Samantha Figueroa recently lost her job due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As an incoming sophomore at San Jose State University, she suddenly had an urgent need to find a way to earn scholarships to help pay for college and defray living costs.
Enter the Future Minds Fund.
Launched in May, the nonprofit helps students raise money for college in a way that’s increasingly common in a nation with a gutted social safety net: by crowdfunding.
Future Minds was created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has decimated the global economy, resulting in the loss of 30 million jobs in the U.S. alone.
The crowdfunding platform leveraged existing technology of its parent company, scholarshipowl.com, to help students streamline the scholarship search, match and application process, enabling them to find additional resources to pay for college.
“When we launched, we got over 3,000 applicants, mostly through word of mouth,” ScholarshipOwl CEO David Tabachnikov said. “There was such overwhelming demand that we could not help all of those students at that very moment. So we started contacting other companies with platforms to help us out.”
The number of applicants kept increasing—it’s now at 10,000 and counting—so the nonprofit opened things up for crowdfunding as a way to bring in charitable donations.
To date, according to Tabachnikov, hundreds of students in the South Bay have already applied for scholarships, including Figueroa, Desiree Paz, Marisa Vinson, Valerie Mata and Viridiana Galvez Garcia, among others.
The scholarship process can often be a long, frustrating and arduous process. However, the Future Minds Fund platform makes the application process simple and user-friendly.
“This gives students like myself an opportunity to earn money for college,” Figueroa told San Jose Inside in an interview earlier this week. “It’s an easy and convenient process. You need to show proof you’re going to a college or educational institution and write a short paragraph/essay on why you believe you deserve the scholarship.”
Each student can crowdfund up to $2,500. The Future Minds Fund has awarded a total of $15,500 to students, with some of the donations coming from corporate sponsors and individual donors. It has a goal to award over 1,000 scholarships through a platform that was initially designed to be a short-term solution to an extraordinary problem.
“But due to the response we got from this and the flexibility of the platform, I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be something long-term where we can help students with their education, both in emergency and normal times, whenever we go back to normal times,” Tabachnikov said.
Galvez Garcia, another Future Minds user, was accepted to UC Berkeley—her dream school—but is enrolled at San Jose State because she couldn’t afford the UC tuition fees.
“UC Berkeley was my first choice, but unfortunately I didn’t get enough help and didn’t want to take student loans out, so I ended up choosing San Jose State,” she said in a recent interview. “The Future Minds Fund is great, especially in these times because people don’t have money to pay for college.”