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UCSB Alumni Association Addresses Student Financial Distress With Scholarship Fund

Recognizing the dearth of unrestricted scholarships on campus, the UC Santa Barbara Alumni Association established a scholarship fund in 2009 with a goal of generating a total of $3 million.

The UC Santa Barbara Alumni Association Scholarship Fund (AASF) was launched as a very flexible scholarship fund that could be directed at any area on campus where there was financial need among those with good academic standing. Each year the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office recommends to the Alumni Association Board of Directors where the greatest campus need exists.

Alumni Association President Dick Breaux, ’67, noted that the AASF has now raised almost $500,000 in donations and pledges in just over two years. During the same time period, a total of $45,000 in scholarship and emergency funds was distributed to students through the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, which identifies the students who will receive funds.

“If the University of California expects to continue as one of America’s great universities — competing with such institutions as Harvard, Yale and MIT — it must have combined revenues from the state, tuition and other funds at least roughly comparable to theirs. This model will bring us closer to that goal,” the Chancellors wrote.

Part of the $45,000 total includes two $10,000 emergency fund disbursements. In Spring 2011 and Fall 2011, the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships requested funds from the AASF to address students in dire financial distress who needed help with food, housing or tuition.

“The students who were assisted with last year’s funds from the Alumni Association Emergency fund were extremely appreciative and in most cases, without these funds, would have had to leave UCSB,” said Financial Aid and Scholarship Office Director Mike Miller during Summer 2011. “There may not be a more important $10,000 on campus. This is proving to be true not only because of the impact the extra funds have had on students, but also because of the awareness it has created,” he said.

Among alumni and supporters, the Greek community has also stepped up. The “Picasso Pioneers” of UC Delta Gamma alumni invested in a future generation of UC Santa Barbara students by contributing more than $6,000 to the AASF in February 2010. Additional Greek alumni are getting involved, creating a competition among sororities and fraternities.

While there are several forms of institutional grants available at UC Santa Barbara, the relatively unrestricted nature of the UCSB Alumni Association Scholarship Fund allows greater flexibility in serving the varied and ever changing needs of our students.

“The student financial aid population is really shifting and we are seeing large concentrations of students in very low income ranges and very high income ranges with few in between. This really shows that we are almost eliminating middle-class families from our campus,” Miller said.

The current economic situation is making it increasingly difficult for many families to afford UC Santa Barbara. The cost of a UC Santa Barbara education is now more than $100,000 for 4 years. Students who graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2010 had, on average, in excess of $18,000 in debt, up from about $12,000 in 2005, and $15,000 in 2009. That number is projected to rise to more than $20,000 for 2011.

Without scholarship help a growing number of students are being forced to drop out, take on crippling student loan debt or accept part-time jobs that impact their academic performance. According to the UCSB Financial Aid Office, more than 2,000 UC Santa Barbara students who qualified for financial aid each year received no scholarship help.

“The UCSB Alumni Association Scholarship Fund has the potential to be a powerful advantage in winning this battle for a great student body — a competition this university cannot afford to lose,” said Mark French, Alumni Association board member and the former director of scholarships and outreach at the Association. “UCSB cannot be a great university without great students.”

An investment in student scholarships is an investment in California’s future economic growth and a chance for UC Santa Barbara to continue attracting the state’s best and brightest students, French said. With the middle-class students being hit the hardest by rising fees, the AASF ensures that UC Santa Barbara and California will have a diverse, educated population.

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