This article was originally published on 03/27/2019

For many students, crowdfunding campaigns are quickly becoming part of the experience of paying for college. That’s partially because of how quickly the price of education is rising.

A 2017 report found that tuition and fees were rising faster than aid, according to Inside Higher Ed. And according to an article by Forbes, the cost of attending college has risen almost eight times faster than wages.

Founders Kayla Michele and Chisa Egbelu were inspired to start PeduL because of what they saw happening in the education system.

Launched in 2016, PeduL is a crowdfunding site for students. It’s unique in that any money raised goes directly to schools in the form of a scholarship.

Growing up in college towns, Egbelu noticed a troubling trend: Students couldn’t afford to go to college and it was having a negative impact on their lives. Michele’s decision to join the team was also inspired by her own personal experiences.

“I decided to join the PeduL team because I know all too well just how unfair and painful it is to be stripped of an opportunity — not because I didn’t earn or deserve it but because I was born into the wrong tax bracket,” Michele said.

So far, over 1,500 students have started campaigns on PeduL and about 10% have successfully reached their goal, raising over $125,000 towards tuition. Although PeduL is still young, the founders already have plans for expansion.

Later this year, PeduL will debut their common application for scholarships in partnership with Google’s Digital Career Coach, Angelina Darrisaw. High school and college students can even sign up now. Ultimately, the goal is to make PeduL a one-stop shop for scholarships online.

Egbelu compared the company’s model to that of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which uses scholarships to source and develop talent for the NBA, NFL, and other professional sports leagues. PeduL lets companies use that same model with education.

Through scholarships offered on PeduL, companies can also pair them up with internships, ambassadorships, mentorship, and training opportunities. This will allow them to maximize their talent pipeline, according to Egbelu.

“Companies will now have the opportunity to use scholarships as a tool to attract and engage a curated pool of students based on their strategic hiring needs,” Egbelu explained.

By branching into scholarships and more, PeduL stands to combat some of the effects of a college-education system that’s set on barring Black and low-income youth, in particular.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department charged dozens of wealthy parents, including celebrities Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, for using cheating and bribery to get their kids into prestigious universities. Although the accusations shocked some, many, including Michele, weren’t surprised.

“All I know for sure is that this scandal ain’t nothing new” Michele said.

Michele says she was a junior champion golfer in high school and even placed at one of the top universities in New York, but turned it down because she’d accumulate $40,000 in debt per year.  Later, she says she watched a classmate attend the same university after their father cut a six figure check.

Michele says things like the recent college admissions scandal are part of why PeduL was created in the first place. 

“It’s evidentiary proof of the systemic barriers that has and continues to marginalize a vast majority of our youth, ultimately denying future generations the opportunity to participate in the same economic activities as our parents” Michele said. 

To both of the founders, its indicative of systemic barriers that continue to exclude particular students.

“What we have seen is the tip of the iceberg and I want to see what the rest of it looks like” Egbelu said.

Those systemic barriers can’t be magically waved away, but sites like PeduL help to promote equality in education. From helping students raise money to expanding to provide scholarships and different opportunities, PeduL is a useful tool that all college students should be aware of.

“Our government has slowly enabled college to shift from accessible, yet dispensable, commodity to a necessary luxury,” Michele said. “We’re creating the one-stop shop for scholarships to ensure that all students have equal access to quality education — regardless of the resources and networks available to them.”