Tuesday, December 18

Editorial: Amid lackluster scholarship fundraising, UCLA needs innovative solutions


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$4.28 billion. 190,721 donors. 469,209 received gifts. And still one year before the 100th anniversary.

UCLA has many reasons to celebrate its Centennial Campaign.

But there’s one group that isn’t dancing all the way to the bank: students.

Despite meeting and exceeding its overall fundraising target of $4.2 billion, UCLA’s Centennial Campaign is woefully lacking in its student scholarship fundraiser. The university has raised little more than 44 percent of its $1 billion scholarship fund goal.

And yes, there’s only one year before the 100th anniversary.

Contrast that with the fundraising triumphs UCLA has had in other aspects of the campaign, such as the $2.06 billion in aggregate it raised for research and discovery programs. Some departments even outraised their fundraising goals, with the School of the Arts and Architecture overshooting its goal by almost $100 million dollars.

Scholarships, however, are unequivocally the most beneficial asset of the Centennial Campaign. Sixty-five percent of all UCLA undergraduates receive financial aid – and this often doesn’t include the countless middle-class students, who tend not to receive anything because there simply isn’t enough to go around. Successfully raising $1 billion for a scholarship endowment could help fund a generation of future Bruins’ educations.

Ironically, UCLA’s now-complete campaign to better the student-centered institution looks to be failing in its core mission: to better the student-centered institution.

Moreover, the university doesn’t look like it has a well thought-out plan to address the campaign’s shortcomings. The UCLA Office of Scholarships and Student Support Initiatives told The Bruin in early August – a little over a week after the campaign exceeded its $4.2 billion milestone – that the university and the Chancellor’s Office would continue to urge donors and alumni to give to the scholarship fund. Administrators added they would share “stories of students” to urge donors to open their wallets.

A month later, Ricardo Vazquez, a UCLA spokesperson, reiterated the strategy, stressing there were still 20 months until the official conclusion of the centennial campaign. UCLA raised $6 million for the scholarship fund since early August, according to the Centennial Campaign website – meaning it would still need nearly eight years at its current rate to reach its $1 billion scholarship mark, assuming last month’s fundraising windfall persisted.

That’s not to say UCLA isn’t committed to raising money for student support. But there’s no denying the Centennial Campaign’s oversight: Names on buildings and slick research funds have been more eye-catching to donors than increasing financial support for students – no matter how many compelling student stories were highlighted in some obscure corner of the campaign’s website.

Certainly, student financial support will almost never seem the most appealing way for donors to use their extra money. Big donations require big incentives, and funding a low-key scholarship is just too unglamorous for many.

But that’s all the more reason for UCLA to abandon its lackadaisical marketing techniques and employ more creative and effective means to construct a sizable scholarship endowment. Rebranding the scholarship fundraiser to draw in donations from recent alumni, or even transforming the scholarship fund into a multiyear campaign to stockpile the scholarship endowment pose promising outlooks.

The Centennial Campaign will bring UCLA elegant buildings, sleek research laboratories and powerful endowed chair positions. If the university doesn’t up its scholarship fundraising tactics, though, the 100th anniversary celebrations might end up lacking some thousands of attendants.

45,000, to be more precise.

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