RaiseMe, a ‘micro-scholarship’ startup that offers high school students money for achieving milestones, just raised $15m to expand its platform. The program, backed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, has already awarded students $2B.
Proponents believe RaiseMe incentivizes students from underrepresented backgrounds to go to college, but critics argue that monetizing learning distorts the value of education and helps colleges more than students.
Nothing motivates kids like cold, hard cash
The idea is this: Since the gap between the behavior (getting good grades) and the payoff (getting money for school) is so long, many kids don’t think schoolwork is ‘worth it.’ So to prove school doesn’t drool, RaiseMe assigns scholarship dollar values to specific achievements.
As an example, Penn State pays $120 for an A in a core course, $100 for a captain’s role on a team, $100 for not missing a day of school all year, and $5 per hour of community service
But students only get the money once they’ve already gotten in…
Which, according to critics, turns academics into a game that schools, not students, win. Colleges post their own prizes, meaning an A in chemistry could be worth $100 at one school and only $5 at another.
But since students may not ‘unlock’ more money in RaiseMe than they would have earned from schools without it, some critics see the platform as a recruiting tool to nudge kids toward a particular school.
Some educators also believe RaiseMe’s incentives also encourages students to follow the money rather than their passions.
RaiseMe — and its students — are on the funding fast track
The 1.2m kids that RaiseMe has sent to school are proof that students will play their game. So whether or not gamified achievement is contrary to the spirit of learning, RaiseMe’s mission of expanding access to education seems to be working..
So far, RaiseMe has raised $31.5m in funding for itself. With it, the company plans to get more paying school partners on its platforms — and get more kids in school.