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A match to spark student support
Chancellor's new program will match gifts for student aid from faculty, emeriti, staff, and students

| 04 April 2007

A professor labors over a grant proposal to fund her research and support her graduate students. A staff member works the phones to find an emergency loan for a strapped undergraduate. A student worries about his roommate, who is working longer and longer hours to make ends meet.

There is no question that the rising cost of higher education is tough to bear for many students - and that many in the campus community are working to help. Some faculty, staff, and even students go a step further, joining the ranks of private donors to campus endowment funds that provide student financial aid.

This week Chancellor Birgeneau initiated a program that will double the impact of such personal gifts from the campus community.

Through "Our Promise. Their Future. Chancellor's Challenge for Student Support," he has set aside discretionary funds to match gifts and pledges, dollar for dollar, given to Berkeley's endowment for need-based student support from active and retired factulty and staff, current students, and surviving spouses and partners of Berkeley professors. Gifts in any amount - up to $250,000 - will be matched.

The program will be in place through June 30, 2012, with the possibility of renewal beyond that time.

"Providing access to education - access based on the ability to achieve, not on the ability to pay - is one of the highest values I find in our campus community," says Birgeneau. "People express that value in many ways; for some, it is donating to Berkeley's endowment for student support. This new program will double the value of such personal investments in our students and, I hope, encourage new donors from the campus."

For many, daily contact with Berkeley students motivates them to give. Staff member Marguerite Judson of the Center for Educational Partnerships says she went to college and grad school with significant help from scholarships and fellowships, and today she sees students with those same needs. "I meet many who have been helped by scholarships, and I'm so impressed by their capabilities and astonished by the hurdles they overcome to earn a degree," she says.

"I also see talented kids who don't feel they have a chance to go to college," she adds. "I want to help make it possible for some of them to come to Berkeley. A match from the chancellor can make my modest gifts do more toward that goal."

For graduate-student funding, the chancellor's program expands on a successful Graduate Division matching program, the Named Fund Initiative, begun in October 2005 and scheduled to end on June 1. Aimed at faculty, the program matches faculty gifts of $10,000 to establish or support named graduate fellowships. To date, some 90 donors - from assistant professors to emeriti or surviving spouses or partners of Berkeley professors - have contributed through the program, raising nearly $2 million.

'The obvious right thing'

"It's a no-brainer," says Michael Manga, professor of earth and planetary science and a fellowship donor through the Graduate Division's matching program. "It's a stretch for a lot of faculty and staff to donate, but with the campus doubling your gift, it seems like the obvious right thing to do."

Manga sees the need for student support every day and welcomes the chancellor's new program. "We have a big problem at Berkeley - we don't have money," he says. "We're competing with the Harvards and Stanfords for the top students, but we don't have their financial security. So we write lots of grant proposals and work really hard for the funds to support our graduate students.

"There's nothing wrong with working hard," he adds, "but dependable sources of funding would ensure that we stay competitive and keep helping the best students come to Berkeley."

Berkeley's eroding financial ability to compete with its private peers was a prime motivator for the chancellor in setting up the matching-gift program. Until the 1990s, Berkeley's state funding roughly equaled the payout of a healthy endowment at a comparable private university. But when Harvard's endowment passed the $10 billion mark in 1994, it set a new standard for financial support in higher education, upping the ante for institutions that compete for top students and academic preeminence.

Berkeley annually raises impressive sums in private support, last year bringing in $347 million, including gifts from 61,300 individual donors. But with its state funding remaining steady but stagnant, Berkeley needs to grow its endowment to maintain its leadership.

Donors under the chancellor's matching program may contribute to any of a list of existing scholarship and fellowship funds, or, with a current minimum contribution of $10,000, they can create a named fund.

For details on the program and ways to give, visit ourpromise.berkeley.edu.