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Paying a Portion of a Student's Tuition Is a Click Away

Do you feel for students who struggle to pay for college? Now there's an easy way to do something about it. Today, a new website debuted where you can click on the profile of a low-income student and pay anywhere from $1 to $2,500 toward his or her tuition.

CO-Fund was established by an enterprising group of Brown University students led by 21-year-old Cody Simmons. Attending a large public high school in Florida, Simmons says he saw many students accepted to college who couldn't afford to go. This experience, along with his work with high-tech startups, inspired Simmons to come up with the idea of soliciting micro-donations to help college students in need. "It's something I'm passionate about," says Simmons, who will graduate this month.

A cool feature of the concept is that recipients have to take a "pay-it-forward" pledge that they must fulfill after graduation. In response to receiving $2,500 for tuition (the money is paid directly to their college bursar's office), the student can either work for CO-Fund or a partner organization for a year, donate one-fifth of the amount to other CO-Fund students, complete 100 hours of community service in college, or complete a graduate program.

While the pledge is not legally binding, CO-Fund is carefully screening students and hopes to attract "CO-Fund Fellows" with a strong social obligation to give back. Candidates are referred to CO-Fund by its partner organizations, Brown's chapter of the National College Advising Corps, and College Visions. Students are chosen based on college-preparedness, personal background, and motivations for becoming a fellow. CO-Fund is sponsored by Rhode Islanders Sponsoring Education (RISE), which provides CO-Fund with a not-for-profit, tax-exempt status.

The site launches today with profiles of four diverse students, including their interests, aspirations, and testimonials from encouraging mentors. If you decide to support a student, your name and comment can be added to the donors' list and you can stay connected with your student. CO-Fund is starting small with its pilot of four Rhode Island students, but Simmons hopes as the word gets out it can help many more deserving students nationwide.

It's a tangible way to help one student at a time. As the cost of college continues to skyrocket, this innovative idea may indeed take off.

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