Students Find Creative Ways To Pay For College

By Denise-Marie Ordway
Orlando Sentinel.

Alex Ramirez is the first in her family to go to college. In August, she’ll start classes at the University of South Florida.

But even with grants and scholarships lined up, the Colonial High School senior said she has less than half of the $10,000 she needs for tuition, housing and other costs for the fall semester.

So Ramirez is launching her own mini-business to get cash for college. She joins other students trying to raise money in creative ways.

T-SHIRTS FOR SALE: Ramirez, an artist with a 4.3 grade-point average who plans to major in biomedical sciences, has put one of her drawings on a T-shirt. Last month, she started selling T-shirts featuring a woman wearing a multicolored mask for $20-$22 apiece through her Facebook page, Alex’s Art Shirts. She needs $6,000 by the end of the summer. So far, she has collected $314.

“It is an original artwork, and it’s a T-shirt,” said Ramirez, 18. “I think $20 is well worth it.”

HORNS, ANYONE? Some college students sell hand-crafted items on Etsy, an online marketplace for artisans. They sell homemade hair bows, scarves or jewelry. Lulu Rolando, 20, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., makes ears and horns.
She initially started creating elaborate, painted horns out of clay for personal use, as part of the costumes she likes to wear to Renaissance festivals and conventions for fans of Japanese anime.

Then Rolando, a freshman at Valencia College, realized she could sell horns and clay animal ears online to make money for textbooks and groceries. She was excited to find a market for such items among people who enjoy dressing up as fictional characters, demons and mythological creatures. She said she makes about $500 a semester.

One of her biggest sellers: antelope horns. She has made at least 40 pairs over the past year. Customers pay $30 to $100 for each pair of customized horns, depending on their size and detail.

CROWD-FUNDING: Terrence Smith, a student at the University of Central Florida, and Josiah Scott, who goes to Valencia, decided to simply ask the public to donate to their education funds. The two are among more than two dozen Central Florida students using crowd-funding platforms to raise money for tuition, books, international trips and college-related projects. Both Smith and Scott have ads on

Smith, 22, an education major from Tallahassee, wants to raise $2,900 so he can travel to Botswana to volunteer at a school there. He leaves May 27. As of Friday, he had collected $1,382 from 34 people.

“I have a passion for working with students, especially those in low-income areas … ,” he wrote on his page. He added that his “ultimate dream” is to teach English in various countries and to also teach history.

Scott has raised $350 of the $6,000 he is requesting. The money, combined with what he earns as a part-time lifeguard, will pay for classes as well as the books and other items he needs to complete his training to become a paramedic firefighter.

“I didn’t realize how expensive all this stuff was,” Scott, 21, of Winter Garden, Fla., says in a video that’s posted to his page.

He also included photos of himself at age 6 wearing a firefighter’s uniform and sitting in a fire truck.

“It has been my biggest passion ever since I’ve been a little boy, and this is all I’ve ever wanted to be,” he says in the video.

HEMMING PANTS: Some students offer services for a fee. Erica Walsh, a sophomore studying psychology at UCF, hems pants. Her mom had taught her and her twin sister to sew by hand when they were about 8 years old. A year later, they got their first sewing machine. Those skills came in handy when Walsh realized that the financial help she got from her parents and the money she makes at a part-time job on campus did not cover all her needs. She also makes pillows.

“I love sewing and made pillows for my own room as a way to cut down on costs,” said Walsh, 20, of Ormond Beach, Fla. “Since I enjoyed doing it so much, I figured I could try to make some money out of it.”

She does not earn a lot, but every bit helps. Her most lucrative month, she made about $150, which she uses mostly for college living expenses, food and gas. She advertises her pillows on a Facebook page called Erica’s Pillows.

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