One high school student earned $80,000 before walking down the aisle for graduation. Abby Saxastar raised the money through a startup called Raise.me and is using the funds to cover her full tuition at Stetson University, a private college in central Florida.
According to CNN, Raise.me developed a way for high school students to earn scholarship money for college by rewarding them for their individual achievements. Students are granted scholarship money from Raise.me’s college partners based on their academic performance and level of engagement with their communities.
Since its launch in August 2014, 60,000 students from 5,000 high schools have signed up for the platform that has received backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Facebook.
The program has partnered with 76 colleges including the University of Massachusetts, Tulane and Penn State. Preston Silverman, co-founder of the startup, said he is looking to increase that number to 100 colleges by the end of 2015.
Students are able to sign up on the platform and start earning money if they meet the college’s GPA requirements. Each achievement is awarded between $500 to $1,000, but students don’t see any of the money until they earn admission to one of the colleges.
Though Saxastar learned about the program nearing the end of her senior year, she was able to input her grades and activities for the past years. The program is designed for students like Saxastar, who said of her experience:
“I’ve always been very successful in school and I’ve also done a lot of volunteer work. But I still had to figure out how to pay for college.
“My family is digging through some debt and taking out loans for my other expenses. So getting this scholarship has been amazing.”
Raise.me could be a game-changer for students who usually wouldn’t consider college because of their financial circumstances. Though the program does not target any particular demographic, Silverman reports that 49% of students signing up are from low-income families He said:
“Most scholarships today are awarded at the very end of high school. It’s too late to influence a student’s college search and application process.”