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Monday, May 09, 2016  
Posted by: Barbara Reichart
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GoodCall News 

Universities Join Raise.Me to Give High School Students the Chance to Get Micro-Scholarships

BY ELIANA OSBORN | 5/9/2016 9:53 AM

While the Obama administration works to reform higher education from the top down and individual states are striving to make a difference by adopting some form of free college, Indiana State University is taking an alternate approach to college affordability. It recently partnered up with Raise.Me, the online micro-scholarship portfolio initiative supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

To date, Raise.Me has more than 150 college and university partners offering the micro-scholarships, and 250,000 participants at more than 17,000 high schools nationwide. The idea is to motivate students during their four years of schooling before college, through monetary achievements. For example, students can accumulate small monetary rewards for earning an A or taking a leadership role in a club or on a sports team. Small achievements in high school pay off in money earned toward college.

To create an account—and start accruing funds—candidates must have a 3.0 GPA. To use your Raise.Me money during college, that same GPA must be maintained. Once students register with Raise.Me and build an individual portfolio, they choose between five and ten schools to follow. Micro-scholarships are added from those schools and based on activities or achievements listed in the portfolios. Raise.Me maxes out at $80,000 to be spread over four years of college.

According to John Beacon, senior vice president for enrollment management, marketing and communications at Indiana State University, they want Raise.Me to function as motivation. “This initiative encourages students beginning in the 9th grade to strive to make good academic progress so they are better prepared for college, both mentally and financially. Students may earn up to $2,800 in micro scholarships over their time in high school that will be applied against their cost of attendance when they enroll at ISU. Because this amount is renewable, by maintaining good academic standing in college and by completing a minimum 30 credits each year, the award can be renewed for four years for a total of $11,200. Small rewards add up quickly.”

Raise.Me has been up and running for a while, but the ISU partnership just began in late April. Beacon says they’ve had a tremendous response with “more than 1,500 students from across the country completing portfolios and following us.”

Beacon says the visual interface of Raise.Me is one of its benefits, making clear the progress a student is making towards the daunting task of paying for college. “We serve a large segment of first-generation, low-income students, many of whom find college out of their financial reach; federal aid is typically not enough to cover the full cost of attendance, resulting in large unmet need gaps. These awards help to fill that unmet need. We think many of those who follow us will be good, solid academic students who don’t necessarily qualify for the top merit awards given by us and most other institutions. Our hope is this initiative will help in some small way to see our state and the nation achieve the goal of 60% of the population earn college degrees.”

One idea behind the partnership with Raise.Me is to target students before they’ve applied to college and to get students interested in higher education who maybe wouldn’t have considered it previously.

Michele Streeter from the Education Finance Council says that they support the concept Raise.Me is espousing. “Micro scholarships are a positive tool for helping students defray the costs of higher education — whether it be textbook purchases or transportation costs — and reducing a students’ need to borrow student loans. They can also provide positive motivation for students to succeed in a variety of ways.”

The simplicity of Raise.Me makes some people skeptical. The scholarship amounts vary between schools and can’t make up the entire cost of tuition. However, participating in the program is separate from Pell grants or other need-based aid and could help to make up for gaps in the cost of attending college and financial aid.