Project You Can’t?

It seems as if University of California President, Mark Yudof, has finally found some support. After coming under harsh criticism for months on end for his proposed increase in tuition and recent faculty lay-offs, Yudof found comfort at Sunnyside High School in Fresno, California. Yudof addressed the student body about his new plan to help Californian students pay for college. However, while Yudof’s new plan may inspire underprivileged high school students, I’ve reserved my praise for when more answers surface.

Yudof’s new plan, called “Project You Can,” is on the surface a good one. Through the plan, the 10 campuses hope to raise $1 billion in the next four years for student support. The new goal is to nearly double the amount that the campuses have raised in the past five years.

Furthermore, President Yudof has also proposed to increase the maximum family income for his Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan by $10,000. This would be an increase from $60,000 to $70,000. That means any UC eligible student eligible with a family income of $70,000 or less will have his or her college expenses paid for in full.

In theory, it’s a great idea. However, Yudof is selling this plan as if money grows on trees. When you shift through the motivational fluff, the only information released about this program is what is stated above. It is almost unsettling how little information there is about this plan. It is easy to persuade people when you mix inspiring platitudes and promises of financial security, but the real test the plan needs to withstand is how it performs when both its strengths and weaknesses are addressed. Until I hear more specifics, I will remain skeptical of both Mr. Yudof and his plan.

The main goal of “Project You Can” is to raise more money for student aid through fundraising. However the idea that the University of California can magically increase the amount of money donated by such a large factor is startling and brings up questions.

If we really had the power to double the amount of student aid, why didn’t we use it earlier? If we didn’t have the power to raise one billion dollars before, how are we going to do it now?

Without these questions answered, it seems to me that UC and Mr. Yudof are doing one of two things: 1) Making promises of increased financial aid to sidestep the criticism that has followed the recent decision to raise tuition and lay-off faculty members and 2) Hiding the fact that our system was run incredibly poorly – so poorly that the amount of student aid that could be raised through donations was half of what it should have been. Either way you spin it, everyone should be skeptical of Mr. Yudof’s promises until he tells us exactly how he has the power to double the money.

Another aspect of Yudof’s proposal that raises questions for me is his request of the UC Regents to increase the income ceiling on the Blue and Gold Plan to $70,000. Once again, in theory this is a great idea. More underprivileged and capable students are receiving a “hand up,” as Yudof puts it, for college. However, once again, the lack of specific information on his proposal is remarkable.

Let’s say the UC Regents do accept Yudof’s proposal. The Blue and Gold Plan pays for college in full for any student who is eligible. How does Yudof expect to pay for an entirely new group of students? Where is he getting the money to support this kind of increase? Is he cutting the amount of money that goes to the students already eligible for this program to include this new salary level, or is he just raising tuition?

Heck, maybe he is even cutting his $540,000 salary to help pay for it. The fact is, we don’t know and we should. Until Yudof discloses some more specifics about his proposals, the answers to these questions are endless.

I realize I am being harsh on Mr. Yudof. However, it is frustrating to see him put out a plan that is only half-baked – especially after all the criticism he has received. Anyone can make promises in the face of criticism, anyone can set lofty goals and anyone can fail. However, it is Mr. Yudof’s job as the president of the University of California to be better than just anyone.

So Mr. Yudof, I am challenging you to answer the questions I have asked. and I expect answers. Without the answers, I hope the students of UCI do not buy into the promises you make. Do not leave these questions unanswered — you owe it to the students, and future students, of the University of California to answer them.

Neil Thakor is a second-year political science major. He can be reached at