But what if you could soften the beggarly blow by asking for something that people view as a nuisance anyway? Like maybe if you asked 2.8 million people to each send you one dirty, good-for-nothing penny. That's the genius-level plan that Mike Hayes, a graduate from Rochelle High School in Illinois, thought up when he found himself short 25 large for the $28,000 he was going to need to attend college (in 1987).
Instead of saddling himself with a lifetime of student loan debt or pulling a Soul Man a la C. Thomas Howell, Hayes took his cause to the people. He sent a letter to newspaper columnist Bob Greene, whose column was syndicated in over 200 newspapers, despite being a person we've never heard of. In the letter, Hayes asked readers to send one penny each to go toward funding his college education. Greene published the letter, and the response was overwhelming.
Eleven postal workers drowned in the flood of pennies.
According to this article, as of November 1987, Hayes had received more than 77,000 letters and earned more than $26,000. Snopes follows that up by confirming that the enterprising young handout enthusiast did indeed earn enough for that college education and graduated with a degree in food science.
Good choice. A degree like that is going to give Mike a major leg up when it comes time to fight for the last available fast food job in town with the rest of the college graduate pool.
"With my degree paid for, I was able to afford the machete that got me my first job."