University of California President Mark G. Yudof announced plans for a $1 billion financial aid fundraising campaign last Friday, Oct. 23 while speaking to a Sunnyside High School pep rally in east Fresno.

In front of an assembly of 250 high school students, Yudof explained “Project You Can,” which would potentially involve all 10 UC campuses in efforts to raise $1 billion over the next four years for student scholarships, fellowships and other financial aid. The campaign, which will be discussed and voted on at a Board of Regents meeting this November, hopes to double the amount of private fiscal support the UC has raised in the past.

Leslie Sepuka, spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, said the new plan is an extension of existing fundraising goals.

“The campuses have always had robust fundraising efforts,” Sepuka said. “This is just a refocusing and a target being set.”

In addition to his new fundraising undertaking, Yudof will be asking the Regents to raise the family income limit on the UC Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan by $10,000. Currently, the Blue and Gold plan provides system-wide financial aid to Californian students whose families earn less than $60,000 a year. Yudof’s revision would increase the income level for eligibility to $70,000 per household each year in order to make financial aid available to more lower-income students.

Given the deficit of California’s economy, Michael M. Miller, acting director of the Financial Aid Office at UCSB, said Yudof’s amendment to the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan would prove extremely helpful to students from low-income households.

“As families look for ways to pay for a college education, it will be increasingly important to provide them with options,” Miller said. “Having more funding available and being able to advertise that families with incomes less than $70,000 will not have to pay system-wide fees will have a positive impact on new and continuing UCSB students.” 

The UC currently reserves revenue from one-third of undergraduate fee increases and half of graduate fee increases for financial aid. Additionally, UC campuses raise about $100 million annually in private donations to support students, according to a press release.

At the Sunnyside assembly, Yudof addressed concerns about the $813 million UC budget gap and proposed fee hikes, which would raise tuition from the current $7,788 to $10,302, according to a press release.

“[Students] know as well as anyone in this state that these are tough times,” Yudof said at the rally. “Many of your families are struggling to hold on to jobs, to homes, to dreams. In the next few weeks you may read some scary headlines that say, ‘fees are going up at UC.’ You and your family may be thinking, ‘We can’t afford it. UC is out of reach.’ I’m here today to tell you that’s not true.”

Sepuka said approximately half of the UC’s 80,000 undergraduates currently receive some form of financial aid, which averages to about $11,000 per student. At UCSB, Miller said that means 66 percent of students receive some form of financial aid through the university, including 55 percent of undergraduates and 96 percent of graduate students. However, Sepuka said, more funding for student aid is always welcome.

“I think that the Regents will be supportive,” Sepuka said. “They tend to be in favor of things that will help students.”

As the cost of higher education grows and families search for ways to afford college fees, Miller said, Yudof’s financial aid efforts should make a positive impact on UCSB students.

“President Yudof’s message of ‘if you can earn the grades you can get into the University of California and if your family needs help you can get financial aid,’ is extremely important to get across to students, and the UCSB Financial Aid Office fully supports these efforts,” Miller said.