University of California President Mark Yudof today announced an ambitious effort that aims to raise $1 billion for financial aid over the next four years.

Yudof said the purpose of the fundraising effort is to keep the UC’s 10 campuses across the state accessible and affordable for California students.

Speaking to an assembly of students at Sunnyside High School in Fresno, Yudof also announced that he will be asking the UC Board of Regents in November to expand the reach of an ongoing financial aid plan to ensure that eligible undergraduate students with family incomes of $70,000 or less will pay no system-wide fees.

According to a transcript released by his office in Oakland, Yudof said, “Our message today is simple. If you can earn the grades, you can get into the University of California. And if your family needs help, you can get financial aid.”

Yudof said, “We’re in the opportunity business, and even in hard fiscal times we are going to be doing everything we can to preserve one of the greatest attributes of the university – its rare combination of world-class education and research and its high proportion of students from low-income families.”

He said that through the fundraising effort, which is called “Project You Can,” all 10 UC campuses have committed to raise $1 billion in the aggregate over the next four years, doubling the amount of private support the system has raised for scholarships, fellowships and other gift aid in the previous five years.

The UC Board of Regents will be asked to endorse the effort at its November meeting.

Yudof said increasing private support is more pressing than ever because UC has seen its state-funded budget slashed by $814 million in the last two years and state support for each student has declined by half over the last two decades.

He said bridging that funding shortfall has forced the university to take painful actions, such as a proposal to increase student fees over the next two years, and the implementation of furloughs for faculty and staff.

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