Chong Xiong was on the edge of her seat when University of California President Mark Yudof announced an ambitious plan Friday that would guarantee students who are accepted into the system would have the money to pay for their education.
“Now my parents won't have to worry,” said the junior who wants to study science at the Irvine campus.
Yudof chose an assembly at Sunnyside High School in the heart of the rural San Joaquin Valley to unveil the $1 billion fundraising effort that would ensure students with annual family incomes of $70,000 or less would pay no fees.
At the school on Fresno's impoverished east side, the families of all but 30 of the 3,000 students would meet that income threshold. The region has been hard hit by unemployment and foreclosures.
“Nobody needs a handout, but some of you might need a hand up, and we're here to offer that to you,” Yudof said to thunderous applause.
Yudof's announcement came as the UC Board of Regents is set to meet next month to consider raising fees by 32 percent for most students. The hike would follow a 9.3 percent increase approved in May.
He cautioned students not to be discouraged if they hear that costs are going up.
“Your job is to be the best student you can, to do everything in your power to make yourself an outstanding applicant for the University of California,” he said.
Yudof dubbed the fundraising effort Project You Can. He said afterward that he hoped the project will increase the number of African Americans and Latinos who attend UC schools.
Each of the 10 campuses has set a fundraising goal, Yudof said, and will be hitting up alumni and friends for donations. The $1 billion he hopes to amass over four years would double the system's previous fundraising efforts.
“I'm optimistic, and I'm going to plug it every time I speak,” Yudof said. “We think our alumni will see this can really help young people.”
Yudof told the cheering teenagers that income should never be a barrier to students who meet the system's rigorous academic requirements.
“There's actually going to be money out there for me to go to college,” said sophomore Arvin Kaila, who wants to study business at Irvine but worried that his parents would not be able to afford sending his sister at the same time. “Now if I get good grades, I know the money will be there.”