The UC Santa Barbara Alumni Association Scholarship Fund upheld its theme of “Gauchos Giving Back to Gauchos” by voting to donate $15,000 towards merit-based scholarships and $10,000 to undergraduate students in dire financial need.

The Association voted to approve the donations last weekend after raising nearly $500,000 over the past three years to combat the current lapse in state funding paired with UC funding per student dropping to $2,060. During this academic year, the group’s revenues will be allocated both to students in financial need with a 3.8 or 3.9 GPA and those in dire need who would otherwise have to leave the university.

Although 12 percent of the UC’s core funds are dedicated to student financial aid, these finances have struggled to keep pace with regular tuition increases. However, first-year environmental studies major Ana Leyva said the university system’s efforts to expand its aid coverage and maintain accessibility have yielded positive impacts.

“I feel that financial aid definitely gave me what I need in order to obtain a higher education,” Leyva said. “I know for sure that without the financial aid that UCSB gave me, I would be unable to attend UCSB. … I come from a very low-income family so I know this fact contributed to the amount of aid I got and I’m absolutely grateful for their help.”

According to Assistant Vice Chancellor of Alumni Affairs George Thurlow, the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office confers with the AASF each year about which specific demographic areas show the greatest need for financial assistance, and alumni make then their allocations accordingly.

“This makes the AASF the most flexible fund in addressing immediate financial aid needs and does not lock the fund into specific areas for years or decades to come,” Thurlow said.

Past donations have gone to overlooked areas including education abroad students with post-departure needs, non-traditional students like returning veterans and single mothers and graduating students being forced to consider dropping out of school, Thurlow said.

Financial Aid and Scholarships Office Director Mike Miller said this system has greatly impacted the quality of many students’ lives.

“[The donation] was a valuable tool and a great gesture,” Miller said. “It allowed us to keep students on campus whom would’ve otherwise gone home.”

Miller also said the donations have made students more aware of the availability of funding and likely more optimistic about their chances of receiving aid.

“What has been interesting is there were 50 referrals last year and for the most part, once we became aware of it, we were able to find solutions for students’ problems without having to give them alumni funding,” Miller said.

Working with the AASF permits the Financial Aid and Scholarship Office to take a more unique, holistic approach to financial allocations, Miller said.

“The people who serve on the board really care; especially in a time when so much is going on in campus and across California, it is really refreshing to work with a such a great group of people who are so invested in UCSB students,” Miller said. “They aren’t necessarily local people — they just have a deep running love for UCSB and the campus and it is uplifting to work with them and see how much they care.”