I Crowdfunded My Science Degree – Here Are My Next Steps

In just four days, the internet helped me raise $10,000 through a GoFundMe to cover a portion of my tuition so I can stay enrolled and finish my degree. To thank those who donated, I promised to be transparent with my academic progress and continue producing science content during the remaining years of my undergraduate studies.

My Story and some context

As a homeschool student, I was taught Christian curriculum that denied evidence for evolution and claimed the earth is only six thousand years old. Many people in the conservative Christian community still believe these things. Recent surveys estimate that nearly 40 percent of white Evangelicals in America today don’t accept the evidence for evolution. Today, that community is tied to the anti-vaccine movement and continues to push for religious bills that protect students’ right to deny evolution. As a science communicator interested in science denial and the distrust of medicine, my firsthand experiences give me insight into how we can combat the Christian Right’s war against science, medicine, and equality.

One of the downsides of my background is that I had a very poor K-12 education in math and sciences, and I spent the first two years of community college as an English major afraid to dive in to those classes in case my parents refused to support me. When I finally decided to accept the consequences and major in biology, it was the final straw in an already-strained and dysfunctional situation. I realized I could only continue to pursue school if I moved away and worked for it myself.

Where I Am Now

Two year later, I am currently wrapping up my first term at Oregon State University. Although most of my general credits are done, I have some catching up to do in math, and I need to take the chemistry and biology sequences. Fortunately, through OSU’s degree partnership program with the local community college, I can take those classes at a more affordable price while taking my core classes at OSU, before going back to OSU full-time. Unfortunately, financial constraints are forcing me to seek a position outside of the work-study portion of my financial aid.

The GoFundMe amount intends to cover the portion of my tuition that would have been covered by my work-study. Thanks to the fundraiser, I am now free to work and put the entire paycheck toward more essential living expenses, rather than to tuition or take out larger loans. We have a very old car we may need to replace soon and are currently moving apartments, and because we are barely scraping by on my partner’s income, it’s essential I pick up a job to help cover these additional expenses. Thanks to the fundraiser, I can do that – I accepted a job at a local law firm and will be doing legal assistant work while in school. The job pays much better than a work-study, doesn’t come with the same restrictions, and also offers health insurance. Most importantly, because of the fundraiser, I won’t need to take a couple years off to work full-time and save up for school.

I’ve been meeting with an academic adviser and my school’s financial aid about my circumstances, and we think that this best thing for me to do given the fact I’m focused on improving my math skills this year. The job will also allow me to save additional living expenses so that in the fall term, when I am full-time and overwhelmed with science classes and labs, we won’t be nearly as worried about paying the bills. I will also continue to take out the subsidized federal loans offered through my financial aid.

Because of the fundraiser, I’ll be done with school sooner and at a much lower expense. Consequently, I will also be able to pursue graduate school or a science writing career much sooner too.

A Thank-You To Those Who Donated

How can I express my gratitude for an amount of money that is changing my life, helping me pursue my education, and making my career possible? In just four days, with the help of 239 people, we managed to raise $10,000. Thanks to you, I am that much closer to my science degree. The support, encouragement, and generosity has been overwhelming. Next week is Thanksgiving, and I have a lot to be thankful for.

I hope to find more ways to express my appreciation, but for now, my commitment is to continue science writing, tweeting, and maintaining the Read More Science blog while I am in school. A lot of people have reached out to share how my content has impacted their lives or resonated with them in some way. I intent to continue producing this content, advocating for science literacy, empowering women in STEM, and helping make science more inclusive. After all, I firmly believe science is for everyone, and therefore everyone should be for science!

Published by Sarah Olson Michel

Science writer and professional bookworm. Wrangling horses and microbes in the Pacific Northwest. Aspiring old cat lady. Genderqueer (she/they).

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