Ricardo crowdfunds his tuition
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As tuition fees continue to rise globally, many students are hanging their hopes of paying for college on crowdfunding campaigns. There are thousands of campaigns currently running through GoFundMe for educational costs.
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Ricardo is an eternal optimist, but he doesn’t have blind faith. He believes in his own ability to hustle and make ends meet. But when he had to pay more than 9,000 euros for his tuition fees, he knew that he couldn’t do it alone: he turned to crowdfunding.
‘It was a very last resort. It’s not every day that you open up like that to the world’, Ricardo says. ‘I had no idea what to expect, it was really a shot in the dark. Even if it only came up with 100 bucks, then hey, we’re 100 bucks closer.’
So far, they’re 3,172 euros closer. A GoFundMe campaign was set up by Saskia Meijer, a 21-year-old Dutch law student at the Hanzehogeschool and Ricardo’s girlfriend of two years, and Mohammed Al Rubaiy, another close friend, to help Ricardo cover his expenses. Saskia says: ‘I love him to death, so I don’t want him to go. And why wouldn’t you help someone if you can?’
Ricardo has contributed 1,000 euros to the campaign himself. ‘I’m pretty proud of what I do, and I will succeed’, he says.
But why did he choose to stay? He knew it would be difficult. He is not an EU citizen, meaning he cannot legally work in the Netherlands. ‘With a Mexican passport here, you don’t get peanuts. I got no study financing, no grants, and although I talked to a few representatives from the university about my situation, they said that I didn’t qualify for any university help.’
‘But I wouldn’t be myself if I wouldn’t stay and at least give it a try’, he says. He sees going home empty handed as failing. ‘My dad sent me here and spent a lot of money to get me here. What would it mean if I were to come back with nothing?’
In the fall of 2010, he persuaded his family to let him go to college abroad. But in early 2013, things changed back home, and the remaining years of his studies had to be paid for by other means.
Give him a break
The financial department of the RUG is allowing him to pay in instalments every few months: before graduating, he has to pay 9,195 euros. He says he is doing everything he can to make it happen.
Even though the campaign, launched in June, was intended as a short-term, last-ditch effort, there is no deadline on GoFundMe – to date, 48 different donors have contributed on and offline over the past four months, including Saskia and Ricardo themselves.
Although dozens of people have helped him out, others have expressed their doubts. ‘You know how Dutch people are, they like to sit on their money’, Saskia says. On the crowdfunding page, they seek to persuade donors: ‘Every single euro/dollar will go directly to his tuition fees.’
No obvious return
Saskia says they feel they have to prove it to people: on the crowdfunding page, there’s a picture of him actually making one of his payment installments at the university cashier’s office. But the whole experience has been surprising. ‘People that you think would donate didn’t, and people that you didn’t think would actually did – and donated a lot. You really know who your friends are then’, she says.‘You really know who your friends are then’
Unlike a typical crowdfunding campaign, donating to someone’s college education doesn’t have an obvious return on investment for the contributors. Ricardo believes that it is an investment, and he wants to pay it forward: with his RUG degree, he will be able to work in Europe. His plan is to get a high-paying job that will let him cover his younger sister’s college education.
‘It would be like giving something to her’, he says. ‘I would like for her to have the same chances that I had.’
He’s entered his final year now. Although he’s not sure where the rest of the money will come from, it’s all been working out so far, so he’s hopeful. ‘All of the money has to happen, but I think I can do it. I think we can do it, right?’ he asks, looking at Saskia. She nods in agreement.