Systemwide Effort to Raise $1 Billion to Assist Students

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."

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