AUSTIN — When most people think of funding sources in higher education, they think of major gifts from wealthy alumni or heavily regulated federal research grants. But since The University of Texas at Austin embraced the concept of crowdfunding last year, launching its HornRaiser platform, more than 80 student and faculty projects have received $1.6 million in funding a few dollars at a time.
Any person or group with an official tie to UT Austin can apply, and a selection committee of UT staff chooses the projects based on merit and likelihood of success. Projects range from research to camps and competitions to global initiatives. The ventures remain online for 30 to 45 days, during which time visitors to the site can watch short explanatory videos and progress bars showing how close each project is to being fully funded. Those who invest in the projects receive insider updates.
This semester UT Austin has launched 15 projects that so far have received 425 donations totaling more than $46,000, with the numbers continuing to grow along with public interest.
Examples of current projects include:
- Help Make History Come Alive — The Voces Oral History Project, a research unit within the Moody College of Communication, chronicles the contributions of Latino and Latina war veterans with video and audio interviews. Funds raised will support the redesign of the project’s website. This multiyear effort is directed by journalism professor Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez. It has raised $13,800 of its $20,000 goal.
- Support Future Female Scientists by investing in the WINS Program — Women in Natural Sciences. As enrollment of female students rises, there is a growing need for an expansion of WINS to accommodate extra students and to offer additional programming. However, WINS is currently operating at capacity (259 students) and is relying on donations in order to continue through this fiscal year. The College of Natural Sciences is nearly $4,000 toward a goal of $12,000.
- Bloodthirsty Fiends – An ambitious group of 13 students have produced a new version of Beowulf performed with puppets. The play will be performed at the Cohen New Works Festival in April. Students wrote, scored, designed and are performing it. They have raised more than $1,600 toward a $10,000 goal.
- Help Students Discover Treatments for Alzheimer’s- While most researchers use mice to study Alzheimer’s, a lab in UT Austin’s Center for Learning and Memory has engineered a worm to carry human Alzheimer’s genes, which has greatly accelerated research. The Pierce lab is leveraging their rapid new approach to uncover the mysterious molecular basis of APOE4 toxicity. They have raised nearly $7,000 toward a $15,000 goal.
Go to https://hornraiser.utexas.edu/ to see all the current projects.
HornRaiser is expected to raise $115,510 for these projects. Projects close on April 21.