MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With the cost of tuition rising every year, crowd fundraising site GoFundMe reports more people are turning to the internet to ask for help.
The College Board estimates the average college student graduates with $30,000 in loans.
According to GoFundMe, the number of people asking for help with college tuition has skyrocketed in the last five years: from 135 campaigns in 2010, to 141,129 in 2015 so far.
Minneapolis resident Michael Lee says he started a college tuition campaign on June 22, 2015.
As of Friday afternoon, he had raised nearly $9,000 through GoFundMe.
“If I shut the door on the past completely, I will forget how bad it was and that’s how I’m going to go back,” Lee said.
His struggles began at age 13 while growing up in Hopkins, when he began using drugs and alcohol.
“I was suicidal for a lot of high school, and when I got out of that, even then I was like, it just made sense to me that I wasn’t going to live very long,” he said.
But Lee got sober at age 20. He says he spent eight years completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Minnesota and getting treatment.
Lee says he helped teach other troubled youth about writing and the arts during that period.
“It’s not that I don’t deserve this life, but I feel as though I have to work and live each day to continually deserve it,” Lee said.
When Lee finally graduated in May 2015, he says he got into a one-year master’s program at Harvard University that would give him the tools to create more arts programming.
“If you would’ve told me that I was going to go to Harvard, I would have laughed,” Lee said.
But he almost deferred his admission because it costs $73,000 for the year, including the cost of living.
Lee says grants and loans covered $40,000. His friend suggested he start a GoFundMe page to raise the rest of the money he needed by fall.
“At first I felt selfish, but I realized I can do a lot of good by getting an education and then using that to create more opportunities and funding for the arts,” Lee said.
He says people had donated thousands toward his $30,000 goal within hours.
“What I really hope is that people aren’t just giving to me as me, but the work that I’m doing and the work I want to do in the future,” Lee said.
He says he will have a part-time job at Harvard teaching writing workshops to teens. He will also need to find sober living support groups to continue his fight to stay sober.