Chicago resident Monte Johnson and his grandmother want to say "thank you" to a special someone who sent Johnson $25,000 -- money he'll use to re-enroll at South Carolina State University. They just don’t know who donated the cash.
The Chicago Sun-Times had profiled Johnson in February. Johnson was orphaned in 2003 when a stampede in a nightclub killed his mother. A college scholarship fund, administered by the Chicago Public School system on behalf of him and other victims' children, was established shortly after the incident -- but Johnson is still waiting for a check.
Money from the fund might come too late for Johnson, who dropped out of college when he could no longer afford tuition, but his education is back on track because of an anonymous donor's generosity. Johnson told The Chicago Sun-Times he was watching cartoons when his grandmother informed him that someone had read the earlier story and decided to act, giving him $25,000 to return to school.
Johnson will head back this fall and plans to rejoin the marching band -- which is good news to the donor, who continued to withhold his identity in an interview with the Sun-Times.
"I grew up poor, and my father did everything so that he could to send me to school. People talk about inequality, but the greatest source of equality is a good education," the donor told the paper.
Although Johnson never solicited donations, desperate students at the edge of their borrowing limits have increasingly turned to websites like Gofundme.com to satisfy university bursar's offices. A search for individuals seeking help with their college tuition surfaced thousands of people. There, students create profiles that express the extent and circumstances of their needs and ask visitors to contribute small donations that combine to help them make their ends meet.
USA Today profiled former Howard University student Corey Arvinger in January. He's crowdfunding this spring so he can return to Howard in the fall. So far, he's raised about $3,500, or 24 percent of what he needs.
HuffPost Live also profiled a student crowdfunding her return to school. Alycia Bennett said she survived a sexual assault on campus, and had to transfer when her university didn’t believe her claim. So far, more than 90 people have donated between $10 and $100 to send her to American University, where she hopes to study international relations.
Ballooning college costs have contributed to a college dropout rate so high that it's considered a national crisis to many in higher education. A January report called "The American Dream 2.0" found that 46 percent of America's college students and 63 percent of African-American students don't graduate college within six years. Overhauling the financial aid system may help, the report said.
WATCH Excerpts from Bennett's interview below: