SOAR Looks to Secure Funding

The administration has offered its support in acknowledging the importance of the center.

After the Student Outreach and Retention (SOAR) Center saw its referendum to secure funding not passed in this year’s spring elections, members immediately took to finding other options in securing funds past the 2013-14 year.

The SOAR Center provides programs and services in student retention and outreach, and it is the only center to provide funds, training and assistance for student-initiated outreach projects.

Andrea Gaspar, ASUCI Executive Vice President as well as a member of SOAR, emphasized the need for a center to reach students who come from marginalized, underprivileged communities.

“When the initiative didn’t pass, we put up a committee of students together,” Gaspar said. “We started strategizing, because at that point we didn’t know if they were going to come through with funding for another four years, or three years.”

Gaspar said that the SOAR Center will most likely not pursue another referendum campaign next year. Instead, the committee is looking to secure a budget through the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, which has been its source of funding until now.

The committee has been looking at the SOAR Center budgets at other UC campuses, looking at where their primary sources of funding came from. The SOAR Centers at UCLA, UCSD and others receive funding from primarily student initiative fees and administrative funds. Typically, the Vice Chancellor would match the funds provided by the initiative.

Since the SOAR fee initiative did not pass this year, Gaspar said they turned to the Office of the Vice Chancellor to cover for the SOAR Center’s needs.

“Our hope was to make sure that the initiative passed, and that we get an estimate from the initiative and that the Vice Chancellor match the funds with us,” Gaspar said. “Since we didn’t pass the referendum, we’re asking for an increase on the budget.

“The funds will go towards hiring full-time staff, assistants and hiring outreach and retention specialists. We’re just looking for someone who can serve the needs and provide resources to different communities on campus.”

Despite the uncertainty, Gaspar said the offices of the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor have been very clear in offering their support and in securing funding a priority.

“It’s not often they say that,” she said. “We don’t know the situation yet, but we’re hopeful.

“I don’t think the SOAR Center is going to go anywhere; we just have to make sure it keeps developing.”

When SOAR representatives met with Vice Chancellor Thomas Parham earlier this month with a budget proposal through the 2016-17 school year, the Vice Chancellor said he could not guarantee anything, as his office is waiting on their own budget to be finalized for the upcoming fiscal year beginning in July. He did, however, offer his support.

“SOAR students have done a remarkable job in the last two years in building a network of support and programs for students, so it is understandable there is concern and disappointment about the recent referendum not passing,” Parham said.

“While at this moment we cannot guarantee a specific funding source, the campus understands the value and importance of the center, and I am confident that SOAR will continue to enjoy the support from the university administration.”