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Tuesday, Dec 6, 2022
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Crowdfunded College Next Big Thing?

In a collaborative economy where online money-raising is increasingly popular, the idea of crowdfunding for college tuition was inevitable. Brian Harman co-founded GradLift Inc. in Woodland Hills two years ago but officially launched its online crowdfunding platform in April. “It’s like a scholarship crowdfunding,” Harman said, minus the paperwork, the need for contributors to verify the student’s information and concerns that the money may go toward something other than tuition. All those matters are handled – for a commission and small fee – by Harman and his company. GradLift combines the Internet’s reach and ease of access with the broadening acceptance of online fundraising to address the increasing cost of higher education. Crowdfunding raised more than $5 billion in 2013, according to Forbes magazine. College-bound youth on the GradLift website create profiles with basic information, such as current or preferred colleges, intended concentration and hobbies. Profiles are public and viewers can see how much money users have raised and their current goal. Money raised through GradLift goes directly to one of three places: a user’s 529 qualified tuition plan, the college the user is attending or to the college-loan lending institution for those who’ve graduated. GradLift doesn’t send the money until a user reaches a $1,500 threshold and provides the 529 plan’s information. “This is a platform to collect small funds,” Harman said, from “colleagues and distant relatives – not the normal people you would go to. … It’s really that third network – that outer network – you’re reaching.” GradLift takes up to 5 percent commission from contributions – similar to other crowdfunding sites, Harman said. So far, 35 users have raised thousands of dollars, Harman said. The company promotes its services through relationships with the financial aid department at Pepperdine University and the psychology department at Cal State University. – Carol Lawrence

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