Ruth Artze, 18, always had the dream of attending Florida International University to study journalism and public relations.
Ruth’s parents, however, cannot afford to send her there.
“I’ve applied for scholarships, big ones, but the competitions are rigorous to get them,” she said.
But thanks to her CAP advisor, Horacio Sierra, the Coral Park High School senior has $2,000 per year for a four-year education at FIU through the Raise.me program.
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“I read about the program through one of Mr. Sierra’s emails and found out that they give you money for your achievements — like getting an ‘A’ in a class or doing community service,” she said. “When my parents found out that I was going to college and had the money to do so, they were very proud — my dad even cried.”
Raise.me is a scholarship program that partners with colleges and universities to help find methods of financial aid. Students in as early as ninth grade can earn tuition money for achievements — such as good grades, attendance and community service — from the colleges and/or universities they wish to attend. The online program also helps students research various institutions by listing admission requirements and acceptance rates.
Preston Silverman, CEO of Raise.me, thought of the program’s concept in 2011 as a high school teacher in India.
“I started talking about college and plans after graduation with my students,” said Silverman, 33. “That’s when I noticed that more than $100 billion is being awarded to students for tuition, but it comes after they’ve applied.”
Silverman said the colleges and universities that partner with Raise.me agreed to create a micro-scholarship program that awards students for achievements that the institution deems important. Scholarship amounts vary based on each institution’s budget.
“It’s a really simple and easy way to discover scholarships for college,” said Silverman. “That’s how students describe it to each other.”
Since the program’s 2012 launch, FIU was the first four-year public institution in Florida to get on board with it.
Jody Glassman, FIU’s admissions director, learned about the program at the National Association for College Admission Counseling conference and alerted Luisa Havens, the university’s vice president of enrollment.
“Many students at FIU are first-generation students or of low income and don’t have a lot of special capital for college,” said Havens, 47. “We always struggle with how do we extend this type of intervention as early as freshman year, and how we can leverage financial aid in a better way.”
Raise.me set up a webinar meeting with Havens in October 2014, and she was “sold immediately.”
FIU awards $55 for each ‘A’ earned in a course, $50 for good attendance and an increase in GPA.
“We have more than 22,000 followers on the platform,” said Havens. “By the time that freshman comes to FIU, we would have been an important player in raising their capital.”
This statement is true for 14-year-old Cameron Reese, a freshman at Coral Reef High School, who discovered the program through his school’s newsletter. He is now a student ambassador for the program and gets other students enrolled.
“Everyone wants to go to college, but a lot of students have trouble paying for it,” Cameron said.
Cameron currently has $1,000 in scholarships for Miami Dade College and roughly $14,000 for Flagler College in St. Augustine.
“This program is important because it lets you gain micro-scholarships proportionate to the expense of an education at that college or university,” he said.
Cameron is currently looking at Tulane University in New Orleans and Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.
As for Ruth Artze, a fellow student ambassador, she accepted an admission letter for FIU on Nov. 20, and is awaiting orientation in April.
“Hopefully, I am the first person to sign up,” she said. “I check the page every day, twice a day.”
For information about Raise.me or to sign up, visit www.raise.me.