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Systemwide Effort to Raise $1 Billion to Assist Students

November 29, 2010

If Ricardo Camargo wasn’t studying human biology at UC Merced,
he’d be laboring alongside his brothers in the San Joaquin Valley vineyards.

Setting his goals on something more than farm work, Camargo knew
he wanted to go to college. But if it weren’t for the scholarships
he has received, he would have never made it to a University of
California campus.

“The scholarships are the only reason I’m here,” he said. “They
mean a lot. They open doors for myself, and I’m the first of my
family to go to college, maybe the last one.”

The youngest of 11 brothers and sisters, Camargo transferred to
UC Merced from a community college in 2008. He wants to be a
physician assistant, a career that will fulfill his dream of
working in surgery and get him into the work force so he can help
his family financially. A combination of three scholarships is
paying his way at UC Merced, although he spends his school
vacations back in Lodi working in the fields.

Like thousands of UC students at every campus, Camargo is
getting the opportunity to pursue his goals through the gifts and
financial aid the university provides. About 57 percent of
undergraduates receive some kind of grant or scholarship aid, and
more than 20,000 students each year get aid funded through private
gifts.

Financial aid, private giving help students

At UC, private donations account for about 7 percent of the
overall budget this year, a relatively small amount compared with
the large private research universities. Yet these gifts play an
important role in UC’s ability to support its academic and research
programs. Collectively, the 10 UC campuses raised about $1.325
billion during the 2009-10 fiscal year. The gifts come from a mix
of private foundations, corporations and individuals. Nearly all
the gifts, 98 percent, are restricted to a specific use by the
donors, with the largest portion of donations supporting academic
departments and research.

In a climate of declining state support and California’s bleak
economic outlook, support for student scholarships and fellowships
has become one of UC’s highest fundraising priorities.

$1 billion goal

Project You Can

Highlights of 2009-10 private gifts for student support

In October 2009, President Mark Yudof announced the kickoff of
Project You Can, a systemwide effort to raise $1 billion for
student support over the next four years.

“We’re in the opportunity business, and we want to knock on as
many doors as possible,” Yudof said when he announced the
fundraising initiative at a Fresno high school.

During the first year of Project You Can, the campuses
collectively raised $123 million for undergraduate, graduate and
professional school students.

“It is difficult fundraising in the current economic climate,”
said Geoffrey O’Neill, assistant vice president of Institutional
Advancement at the Office of the President. “However, we are
optimistic that we are gaining momentum - as the needs of our
students, and the commitment we have to our students, has never
been as great as it is now.”

Many donors tend to focus on research, O’Neill said, but the
campuses have had some notable successes in attracting gifts for
student support.

Former president’s generous support

At UC San Diego, former Chancellor and UC President Richard
Atkinson and his wife, Rita, pledged $5.7 million for a graduate
student fellowship endowment. This gift represents the largest
contribution for the year to Invent the Future, a UC San Diego
Student Support Campaign, which is part of Project You Can.

“Great universities fuel the economy, spark medical and research
breakthroughs and drive the excellence of the country,” said
Atkinson. “By supporting students now, we are establishing the
underpinnings for the future.”

Cory Reith was in the final stages of finishing his doctoral
dissertation on how the human brain processes experiences when he
received one of the fellowships the Atkinson gift funded. With the
poor economy and fewer jobs in academia, Reith said, more students
are staying in graduate school. That means fewer teaching assistant
jobs available. To make things even tougher for students like
Reith, federal funding for agencies that support basic and
interdisciplinary research has been dropping off, so there is less
support for graduate student researchers.

“Going into this school year, I was in a good position to
finish, but worried about having a stable paycheck,” Reith said. He
did secure a teaching position for fall but without the fellowship
would just be scraping by. He believes the private support students
like himself receive can have widespread benefits.

“Without the generous support of others to dedicated and driven
students, as a society we will limit our opportunities for
scientific advancement and decrease our potential global eminence,”
Reith said.

For Camargo, his scholarships provide more than just financial support.

“It gives me another reason to be proud of myself and keep
going,” he said. “Not everyone has this opportunity. That’s
something I will never be able to pay back, even if I got millions
and millions of dollars.”

For more information, visit the
UC Newsroom.