Regents launch crowd-funding effort for undergraduate scholarship funds

Jacob Brown/Staff

Related Posts

SAN FRANCISCO — The UC Board of Regents launched a fundraising effort at its Wednesday meeting that asks students, celebrities and UC officials to solicit friends and families for donations that would go toward UC undergraduate scholarships. 

Dubbed the Promise for Education, the campaign encourages individuals to use social media to collect these donations in exchange for completing a given task, or promise.

Gov. Jerry Brown, for instance, has pledged to host a lunch with a student from each UC campus in exchange for a $10,000 donation from the public.

These promises — and the price tags that accompany them — are advertised on the fundraiser’s website, where people can donate money toward various promises. The fundraiser, which launched Wednesday and will run through Oct. 31, is a crowd-funding effort that UC Regent Sherry Lansing said “has never been done before.”

The campaign’s website had around 200 pledges, which range from mundane to absurd, by midday Wednesday.

UC Davis student Bradley Bottoms pledged to wear a cow costume for an entire week if he meets his goal of $1,500 in donations. Jamie Foxx said he will rap a song impersonating President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton and Monique from the movie “Precious” in exchange for $20,000 in donations.

Lansing, who helped spearhead the Promise for Education effort, said at the meeting that she hopes the fundraiser will broaden scholarship availability.

Last year, UC undergraduates received close to $700 million in financial aid from the university and from private donations, according to David Alcocer, the university’s director of financial aid. Donations given as part of the Promise for Education will add to this pot. 

In an effort to expand these scholarship funds, Lansing said that the fundraiser is meant to attract donations of all sizes — even $1 and $5 contributions.

The university has seen a number of large contributions so far. The program has received about $900,000 in pledges and donations. According to Daniel Dooley, the university’s vice president for external relations, Bank of America and the Entertainment Industry Foundation both pledged $100,000 to kick off the fundraiser. The biggest pledge thus far comes from the family of a single donor, Abraham Trop, who died last year but left money to the university in his will. The family donated $400,000 to the campaign. 

David Kirp, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy who specializes in higher education, said the new fundraiser indicates the depth of the university’s need.

“Promise to Education is both ingenious and dispiriting — ingenious, because it’s a new way to capitalize on social media; dispiriting, because it shows the extraordinary measures that a great public university must take in order provide a world-class education,” he said in an email.

Still, some take issue with the style of fundraising.

Student Regent Cinthia Flores said at the meeting that some students have expressed concern that the fundraiser is a “backhanded” way to solicit donations to the university. But she said she is certain that the campaign will both raise funds and solidify the relationship between donors and the university.

“Sometimes students were apprehensive about this program, saying, ‘Why are we going to ask students to support other students?’ ” Flores said. “But seeing this (campaign) come to realization … I’ve seen the support that’s behind it.”

She pledged to dress as Superman for an entire day if she reaches a $1,000 donation goal.

Angela Sanchez, a UCLA graduate who aims to raise $3,000 for scholarships by pledging to host a 24-hour “magic marathon,” said she sees the fundraiser as a chance for student advocacy.

“California is a state that’s rife with debt,” Sanchez said. “Until we can find some kind of alleviation, the best resource we’re going to have is our community.”

Libby Rainey is the lead higher education reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @rainey_l.