Regents Launch New Online Scholarship Campaign

The crowdfunding campaign, which began last month, has already raised nearly $1 million for UC students

The University of California Board of Regents announced their six-week Promise For Education scholarship campaign at their meeting last month; since then, the campaign raised nearly $1 million for the UC system. The money will go directly toward UC scholarships.

Promise for Education allows individuals to make a personal promise — run a marathon, adopt a pet, volunteer, grow a beard — set a crowdfunding goal and share the promise on Facebook or other social media sites. The money raised will go directly toward scholarships and grants for UC undergraduates with financial need. The aid will be in addition to money students already receive through the University of California’s traditional financial aid programs.

Campaigns to increase private support towards student scholarships, like Promise for Education, have taken on increased importance after years of cuts to the UC budget.

According to former chairwoman of the UC Board of Regents Sherry Lansing, the campaign is primarily driven by participation from UC students, faculty and staff.

“The campaign is about students and the democratization of funding,” Lansing said. “If everyone raised $10, that would amount to a huge number. Everybody could help somebody else who can’t handle education financially.”

Crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been around for several years and have often been an arena for innovative ideas, with Promise for Education surrounding the new idea of crowdfunded scholarships. The story behind Promise for Education began a couple years ago with an idea from social media expert Noah Kerner and Regent Sherry Lansing.  Lansing reached out to Kerner who then flew to Lansing’s Los Angeles office to discuss the idea of crowdsourcing scholarships.

Following discussions, Promise for Education became a group initiative of the Regents, the Office of the President and several other collectives and individuals. Promise for Education is the newest addition to the Project You Can campaign, a system-wide effort, run by UC Regents, to raise $1 billion towards student support through 2014. According to Crowdfund Insider, the campaign has raised more than $700 million, 70 percent of its intended goal.

“Have some fun with it or do something serious,” Lansing said. “I’d like everybody to participate, on any level.”

To date, several prominent celebrities, politicians and UC Chancellors such as actor Jamie Foxx, Governor Jerry Brown and UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, have made promises. People interested in making a promise can visit www.promiseforeducation.org.

“I think the program has the best intentions for the University,” UCSD A.S. Associate Vice President External Affairs Vanessa Garcia said. “I think it’s a unified effort to make attending the UC more accessible for people. I’m curious to see how the scholarships will be compiled and dispersed to students. I’d like to have students be a large voice in that conversation.”