Brittaney Khong, a 2013 graduate of UC San Diego, is promising to climb a mountain if she meets her goal of raising $1,000 for undergraduate scholarships. Khong has her eye on Mount San Gorgonio, located in the San Bernardino Mountains near her hometown. At 11,503 feet, it represents the highest peak in Southern California. Difficult enough for even the most physically fit, Khong has an added challenge: she is recovering from surgery that removed a tumor from her knee.
“This is a very big deal for me,” says Khong, who was in physical therapy for several months. “Heading into my senior year, I didn’t know how I was going to pay my medical bills and cover the cost of my last year at UC San Diego. Then, I learned I was chosen for the Tom Tucker Leadership Scholarship. Without this award and other scholarships, I would not have been able to graduate from UC San Diego—or even attend.”
Khong is one of many University of California supporters—ranging from actor Jamie Foxx to filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke—participating in Promise for Education, a new crowdfunding campaign to increase scholarship aid for deserving UC students. The campaign is the first systemwide fundraising effort to focus solely on philanthropic support for undergraduate scholarships.
The concept is simple. People make a personal promise—run a marathon, volunteer, throw a pizza party—and set a fundraising goal ($50, $100, $1,000 or more), which they can choose to direct to the UC system, or toward a campus of their choice. Then, they share their promise through Facebook, email and other social media channels.
Their friends and followers are directed to PromiseforEducation.org, where donations can be made to see the promise fulfilled. All funds go directly to scholarships and grants for UC undergraduates with financial need.
“The University of California is one of the world’s premier public university systems, and we have a responsibility to ensure that it is accessible to all eligible Californians,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla, who has promised to throw a pre-finals pizza and ice cream social for UC San Diego students if he meets his $10,000 crowdfunding goal. “I encourage all UC San Diego community members to make a promise, or contribute to a promise, and show support for undergraduate scholarships.”
Private support for the University of California has become increasingly important. In the last five years, state support for the UC system has been cut by nearly $900 million dollars. While the state once covered 78 percent of the cost of a UC student’s education, it now covers just 39 percent.
With Promise for Education, UC is one of the first universities in the nation to tap the fundraising power of social networks. Celebrities, industry partners and other notables have already joined the effort, including Gov. Jerry Brown, Jamie Foxx, David Spade, Matt Barnes, Wilmer Valderrama, Gabrielle Union, Sasha Alexander, filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke and rapper and spoken word poet Watsky, among others. Several members of the UC Board of Regents have also joined.
The promises range from the silly to the serious. Jamie Foxx, for example, has pledged to rap like Bill Clinton, President Obama and Mo’Nique from the movie “Precious.” His fans already have pitched in $10,000 for student scholarships to see him fulfill it.
From faculty, staff and students to alumni, businesses and elected officials, Promise for Education encourages anyone who cares about UC and its students to get involved at whatever capacity they can.
“I really hope students get involved with this campaign,” added Khong. “It’s an easy way for students to take charge and support scholarships at their school. All you have to do is make a promise and reach out to your social network.”
To date, Promise for Education has pledges of more than $1 million. The crowdfunding campaign officially launched Sept. 18, 2013 and will run through Oct. 31, 2013.
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