To the rousing rumbles and thrums of the Sunnyside High School marching band of East Fresno on Friday, Oct. 23, UC President Mark Yudof and 45 members and alumni of the school’s Doctor’s Academy set in motion “Project You Can.”
The project, an apt moniker for the low-income students to which it caters, will aim to raise $1 billion dollars in student support across all 10 campuses.
For 10 years, Sunnyside High School has sent hundreds of students through medical school with the UC San Francisco Fresno-sponsored Doctors Academy program.
Doctor’s Academy is particularly significant for Sunnyside since 87 percent of its students are eligible for a free or reduced lunch, making it the perfect launching point for Project You Can.
“Our message today is simple. 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,” Yudof said at the student assembly in Sunnyside.
As part of the plan, Yudof plans to raise the ceiling on the current Blue and Gold Opportunities plan, making families with annual incomes of $70,000 or less eligible. The plan as it stands, currently covers all system-wide fees for students from families with incomes of $60,000 or less.
With this motion, Yudof hopes to mitigate some of the financial strain California families are currently experiencing and those they anticipate in the near future.
In a paper put out earlier this month by Yudof titled “Exploring a New Role for Federal Government in Higher Education,” Yudof cited a study by the Public Policy Institute of California, which found that 2025 will have a shortage of 1 million of the college-educated workforce it will need.
According to Yudof, “unless policy changes are made only 35% of working-age adults in that year will hold a four-year degree, while 41% of the jobs will require one.” Project You Can, in conjunction with the Blue and Gold Opportunities Plan, aims to build on programs that last year allowed for an average of $11,100 in gift aid to more than half the UC undergraduate population. In addition, each of the last five years has seen over $100 million in philanthropic support for UC students.
This money does not include private gift aid students receive, which alone equates to about $110 million for 22,000 students or almost 1 in 10 students.
Yet, some students remain skeptical.
“I’m glad that they’re not depending primarily on students, but at the same time it’s a very ambitious project and it’s good that they’re optimistic,” said third year literary journalism major Rachel Wong.
“Increasing funds from private gifts and donors isn’t likely to provide for everyone who needs financial aid. There are still probably going to be a lot of students left out in the cold,” Wong said.
At UCI, the program takes the shape of the Shaping the Future campaign, which was made public in 2008 and pulled in $400 million in foundational gifts. UCI’s goal for 2009 is to raise $5 million in scholarships and gift aid for incoming students. Including fees, books, transportation and food, the estimated annual cost to attend UCI is $19,020 for students who live at home and $24,930 for students living on-campus.
Attendance costs have increased almost 10 percent this year and will most likely increase in coming years. From the students’ perspective, 37 percent of UCI students are the first in their family to attend college and 60 percent of UCI students receive financial aid of some kind.
The overall goal of Project You Can is to mitigate some of these costs and bridge the gap between willing students and a UC education.
One of the incentives for the UC to increase its enrollment of low-income students comes from a provision in the Obama Administration’s Department of Education 2010 budget.
The proposed provision will reward $2.5 billion over five years to state efforts that creatively increase college completion rates of low-income students.
“While it is ambitious, it’s important to understand that [the project] isn’t meant to be a solution [to the budget crisis]” said UC student regent Jesse Cheng. “$1 billion is not an unreasonable goal. President Yudof wouldn’t put out a goal he doesn’t believe in.”
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