This fall, the University of California responded to the loss of nearly $1 billion in state funding by creating a campaign of charitable giving called ‘Promise for Education,’ which would help create more need-based, undergraduate scholarships for California residents.
The campaign, which began on Sept. 18 and ends Oct. 30, encourages students, faculty, staff, alumni or anyone in California, to pledge a monetary goal and make a promise of their choice. If the financial goal is met by the deadline, the promise-maker agrees to fulfill their chosen promise. The process starts online on the Promise for Education website.
Upon pledging a fundraising goal and a promise, the promise-maker is invited to spread their message through a social media outlet, like Facebook or Twitter, in the hopes of encouraging others to donate and help the promise-maker meet their goal.
“The idea [originated] last year, and it began with a conversation between [Regent] Sherry Lansing, and Matt Jacobson, a UCLA grad and one of the employees at Facebook,” said marketing communications executive director for the UC Office of the President (UCOP) Jason Simon. “We are trying to bring the UC into the modern time and in things that are going on in philanthropy.”
Five years ago, California supplied 78 percent of the cost of a UC student’s undergraduate education, but now the state only provides for 39 percent — a 50 percent drop, according to the Promise for Education website.
“I think the fundamental problem is that the state government has abrogated its responsibility to fund higher education,” said UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal. “The [1960 California] Master Plan called for full funding.”
UCSC associate vice chancellor of Enrollment Management Michelle Whittingham said that last year the average undergraduate scholarship award, including need-based and merit-based scholarships at UCSC, was $2,434. According to the UCSC admissions website, the estimated total cost of an undergraduate resident education for 2013-2014 is $32,748.
Divided together, for a UCSC resident student the average scholarship would pay for approximately 7.4 percent of their total educational cost.
Last year only 9.1 percent of UCSC undergraduates received a UCSC scholarship, so the percentage of need-based scholarships awarded is even less, Whittingham said.
“Our school needs millions of dollars to function where it was three, four years ago before the budget cuts,” said Student Union Assembly (SUA) Chair Shaz Umer.
The campaign has currently raised a little over $1 million, according to the Promise for Education website. Eighteen people at UCSC have already set a fundraising goal and a promise.
For example, Umer has promised to dress up as Tigger all day and during an SUA meeting, if his fundraising goal of $500 is met on or before Oct. 30.
Other students throughout the UC have joined in as well. UC Student Regent Cinthia Flores has promised to dress as Superwoman for the Board of Regents meeting in November if she meets her fundraising goal of $2,000.
“I think the Promise for Education campaign is an innovative idea with immense potential,” Flores said in an interview conducted via Facebook.
In response to the voluntary nature of the campaign, Flores said its ultimate purpose is to raise more funds.
“The primary goal of the campaign is to raise funds for undergraduate student scholarships,” Flores said.
Like Flores, who said that more money needs to be generated in order to fund need-based scholarships, UCSC associate vice chancellor of Enrollment Management Michelle Whittingham emphasized that this is especially true for UCSC students.
“What I can clearly say is we are in dire need for more financial support for our students to help them achieve their educational goals,” Whittingham said in an email. “It is so difficult to hear from students on a regular basis how much they and their families are struggling to have them attend and stay to finish their degree.”
Blumenthal said that the Promise for Education campaign should not be the only step of adequately funding need-based scholarships.
“Scholarships are important,” Blumenthal said. “But I think what people in California need to know is that the future of the state, the economy and opportunity for young people in California depends on having a robust UC.”