As all current, soon-to-be and former college students know, higher education costs a pretty penny.
Students have to pay their tuition bills and lab fees while having enough cash for textbooks, room and board, school supplies and much more. Sometimes, these costs are so high that students find themselves facing an overwhelming large amount of debt.
Take a look at the class of 2014, for example. The average college student graduating this year is about $33,000 in debt, with nearly 60 percent having taken out a student loan.
And, not only does college debt affect each student, it affects the U.S. economy as well. With a total student loan debt of $1.2 trillion, this country can expect to see those with debt refraining from buying houses, cars and other purchases that contribute to the overall economy.
After learning this fact and seeing others struggle with student debt, two men became inspired and decided to create a college cost-saving website called Mortarboarder.
In a day and age where crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have created an Internet revolution, Mortarboarder has joined in and found its niche market: college students.
With Mortarboarder, “students can ask what they need for college. It gives them the option to do that,” said Mortarboarder CEO Praveen Srikanth, who graduated with only $6,000 in debt (thanks to part-time jobs and money-saving techniques) and paid it off within two to three months after graduating.
As Srikanth explained, Mortarboarder’s goal is simple: to help millions of students graduate from college debt free. To do this, the site allows students to create profiles for donors to see and donate money to financially help struggling students through college. Tuition, gift cards, laptops, backpacks, textbooks, school supplies—whatever students need, they can list it on their profiles and wait for donors to contribute (think of Mortarboarder sort of as a wedding registry for students).
“Looking at the data we have…there’s a very wide range of need. We’re seeing everything from a $20 gift card to a MacBook Pro,” said Mortarboarder CTO Justin Alcon when talking about what students are asking for on the site. “People are taking it very seriously. They’re not joking or hacking it—they’re being very earnest about what they need.”
At first glance, this site may seem like a tool made exclusively for current college students at two- or four-year schools, but that’s not true. There are three more types of users that can participate in Mortarboarder’s services: high school students about to enter college, students who’ve already graduated from college and former students who were unable to complete their college education. As Srikanth said, Mortarboarder is for anyone facing college debt.
However, those looking to just nab free, “cool” goodies and cash for non-school related purposes should be warned: there are multiple ways the site can detect if someone is a fraud or abusing the service. One way is by screening the students, said Alcon.
Srikanth added, “We use as much technology as possible. We go and check that they have an ‘.edu’ email address.” He also said Mortarboarder seeks confirmation from a college or university to make sure a current student actually exists or a former student attended that school.
So far, the students on Mortarboarder are good apples, so to speak. “Currently, all of the profiles on our site are what we would call ‘certified.’ We check each of them, we check into the delivery addresses, and we personally communicate with people,” said Alcon.
There is no screening process for donors, however. Alcon and Srikanth explained it was very important to them that the process of donating was easy. A donor can go to Mortarboarder, pick a student and donate. It’s that simple. They can even donate anonymously.
However, it’s up to the students to get the word out about their Mortarboarder profile by sharing it on Facebook or Twitter, or sending it to family and friends via email.
Literally, saving money and avoiding college debt is just a click away. With Mortarboarder, everyone battling college debt will find they can combat higher education’s exceedingly high costs in an easy, effective manor.
And those of us who have already paid off our college debt would agree with Alcon and Srikanth when they say, “We wish they had this when we were in college!”
Get a $10 AMAZON GIFT CARD just for signing up and publishing a profile on Mortarboarder!