Bozeman company offers new way to pay for college

The company Graditude is aiming to change the way students across the United States pay for their college education.

“Leave the loan companies in the past and join us in making the future,” the company states on its website, graditude.com.

Graditude, based out of Bozeman, develops non-traditional scholarships for university students. By selling merchandise on their website and hosting various events, the company is able to generate revenue for small scholarships, which winners can apply to tuition, books and other education-related items.

Robert Dillman, founder and CEO of Graditude, started the company in 2007. It has gone through many adjustments since its founding, including name, concept and staff changes, eventually settling into its current form in 2010.

The company originated in Florida, but is now based in Bozeman “due to the community, culture and receptiveness to creative thinking,” Dillman said. He and the majority of the staff members reside in the Gallatin Valley while advisors and legal council are located in Florida, Illinois, Missouri and California.

This scholarship program is founded on a family ideal, Dillman explained. His great grandfather was the president of Texas Tech University, and accessibility of education has always been important in his family.

Now, the Graditude staff wants to change the way people see paying for college. This is why the company is using the new term “social scholarship,” which it defines as a non-traditional scholarship for “active students” where the criteria for success is based on collaboration and participation with other students.

MSU senior Tristan Abbott began working with Graditude in April, writing reviews for outdoor gear sold by the company. Now, Abbott is the company’s campus representative manager and is currently working on developing the company’s presence on college campuses nationwide.

“I really love the concept we are working on; that scholarships should be based on more than GPA or test scores,” Abbott said. “This rewards students for being who they are rather than what their test scores show.”

Graditude will promote this concept by launching a large campaign on Oct. 1 to advertise a new version of the company, which will debut in November. The website is currently being redesigned but will relaunch in time for the campaign.

To kick off the campaign, Graditude will offer one scholarship contest per week starting Oct. 1. The contests will be introduced on the company blog every Sunday, and submissions will be accepted Monday through Saturday. Winners will be announced each Saturday evening by 8 p.m.

These funds will be awarded through photo contests available to all college students. There are two ways to participate: One can enter pictures into the competition or help select the winner by “liking” photos.

To participate in the contests, students should create a profile on graditude.com and post photos that fit the week’s theme. Winners are selected by fellow students. Each photo can be “liked,” similar to the “like” function on Facebook, and the student with the most likes will win that week’s contest and scholarship award.

Scholarships are guaranteed to be a minimum of $10, and while typical awards range from $10 to $20, Graditude offered a $250 scholarship this summer. The winner of that scholarship accumulated over 500 “likes.” After winning a scholarship, the funds are transferred to the student’s account at their specified institution.

The Graditude store tries to focus on both sustainable and one-for-one deals, selling a variety of items such as MeSoap, bamboo toothbrushes, school supplies and backpacks. MeSoap, for example, is a soap brand that matches purchases, so when a customer purchases a bar of soap the company donates another bar of soap to an underprivileged child.

Graditude has a spring concert scheduled at the Emerson Cultural Center and an “adventure race” shortly after. Additionally, the company is planning on hosting contests for sports such as mountain biking, skateboarding and parkour, and subjects such as aeronautics, video games and physics.

The company’s goal in hosting and sponsoring events is to build awareness and to promote activities that educate outside of the classroom, giving students a greater understanding of their full potential.

Visit graditude.com for more information.