The 2009 senior class is asking for help from all members of the UCSB community in order to give the Alumni Association Scholarship Fund a “class gift” – a.k.a. a sizeable donation.

The AASF is an endowment that grants scholarships to students who have qualified for financial aid but have not received any tuition help. The fund currently stands at $70,000 with a five-year goal of collecting $3 million and will begin awarding scholarships by the Fall 2009.

This senior class’ goal is to persuade 25 percent of the graduating class to donate $20.09 each toward the senior gift, totaling to about $25,000. The average total donation size for the past five years has barely reached $7,100. This amount is small, especially compared to sister UC campuses, including UC Berkeley, which has an average total senior gift that is upwards of $67,000.

Mark French, director of Scholarships and Outreach, said there are many reasons behind the smaller size of the class gift. First, UCSB’s student body is not as large when compared to other UC campuses. In addition, many UCSB students are unaware of the senior gift since there has not been much effort put into collecting donations.

According to French, the first step toward this change is the formation of the Senior Gift Committee, which will form a campaign around the senior gift. Other UC campuses have committees that begin campaigning the senior gift beginning the first day of school in order to gain publicity and sponsor competition among campus organizations, such as fraternities and sororities, to raise money.

“We need to give it a really good shot,” French said. “It hasn’t been a big priority for the university to promote it. If you only get one letter and one phone [call] it’s not going to be very effective.”

Liz Nelson, the Undergraduate Student Philanthropy Intern, hopes that creating a campaign for the gift will allow the entire campus to get involved.

“I think this year’s senior gift is really important because it’s Gauchos helping fellow Gauchos,” Nelson said. “Especially during the current time, with the recession and state funding. Right now, we get 25 percent but soon it’s going to be 21 percent state funding. The school is becoming more and more privatized. We need to start giving back our university if we want to keep it around.”

French said that the senior gift is a great opportunity for UCSB students to give back to their own community.

“Our campus is quite well known for philanthropy, yet very little money raised has actually gone back to the UCSB students,” French said. “It has gone to other great things, but now our philanthropic-oriented seniors can think a little more locally during the really tough time.”

According to French, it is very exciting to give students the opportunity to contribute to the Alumni Association Scholarship Fund while they are still at UCSB.

“We are hopeful that something will come out of this, in addition to raising money for a good cause,” French said. “We want to start a tradition of promoting the senior gift on a regular basis so we can be proud of it.”