Need financial help? It’s OK to ask

Chris MolitorBy Douglas Esser
As a University of Washington Bothell graduate (business administration, marketing ’07), Christopher Molitor has an appreciation for the value of education. He also believes there should be nothing embarrassing about students asking for financial help.

Chris Molitor (Marc Studer photos)

After 10 years running his website template business, The Molitor, he’s taking time out for a “passion project” inspired by Bernie Sanders’ campaign promise to make public colleges tuition-free.

His Fullride.me is a crowdfunding website with a difference. Instead of asking for a single large sum of money, students list separate items, such as tuition, study abroad or even the cost of a book to which someone can contribute. It breaks the huge cost of college into more-manageable bites.

The ongoing process enhances connections between donors – most of whom are family and friends – and the student.

“The whole point of the project for me is to focus on the students,” Molitor said.

Launched in January, Fullride.me is not a charity. It’s a platform that takes 4.5 percent of what a student receives. The PayPal-like company that handles the transaction – Stripe – takes another 2.9 percent. The website now has about 200 students signed up, with the biggest single group – about 30 – from UW Bothell.

One is Allison Pace (community psychology ’18), who had been looking for ways to help fund study abroad this summer in Rome. She remembered Fullride.me from a tabling event and brochures on campus.

“I am really excited to go to Rome, because it is my first time ever traveling internationally,” Pace said. “Now I can feel less stressed because I know I have another outlet for funding my trip.”

Pace feels comfortable because it’s a UW Bothell grad’s startup, and she believes he’s invested in students.

Molitor gained a belief in the ability of education to transform society on a 2001 trip to India with a church group that visited several poor villages. The group then visited a city. It had a completely different feel.

“The people had a sense of thriving. They were active. They were busy,” Molitor said. When he tried to explain the difference to himself, “I could only focus it down to education. That really struck me.”

The experience prompted Molitor to attend Cascadia College and then transfer to the UW Bothell.

Chris Molitor“From there my opportunities increased from just my own personal growth going through the higher education process,” Molitor said. “I went into school being scared of public speaking and came out comfortable with it – that kind of thing.”

That’s an appreciation he shares with students who fear that asking for money will stigmatize them, like panhandling.

“I make an effort to correct that and respond to those comments, reminding people how stressful school can be, physically, mentally. It’s not easy,” Molitor said. He believes education is worth it.