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 highschool teacher. He urges people to 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 College Board reports that the average tuition and fees for in-state students at public four-year institutions increased 4.
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.
In another solution, a growing number of female college 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 33percent in 2010," Wade said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Gilder 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.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?"