While listening to the radio on the way to work last week, I heard a news story that caught my attention. The story was about a high school senior in Michigan named Rachel who wants to attend college at the University of Notre Dame. Notre Dame is a private college and tuition plus room and board will cost her about $46,000 a year. Given the current economy, Rachel is unable to afford Notre Dame so she is using the internet to help. She has set up a web site asking people to donate money so she can pay for college.
Raising money over the internet, sometimes referred to as cyberbegging, is not a new idea. The first and most famous example was a woman named Karyn back in 2002. Karyn found herself thousands of dollars in debt so she came up with the novel idea of asking for money via a web site. With one creative idea, a lot of publicity and the generosity (or stupidity depending how you look at it) of strangers, this woman was able to raise enough money to pay off her debt and become a household name in the process. Another woman currently trying to drum up donations over the web is Nadya Suleman, aka Octomom. Yes, using the internet to raise money has become more popular and now this 17 year old high school senior is trying to, literally, cash in on it.
In the aforementioned news story, Rachel states that it was the success of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in soliciting funds over the internet that inspired her to to turn to the internet to help pay for college. Yes Rachel, Obama was able to raise millions of dollars over the internet. But people donated money to Obama because he was offering something in return – change. Change for their country. Change for a better life. If I contribute to your college fund, Rachel, what’s in for me? What do I get out of it? Emails about how you spend your weekends at Notre Dame drunk and hungover? OK, maybe I’m being a little too harsh on good ole Rachel. On her web site, Rachel, a type 1 diabetic, explains that after she completes her undergraduate education, she wants to go to medical school and become a pediatric endocrinologist. Very noble career aspirations, but, again, how does this benefit me? If I donate to your college education and you fulfill your career goal, does this mean that if I ever need the services of a pediatric endocrinologist you will be available at my beck and call? The only problem is that after 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, 3 years of an internal medicine residency, and a 3 year endocrine fellowship, my children will be entering adulthood and, therefore, will have no need for a pediatric endocrinologist. This doesn’t seem like a very good return on my investment, does it? Also, why Notre Dame? Notre Dame may be your dream school and you may really want to spend the next 4 years there, but do you really need to go to Notre Dame? $46,000 a year for a college education is a lot of money. And $184, 000 (not factoring in yearly tuition increases) for an undergraduate degree is really a lot of money. When I wanted to apply to a “prestigious” expensive private university, do you know what my father said? He said, “Don’t bother applying, I’m not paying for it”. There are plenty of well respected colleges, including state schools, that are more affordable and you’ll still be able to achieve your dream of being a doctor. Going to a private college is not a prerequisite for getting into medical school. I know. I received my undergraduate degree from a state school, was accepted to medical school and became a physician. You can too and you don’t have to spend $46,000 a year to do it.
Although I personally think spending $46,000 a year on college is crazy, if complete strangers are fans of Rachel’s web site and make donations, I congratulate her on a successful endeavor as well as bringing the subject of cyberbegging to the forefront. Maybe Rachel has the right idea – why waste time filling out long complicated financial aid forms when you can cyberbeg instead. Just repeat after me – if you build it (a web site), they will come (and contribute money). Do you need a new car/major appliance/vacation/plastic surgery but can’t afford it? Let’s take a moment to explore your options. You could (A) work really hard at your job until you earn enough money to pay for it (B) hope that somewhere buried in the 800 pages of the economic stimulus bill there’s a million dollar bonus waiting for you or (C) create your very own web page, sit back and watch as the money comes rolling in. Unless you’re an executive of AIG, option B is not going to happen, so choose option C and start soliciting. Remember when begging meant you had to spend your days standing on a street corner, cup in hand, hoping for some spare change from strangers? The sight of the StreetWise vendor on the corner shouting, “StreetWise! StreetWise!” may become a mere memory. Today’s panhandler can use technology to eliminate all of the hard work associated with begging. By setting up a web page/free Craigslist.com ad/Paypal account, StreetWise vendors can peddle their StreetWise newspaper online. No more standing out in the freezing cold or oppressive heat- now your friendly neighborhood Streetwise vendor can spend his/her days enjoying the warmth or air conditioning of their local library as they use the internet to watch porn monitor their newspaper sales.
After witnessing the success of others, I’ve decided to get on the cyberbegging bandwagon. Like Rachel, I’m asking you to donate to my cause and like Obama, in return for your donation I’m offering you change. What kind of change? Change in how you shop for jeans.
I will be conducting an important study on the topic of premium denim and I need your help in funding my research in denimology. My study will focus on high end premium jeans like 7 For All Mankind, True Religion and Citizens of Humanity as well as nonpremium, more affordable brands of jeans such as the pair of Liz Claiborne jeans I recently purchased at Carsons (on clearance marked down 80% – sweet!). I hope to answer the age old question “are premium denim blue jeans really any better than regular blue jeans?” The jeans will be vigorously tested to see how each pair holds up after multiple washings and wearings. Your generous donation will help pay for the supplies needed for my research – the jeans. I can’t do this research unless I have many pairs of jeans, including high end denim, so please contact me and contribute. The results of my study may change your shopping habits and subsequently result in more money in your pocket. This debate between premium denim and “regular” denim has raged on for too long and I feel it is my duty as a scientist to put an end to this dilemma once and for all. Please donate to this very important cause. Your donation is not tax deductible. In the immortal words of Bartles & James, thank you for your support.