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The Bruin Scholars Initiative

By UCLA Chancellor Gene Block

Published Apr 1, 2009 8:00 AM

The University of California's mission is to offer every California student who qualifies academically access to a world-class education, regardless of background or economic climate. In these tough economic times, UCLA is extending and expanding its highly successful student-support fundraising drive, with the goal of raising $500 million for scholarships and fellowships by 2013.

The University of California is, above all, a gateway to opportunity for the people of California. The university was founded on the promise that all the state's students who qualify academically for admission could attend the university, regardless of their background or economic standing.

This pledge remains a beacon for UCLA leadership, guiding our actions and reactions, and the allocation of our resources, through times of prosperity, as well as budgetary downturns. Our overriding priority is always the preservation of access to excellence for students, the continuing ability to keep our front door open wide.

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So it is now, as all of us are deeply concerned about the impact of the current recession on funding from the state. While the UC enjoys strong support among our elected officials, all areas of the state budget are being cut. UCLA's state funding this year is at least 6 percent below our needs, and next year's will likely be even less.

At the same time, many of our students and their families are struggling to cover the costs of a college education and are forced to make very difficult choices. Continued fee increases place a burden on many, particularly in the face of a recession.

With all of this in mind, I recently announced an expansion and extension of a previous, highly successful UCLA fundraising effort, the Initiative to Ensure Academic Excellence. Under a new name, the Bruin Scholars Initiative, the effort will generate an additional $500 million by June 30, 2013. Of that sum, $300 million will go toward fellowships and $200 million toward scholarships. We will use 80 percent of the money raised to double our endowed funds dedicated to student support. In so doing, we will help ensure a predictable, ongoing stream of financial support for access in perpetuity. This is a critical step in meeting our responsibilities as stewards of this great institution through the challenging financial situation we now face, mindful that other shortfalls will occur in the future.

Our inclusion of fellowships in the drive is critical to our efforts to attract top graduate students, which, in turn, enhances our ability to recruit and retain world-class faculty in a very competitive environment. As part of the initiative, I have also named areas of emphasis consistent with the priorities I have set for my administration. These include fostering a service ethic, encouraging world citizenship and bolstering research opportunities, especially for undergraduates. By doing so, I hope that in addition to ensuring access, we will expand opportunities for students to study abroad and to engage in service learning pro-grams that link classroom studies with fieldwork and internships. All of these are critical to preparing those who will lead our communities, our nation and our world in the coming years.

The Bruin Scholars fund drive builds on the success of the previous initiative, which was launched by then-Chancellor Albert Carnesale. The goal of that effort was to raise $250 million over five years to support recruitment and retention of the very best students and faculty. The initiative reached its goal a year early, generating more than $113 million for new endowed professorships and more than $137 million for student scholarships and fellowships. We are confident that the renewed effort will be just as successful. In meeting its goals, it will more than triple the student support generated by the previous initiative, in addition to doubling the amount of existing endowed funds dedicated to student support. My wife, Carol, and I believe so strongly in UCLA and its future that we have made an initial gift from our own funds.

UCLA's remarkable alumni and friends always come to the university's aid during times of hardship. We know we can count on you to make this new initiative a resounding success. All of us owe a debt to the great UCLA legacy, whether as graduates, community members or citizens of the world made better by the achievements of the university. Working together, we can safeguard that legacy and its continuation for many generations.