cambridge University, she sounds like the perfect candidate for a scholarship. But the few that responded stated they had already distributed their maximum amount of funds for students in need.

Now her campaign’s mission is to pay off the federal loans she has managed to acquire.

“GoFundMe is a terrific tool for helping my friends and family jump to the rescue and save me from crippling student debt. Other scholarships and grants are not designed to pay back loans,” she said.

The crowdsource platform also helps divide massive tuition costs into manageable snippets.

“While my friends and family who want to support my campaign may not have tens of thousands of dollars to donate towards my PhD, their individual efforts make a big difference, and many have also shared the campaign with their friends,” said Ardis Smith from Utah.

The 27-year-old is hoping to raise about £32,000 in her second attempt to gather funds for a PhD in history at Cambridge University.

Megan Raisle, 16, from Kentucky wasn’t able to generate the full £3,257 needed for an Oxbridge Academic Program at Jesus College through She managed to get here anyway to study medical science and zoology on the summer residential course for high school students.

For as long as Megan can remember she’s hated asking people for money. Crowdfunding was her last resort.Indiegogo Marketing

“As an individual, I probably wouldn’t fund someone I didn’t know who just published their story on the internet, yet those were the very people I was after,” she said.

But out of options and taking a leap of faith she started the campaign anyway.

So why would someone give their money away to a complete stranger?

Megan has a theory: “I suppose I relied on the hope that my story had a parallel in everyone’s life: that one amazing, life-changing trip, and that readers would connect with that. People should fund me, even if they don’t know me, in an effort to expand and enrich the minds of today’s youth; it isn’t even necessarily about me as an individual.”

Lisa Ann Wade’s campaign can be viewed at; Cherise Glodowski’s campaign can be viewed at; Ardis Smith’s campaign can be viewed at

You paid how much?indiegogo marketing

* The highest grossing campaign in the world to date is the Star Citizen campaign which raised over £28, 514, 484 from over 500,000 backers. Star Citizen is an online star trading and combat video game.

* As of 2012 there were over 450 crowd funding platforms.

* There was a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised £32, 986 from 6, 911 backers to help a man named Zack Danger Brown make a potato salad.

* “My Ferrari Dream” was a campaign on dedicated to raising £44,596.67 to buy a man a Ferrari, which he promised to cover in ads from contributors. He failed.

* An American black woman is campaigning for some ‘white privilege’, worth about £80, 207. Yaya M from New York said from being assumed to have cheated her way into programs for gifted children and college, to having her natural hair viewed as unprofessional among professional peers, and being viewed as naturally dangerous or threatening, her lack of white privilege has created numerous obstacles for her.crowdfunding websites

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By David Khorram