Crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Hubbub are well known for showcasing those seeking money to pay for creative projects and business ventures. And as with all things online, you also get the occasional wacky scheme that goes viral, such as the guy who raised $55,000 to make a potato salad.
Now students are getting in on the e-funding act, but they're not using the sites to launch products or even make a tasty side dish. Instead, they're using it to raise money for their education.
Last week, Oxford graduate Emily-Rose Eastop raised a staggering £26,000 for her master's, despite not working in the four years since she graduated. She came under flak for it but if you can raise that sort of cash to do something you love, why wouldn't you?
Even universities are beginning to use crowdfunding as a way to fund extracurricular projects, with the University of York and Oxford Brookes partnering with Hubbub, launching portals through which anyone can help fund innovative projects.
More and more hard-up students are turning to the web to effectively ask strangers for cash so they can chase their academic dreams. Most of them hope to do master's courses, which are difficult to fund because there's no student finance service like for undergraduate courses.
But donating to a crowdfunding cause isn't just a one-way thing. Crowdfunders can offer a range of personalised gifts, with the sky being the limit - and the more you donate, the more you'll get in return. If you pledged £500 to Emily's master's, you can expect a professionally bound copy of her eventual dissertation at the end of the course. Fancy!
Emily's video, in which she pleas for financial help to go back to Oxford, has reached nearly 30,000 views and she's even received donations from science bigwigs Stephen Pinker and Douglas Hofstadter. She responded in the Telegraph
to accusations of being a "posh brat", saying: "It's become a bit of a joke among my friends - not least because I went to Leytonstone School, a local comprehensive. (I think I might have to get the phrase printed on a T-shirt when all this is over)."
Peter Spiro via Getty Images
After desperately campaigning for months to pay for an MSt in English at Oxford, Lindsey-Anne was offered a brand new means-tested scholarship, meaning she was able to refund her generous donors. She wrote on her page:
"All my tuition fees are covered in addition to a grant for living expenses. I can't tell you how much of a weight has been lifted knowing that I can afford to take up my place at Oxford. Thank you all so much for your support... Pint in The Bear anyone?"
The first in her family to go to university, Cristal hoped to travel to the UK for two weeks to study history courses. When she started university, she told her course advisor she wanted to study abroad, only to be told that would be impossible given her financial situation. "I have not given up on this hope and I found a program in the International Summer School at the University of Cambridge," she wrote on her fundraising page.
Nick graduated from Oxford Brookes with a first-class honours in philosophy and has a place at Oxford for September. At first, he was reluctant to try crowdfunding out but thought he might as well give it a go. Nick wrote on his crowdfunding page:
"And so I turn to the internet for further help, in the hope that whatever I can get can be pooled together in some dramatic financial rescue mission."