Rutgers community supports GoFundMe campaign to help student graduate
When a Rutgers graduate student found himself at a financial standstill in his educational career, he turned to crowdsourcing for help.
School of Arts and Sciences senior Matthew Menchaca registered, attended and completed all of his classes, but he was unable to graduate because he could not pay his tuition, according to his GoFundMe page.
With the help of various donors, Matthew Menchaca was able to pay his tuition for the semester.
“It helped a lot, it really helped allow me to graduate,” Matthew Menchaca said. “I think it has taught me to be resilient and not to give up.”
Menchaca’s brother, Nicolas Azlon Menchaca, said it is very important for Matthew to receive the funding necessary for higher education. Matthew has been recognized by many of his professors at Rutgers for doing outstanding work.
According to the GoFundMe page, Matthew Menchaca, who double majored in philosophy and cognitive science, was able to reach his goal of $3,600 and earn his diploma.
The primary writer of the GoFundMe, Tobi Michelle Santagado, said despite financial hardships, Matthew Menchaca has an intellect that is on another plane.
“I've been teaching logic and I grade for three professors right now, so I see the value of philosophy. It gets people to think independently and it gets them to analyze,” Matthew Menchaca said.
After researching the top philosophy programs in the nation, he found that New York University was ranked number one, but was too expensive. Rutgers was ranked number two, Matthew Menchaca said.
Matthew Menchaca is in a very specific area of study and is working to answer hard questions that the average person is well equipped to engage with, Nicolas Menchaca said.
“People told me on the way, ‘I don’t know why you've done this, this is a stupid idea, this is a bad financial decision and what’s the point in philosophy,’” Matthew Menchaca said. “It's really not possible without the goodwill of people, without having some friends, without having people that you communicate with and are sympathetic.”
Santagado said the GoFundMe page is still active and receiving donations.
Alphonse Burley contributed a large chunk of the remaining balance, Santagado said.
“From what I know, he also believes in Matt,” Santagado said.
Matthew Menchaca faced many financial hardships throughout his educational career, according to the GoFundMe page. He said working with financial aid can be a very cumbersome and bureaucratic process.
According to the Office of Financial Aid—New Brunswick, more than $6.2 million in aid was received by undergraduate students last year.
“Honors (program) Dean Muffin Lord helped me. One of my professors in philosophy wrote to her and said you should help this student to pay for school,” Matthew Menchaca said.
After his first year, he was able to get the entire second semester paid for after receiving a scholarship from Peter Klein, who worked in the Department of Philosophy for 30 years before retiring, Matthew Menchaca said.
For several semesters he had written letters, attempting to receive funding because he has not received full aid since his freshman year, Matthew Menchaca said.
“It's kind of like you're stuck between a rock and a hard place, and in the end, it's unfortunate even though you're in a larger school,” Santagado said. “They can't look at it case by case and he's become a victim of that rigidity.”
Nicolas Menchaca said there are families who can easily pay six figures for a person's education and it's not necessarily a financial burden to them, but their family doesn't come from that same place of luxury.
Santagado said she knew people who were living paycheck to paycheck that still managed to donate to Matthew Menchaca's cause.
Manuel Silva-Paulus is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and media studies. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.