Every month, Max Belasco takes the money he would have spent for two cups of coffee and donates it to UCLA.
For one year, the fourth-year microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics student is contributing $8.33 every month to the UCLA Fund through the Student Giving program.
Belasco is one of the growing number of students donating money to the university as undergraduates, rather than the traditional alumni or graduating seniors, through the UCLA Fund.
The UCLA Fund Student Giving Committee encourages students to make donations to support the university during their entire undergraduate experience. Feb. 1 marked the start of the program’s student-led winter fundraiser.
For the first time, past undergraduate donors are volunteering to talk to student leaders from across campus in an effort to spread the word about donating.
The fund was established in 2009, and the senior class gift program was expanded to the entire undergraduate population. Previously, undergraduate students could donate to the university as part of their senior class gift.
Stacey Capoot, assistant director of Student Giving, said the idea to expand the program to include all undergraduates was developed over a period of time and was not a direct result of the 2009 budget cuts.
Throughout the year, the Student Giving Committee holds events to promote student donations, such as the annual Thank UCLA Day.
This month’s fundraising challenge represents a concentrated effort to increase student participation through email notices and phone calls to students.
Students who donate can choose a specific area of campus to direct the money. These programs vary from academic departments to the Fowler Museum Programming and Education Fund.
Direct donations such as these allow the different departments to use the funds at their discretion, said Capoot, a 2009 UCLA alumna.
For students such as Belasco, donating to the university was an opportunity to give back to the institution shaping his undergraduate experience.
Belasco arrived at UCLA with a merit-based scholarship from the Alumni Association, which was one of the reasons he was able to attend the university.
As a result, he earmarked his $100 donation to support Dollars for Scholars, which is run through the Alumni Scholars Club. Dollars for Scholars seeks to raise money through donations in order to fund more Alumni Association scholarships.
Belasco said that through the program, he is giving back to the university for the opportunities it provided him, as well as helping to give future Bruins the same experiences he had.
“For me, I don’t see it as giving a donation, but more of me thanking the university for the opportunities it has given me,” Belasco said.
Though state funding to the University of California has decreased drastically in recent years, the number of student donors continues to increase.
State support currently covers 9 percent of UCLA’s operating budget, Capoot said.
Student fees, which include tuition, take up another 8 percent. The rest of the operating budget is covered through grants and private donations.
Some students, however, say the university should not rely so heavily on student and private support.
Jessica Hampton, a second-year environmental science student, said the university should not be asking for donations from students as it continues to increase tuition.
“It worries me that (UCLA) is relying on private donations because you have no idea how much you are going to get (per year),” Hampton said.
“I feel like it says something about the university, and that’s kind of scary.”
About 1,300 graduating seniors contributed to the last senior gift in 2009. The following year, 1,470 gifts were made to the university in Student Giving’s first year.
Last year, more than 2,000 students contributed about $25,000 to the university.