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Two Rutgers students create crowdfunding platform for college expenses

<p>Kayla Jackson and Chisa Egbelu, the respective COO and CEO of PeduL, met while taking courses in the Department of Journalism ans Media Studies at Rutgers. As alumni, the two have collaborated to create a platform that helps students crowdfund to cover their educational expenses.</p>

Kayla Jackson and Chisa Egbelu, the respective COO and CEO of PeduL, met while taking courses in the Department of Journalism ans Media Studies at Rutgers. As alumni, the two have collaborated to create a platform that helps students crowdfund to cover their educational expenses.

Through the higher-education crowdfunding platform called PeduL, students have raised more than $6,000 over the last 30 days for their respective educational expenses. 

Chisa Egbelu, the CEO of PeduL, and Kayla Jackson, the COO, joined forces after taking classes together within the journalism and media studies major at Rutgers, Jackson said. 

Inspiration for the company came from a common story among college students today — struggling to afford the increasing cost of higher education.

PeduL strives to serve as a one-stop shop for college funding. The platform, which technically launched in October, provides students with the tools necessary to start a campaign and raise money, while also trying to partner students with corporations and scholarship-providers to help them after graduation, Jackson said. 

Egbelu said the particular situation that spurred the creation of PeduL came while he was a Rutgers student. His suite mate at the time wanted to pursue music, a change from his computer science major. To do this he auditioned at different schools and planned to transfer to another university, but even after taking out loans and pulling money together, he still could not afford the switch.

Egbelu said the conversation surrounded his suite mate wishing that there was something similar to Kickstarter but for college students. 

“And then that’s when it was kind of like wait, why isn’t there?” Egbelu said.

Jackson explained the process for students who want to start their campaign, which begins with them visiting the PeduL website and inserting some basic information.

“(We ask for) information that they consider would make them the most competitive candidate in the eyes of traditional scholarship committees,” she said.

This includes identifying the amount of money they want to raise, choosing a campaign title and choosing profile and cover pictures. Jackson said the pictures make the campaign look more personable and were inspired by Facebook and other social media sites — as creating a human experience is one of the goals at PeduL.

She said the company also asks prospective users to upload any documents that would help the campaign compete in the eyes of “traditional scholarship committees.” These include certifications, a resume or letters of recommendation, among other documents.

The next step consists of creating video and written stories, chronicling the student's journey and why pursuing education is important to them, Jackson said.

She said once the campaign is published it typically lasts between 30 and 40 days — a common campaign time frame on most crowdfunding platforms.

Its education-based niche within the crowdfunding community separates the company from established industry competitors like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, Egbelu said. But what also makes PeduL different are the personal experiences it creates.

“When a student comes up to our platform, we want them to have a very human experience, and we want them to be as successful as possible,” Egbelu said. “So we work with them right on site, so we talk to them on the phone, we meet up with them, we really make it a personal experience.”

Jackson echoed that statement and said the company’s engagement with its clients plays a role in the success of both parties. By listening to students' stories and tapping into their networks, PeduL is able to help them create customized campaigns and fundraising strategies.

Students get paired with a PeduL representative who helps them strategize how to fundraise effectively, she said.

“Unfortunately a lot of companies right now, like Kickstarter and GoFundMe and them, they kind of make you really dependent on just yourself and social media,” Jackson said. “So we actually pair you with someone on our team who can help you walk through a real strategy to reach your goal.”

When a campaign is finished, PeduL sends a scholarship letter and check directly to the university on the student’s behalf, completing step one of the company’s mission, she said.

For PeduL to make money, the company takes a 5 percent transaction fee of all the currency that goes into the platform. Money from this fee, as well as from advertisements and creating specific partnerships, goes back into running the company, keeping the platform up, hiring people and expanding, Egbelu said.

Moving forward, the company hopes to expand by landing some corporate sponsorships and working with influencers and scholarship-providers, Jackson said.

“We kind of view that as a pipeline to employment opportunity,” she said. 

Jackson said many different corporations want to sponsor different kinds of people and by tapping into that, PeduL can help give students a taste of the corporate world before they actually enter it.

While only just launching last month, PeduL already has some active campaigns. 

On their website the campaigns and profiles are outlined — two of which are campaigns from Rutgers students.

Egbelu said that his and Jackson's alma mater has been supportive of them, and the opportunities and experiences they had while competing in different contests as students were beneficial.

“The people we were able to meet throughout those experiences really helped us set our strategies, gave us services that we otherwise would not have and really helped us take the company to another level,” Egbelu said.

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