You may have heard about a shiny new service that promises to reward high school students with money that can be applied to future college tuition if they reach certain targets. It is called Raise.me.
I confess I had not heard about it until our dear friend Laura Chapman wrote one of her deeply researched comments about it. She googled and came across a scathing article by Steve Nelson, the headmaster of the Calhoun School in New York City. I browsed the website of Raise.me and read the glowing articles written about it in the press.
You should learn about it too. It seems to be yet another way to gather personally identifiable information about students. It is part of the insidious data mining regime that certain philanthropies, corporations, and the federal government have been crafting to create both Big Data and cradle-to-grave data about individuals, usually without their knowledge.
First, Steve Nelson. He reminds us of the old adage that if something is too good to be true, it probably isn’t. He writes:
“In a matter of days I’ve gone from knowing nothing about Raise.me to being inundated with information. Raise.me is an organization that purports to provide wonderful scholarship opportunities to high school students, particularly those who are less privileged and less likely to have sophisticated guidance in choosing a college and financing their education.
“First awareness came via an uncritical New York Times piece describing Raise.me. After visiting their website I’ve received emails hoping my school might guide students to the program. Apparently many colleges and universities have signed on. If nothing else, this venture has good PR and marketing capabilities. I use the word “venture” intentionally, as will shortly be clear.
“Interested readers can visit the site to find details on the mechanics of the programs, but here is a short overview: Beginning in 9th grade, students register for the program and earn “dollars” for various things, including grades, grade point averages, AP courses, extra-curricular activities and others. Individual colleges assign their own values, so college X may offer $300 for an “A” and university Y offers only $100. The students then accumulate “dollars” that will be granted in scholarships by the college when and if the college admits the student.
“Too good to be true? Probably. Misleading? Perhaps.
“First, I must register an objection to monetizing student choices. Extrinsic motivators are fleeting and often counterproductive. There are already enough incentives that drive America’s students to see learning as an exercise in credential accumulation rather than seeking enlightenment, joy, creation or curiosity. This program is a more sophisticated version of the programs instituted in some urban schools, where small children are treated like laboratory animals, earning small rewards for compliant behavior or good grades.
“Raise.me takes the already stressful process of college application and presses it needlessly into years when students should be exploring, taking risks, having fun and not be encumbered by the pressure of getting in to college. (This is also the case with the new college application process, Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success, supported by all the Ivy League schools and 80 or so other highly selective colleges. Like Raise.me, the Coalition intrudes needlessly on adolescence by pressing kids into the college game earlier and earlier.)”
Nelson did some research and discovered that the enterprise was funded by venture capital. What’s in it for the investors? He is not sure.
“Of greater concern is that there is no evidence the accumulated “dollars” actually add to what a student might have received in a total aid package from any university. In business terms, dollars are fungible, and any credit given for Raise.me earnings can be (and seems to be) deducted from other sources the college might have applied. A few reports on College Confidential indicate that my skepticism is warranted. In other words, the program drives students to a college, but probably has no impact on the financial aid package that would otherwise have been awarded. And of course that’s almost certainly true! No college would allow its discretionary aid awards to be dictated by a program like Raise.me.”
Our esteemed friend Laura Chapman came across Raise.me, and this is what she reported after she perused the website of Raise.me:
Welcome to Raise.me, an online service owned and operated by Raise Labs Inc., a Delaware corporation (“Raise.me,” “we,” and/or “us”). Please read on to learn the rules and restrictions that govern your use of our websites, products, services, and applications (the “Services”). ….
Over 320,000 students – representing 1 out of 2 high schools in America – have signed up to earn ‘micro-scholarships’ from a diverse set of over 180 colleges and universities
Here is an example of the high schools and one university using the Raise Me platform https://twin-cities.umn.edu/news-events/university-minnesota-announces-scholarship-program-raiseme
Suggest you also look up Raise Labs Inc. Delaware.