Undergraduate students will receive free blue books and Scantrons as part of a student government-led initiative.
The Undergraduate Students Association Council allocated $15,000 to Associated Students UCLA as part of USAC President Robert Watson’s affordability initiative July 17. The initiative will provide undergraduate students with free blue books and Scantron answer sheets for the 2019-2020 school year.
Blue books and Scantron answer sheets will be distributed at stores where blue books are distributed already such as the Hill Top Shop, Lu Valle Commons and the UCLA Store, Watson said at the meeting.
However, this initiative will not apply to graduate students for the upcoming year, and departments that want to buy blue books in mass will still have to pay for them.
The project is estimated to cost around $40,000 in total and will be funded in collaboration with Dean of Students Maria Blandizzi as well as Associated Students UCLA officials, Watson said.
Watson initially proposed the idea during his campaign for USAC president last year. He said it was important for him to accomplish because it covered multiple facets of the platform he ran on, including both affordability and student engagement.
“I think the perception of having to even pay small amounts of money for things like blue books or Scantrons, which does add up, ultimately, I think, comes across as if the administration is nickeling-and-diming students or just trying to take every last bit of money that we have.”
While the council is working on systemic ways to increase the affordability of education for all students, such as expanding Good Clothes Good People, a basic needs redistribution center on campus, it is also looking for small ways to relieve costs for students, like providing free blue books, Watson said.
He also said he wanted to increase engagement with the student body given the low voter turnout of the previous election. The 2019 USAC election saw the lowest voter turnout in at least 11 years.
“I think that (the) student body doesn’t really know what USAC does or care for USAC, and to me, this is just such an easy way to show the student body like, ‘Hey, here’s something (the) council actually did for you,’” Watson said.
Watson asked council members at the July 17 meeting to allocate the money from surplus funds to allow USAC to take advantage of a UCLA administrative grant that will match the $15,000 from USAC before its expiration date in mid-August. Surplus funds are leftover money from the previous school year that are not going toward any existing programs.
The grant can be used in partnership with USAC to provide free items for students in order to reduce the cost of being a student, said Debra Geller, USAC administrative representative and associate dean of students, during the meeting.
ASUCLA will make up the remaining funds necessary to fund the project in its entirety.
The deal with ASUCLA stipulates that the distribution of the books go through ASUCLA stores on campus, but at no charge to students, said Roy Champawat, the ASUCLA student union director, at the July meeting.
Although the initiative will be funded in part by the UCLA administration this year, Watson said his office is looking for partnerships or sponsorships from outside sources to support it in the future.
“For now, it’s really just a (centennial) celebration with ASUCLA and with the dean of students too that’s being led by my office,” Watson said.