LONG BEACH - When Milton Gilder ran out of funds to pay for his final semester at Duke University, the 25-year-old Long Beach native got creative.
Using background music from the international smash-hit "Gangnam Style," Gilder filmed a quirky YouTube video in which he dances across the Duke campus and then talks of his financial struggles and dreams of becoming a high school teacher. He urges people to share his video and donate funds for his last semester, so he can earn his teaching credential.
"One of my greatest dreams is to inspire youth to change their communities, to change their world, to change their families, and that's exactly what I've been doing this semester - pursuing that dream," he says in the video. "I believe that dreams have the possibility of becoming a reality, so I'm coming to you (for help)."
As of Thursday, Gilder had raised $2,200 on the website www.gofundme.com.
Gilder isn't alone in his unconventional pursuit to fund his studies. Faced with mounting debt and ever-increasing tuition costs, some students are using innovative ways to pay for higher education.
They're filming YouTube videos and signing up for donation websites. And in some cases they're turning to more extreme tactics, such as donating eggs or sperm to fertility clinics.
The nonprofit CollegeBoard reports that the average tuition and fees for in-state students at public four-year institutions increased 4.8 percent to $8,655 in the 2012-2013 school year. The average cost for out-of-state students rose 4.2 percent to $21,706.
Of college seniors who graduated in 2011, two-thirds had student loan debt, with an average of $26,600 per borrower, according to the Institute for College Access and Success.
Many websites now offer creative ideas on how to earn money for college. The website www.lendingtree. lists seven unconventional ways to pay for college, while the website www.latinosincollege.com offers several links to social lending websites.
In another solution, a growing number of female colleges students are donating eggs to fertility clinics in return for thousands of dollars, and many fertility clinics now advertise in campus newspapers.
At Cryobank, which has fertility labs in Los Angeles, Palo Alto, New York, and Massachusetts, college students make up nearly half of all donors, said spokesman Scott Brown.
Some students are even turning to websites that offer "discreet arrangements" with older benefactors for companionship or dating.
Brandon Wade, founder & CEO of a website that pairs students with older benefactors, said the website has seen a surge in the number of college students seeking so-called "sugar daddies" to help pay their tuition.
"One in every two sugar babies who join our website today are college students, and college sugar babies now make up 40 percent of our sugar baby population, up from 33 percent in 2010," Wade said in a statement.
The website's top three universities for sugar babies in 2011 included New York University, University of Georgia and University of Phoenix.
While some students may be researching unconventional ways to pay tuition, Lauren Asher, president of the Instituted for College Access and Success, warns against risky plans. Federal student loans are a more secure option, she said.
"A lot of people aren't aware of the ways that federal student loans can be safer than other types of financial solutions," Asher said. "Sometimes students won't take out loans because they don't know that they're eligible, or they're trying to avoid debt."
"But that choice to try to avoid debt can actually harm them," she said. "If they're working or stressed about how they're going to pay for college, they're more at risk of dropping courses or dropping out completely."
Gilder, a graduate of Poly High School in Long Beach, is hoping his fundraising efforts on www.gofundme.com will net the nearly $6,000 he needs by Jan. 15 to pay his tuition and finish his graduate studies this spring. In addition to the $6,000, Gilder also faces about $13,000 in debt from his undergraduate studies at Duke.
Gilder said he plans to work as a student teacher at a nearby high school this spring, in addition to taking a full load of courses.
"All of the work for school takes up about 70 hours a week so it's hard to find a job that works with my schedule," he said. "And I've basically exercised all of my resources."
Gilder said he sees the donations as an important investment in his future.
"I figure why not ask for help," he said. "What have I got to lose?"
To view Gilder's video visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-g6HgR8GWIA