Blue & Gold Campaign doubles fundraising goal for student aid

UBC’s Blue & Gold Campaign for Students has officially doubled its fundraising goal from $100 million to $200 million.

The campaign was launched in November 2017 with the goal of improving student access to education at UBC by increasing financial aid. The university initially set the goal of raising $100 million by 2022 but already achieved it in early September.

According to AMS VP Academic and University Affairs Julia Burnham, the campaign is a step towards UBC taking more of the monetary burden off external donors.

“The top source of financial aid for students at UBC is not actually UBC, most undergraduates are receiving their financial awards from organizations outside UBC,” said Burnham, citing the 2019 AMS Academic Experience Survey.

“It’s really positive to move in the future towards more access to financial aid for students.”

The campaign is being executed by UBC Development and Alumni Engagement Services (DAE) in collaboration with Enrolment Services and the faculty of graduate and postdoctoral studies. The DAE focused on fundraising while the latter organizations conducted awards disbursement.

“When I first came to UBC, I wanted to make it a priority to enhance the student experience and ensure that more promising students would have the financial help to access life-changing education,” wrote Santa Ono in a blog post. “Our Blue & Gold Campaign for Students goes a long way to helping achieve this and shows the positive impact donors have on our community.”

Diving into the numbers

In a statement to The Ubyssey, the DAE explained that UBC staff raised money through “email, mail, phone and personal solicitations” and prioritized collecting “major gifts,” over $25,000.

Over 300,000 alumni and individuals associated with the university were contacted during the fundraising process. The campaign’s Blue & Gold bursary received almost 5,000 donations, accounting for a sum total of $1 million.

From the funds, $13.9 million were put towards bursaries catering to students in financial need. $23.3 million was allocated for the funding of awards for academic achievement. $6.4 million went to hybrid awards considering both financial need and academic achievement and $47.7 million funded awards pertaining to criteria such as leadership and service.

Around $8.9 million was diverted towards the enhancement of student experience in various areas.

The campaign allowed for the establishment of 320 new awards, with 6,595 students receiving a donor-funded award last year — up 24 per cent from two years prior.

It also made a significant positive impact on bursary fundraising. The campaign raised $6.5 million for bursaries in two years, an 81 per cent increase when compared to the previous two years ($3.6 million).

One step at a time

But the AMS believes there’s still a lot more work to be done to help alleviate the financial hardship amongst students.

“Over 65 per cent of undergraduate students anticipate having over $25,000 worth of debt at graduation. Nearly two out of five report experiencing financial hardship,” said Burnham regarding the costs of attending UBC.

“Nearly half of graduate students report reconsidering whether they should attend a university with a more affordable tuition or housing options.”

She hopes now that the university has raised all this money, it will work to tailor and market its award programs to specific students in need.

“We’ve been encouraging the university to look at their donor-funded, specific awards and to create a mechanism that really captures data about incoming students and identifies and matches students to be aware of, and apply to awards that they may specifically be eligible for,” said Burnham.

She added that the university should provide more scholarship support for marginalized students on campus.

“The AMS would be really supportive of moving in a direction that prioritizes needs-based financial aid specifically for Indigenous students and [former] youth-in-care,” she said.

“It’s very clear that this has been a very successful campaign … Being able to utilize student voices and perspectives really highlights the donor community.”