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UC Berkeley fundraisers are working hard. So where is the state?

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APRIL 19, 2018

In the last few years, UC Berkeley has drastically improved its fundraising efforts. And while the campus has faced some financial challenges along the way, it has risen to the occasion and taken on the responsibility of generating more revenue.

That’s why it’s so disappointing to see that the state government still hasn’t matched the campus’s increased efforts to support public higher education. In an interview with The Daily Californian editorial board, Julie Hooper, the vice chancellor for university development and alumni relations, said investment and fundraising are some of the more stable elements of the campus budget, even as her office operates with shrinking funds. Meanwhile, the state’s erratic funding behavior has thrown California higher education into turmoil.

UC Berkeley ranked No. 18 among universities in the United States that raised the most philanthropic money — an impressive accomplishment, given that most of the list is dominated by private institutions, which typically have deeper pockets, more resources and institutional support. The high ranking is part of a larger trend of increasingly successful fundraising campaigns, Hooper said, such as the Big Give, which encourages community members to donate in a 24-hour period, most recently in March.

“We are so much further ahead in fundraising this time this year than last year,” Hooper told the editorial board. “(During) Big Give, we doubled what we raised last year.”

It’s also noteworthy that University Development and Alumni Relations has actively sought and received donations that specifically serve underprivileged communities. Some of its efforts go towards securing scholarship money, and recently, it received a $10 million gift to support programs such as the Undocumented Student Program, the Underground Scholars Initiative, the Berkeley Hope Scholars and the Fiat Lux Scholars Program. These efforts are exciting and should continue to grow — fast.

But when it comes to public institutions, supporting underserved students should be something the state government proudly takes on.

The state of California has been disinvesting in higher education for years. Gov. Jerry Brown even failed to uphold his promise to increase state funding to the UC by 4 percent a year for four years. It’s frustrating that the state can’t even stick to the money it promised to give, let alone increase funding.

Recently, the UC Board of Regents has been proposing yet another tuition increase. If Brown is as against these hikes as he claims to be, then he should prove it — the state should “buy out” the proposed tuition increase by increasing its funding to the UC.

Clearly, a UC Berkeley education is valuable to its community, considering that the campus received more than 100,000 gifts in the 2016-17 fiscal year. It’s time for the state to take a seat at the table and do its part to invest in public higher education.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

APRIL 20, 2018