The UC Davis Staff Assembly has announced a new scholarship program for employees' sons and daughters, taking a small step toward the kind of financial aid that has been long talked about but never enacted at the systemwide level.
"We wanted a program that would help staff bring their kids to our campus," Staff Assembly Chair Lin King said.
The new staff dependents' scholarships are in addition to the assembly's long established scholarship program for staff members themselves. The programs are similar, except staff members can use their scholarship money at any college or professional school, whereas staff dependents can use their scholarships at UC Davis only.
King said the number of scholarships to be awarded to staff dependents is contingent on fundraising, but he knows that each award is likely to be at least $1,000.
"Of course, we know that won't pay everything," King said, "but, however small, at least it's a gesture, and it sends a message about what we think the university system should be doing for its staff."
What the system should be doing, King said, is offering fee waivers or discounts for staff dependents.
In fact, the Council of University of California Staff Assemblies, or CUCSA, had planned to go to the Board of Regents more than a year ago with such a proposal. The systemwide Academic Senate made similar proposals in 2000, 2002 and 2004; at one time during this period, UC estimated a $5.6 million annual cost for tuition waivers for staff dependents.
Dateline reported on Nov. 18, 2005, that CUCSA planned to renew the proposal as early as January 2006. But, in the wake of the executive compensation controversy that engulfed the UC system in early 2006, CUCSA never presented its proposal.
"That was a huge disappointment for our staff," King said. "They put their trust in us, and we didn't follow through."
Not that King did not try. He said he was appointed to a CUCSA committee last year to further investigate the fee waiver or discount proposal -- and he attended one meeting before the CUCSA chair reassigned the committee to another task.
Bill Johansen, CUCSA chair, said tuition assistance for staff dependents is something that CUCSA "is still very interested in" -- but the timing is not right. "It's on hold for this year."
The executive compensation issue "took the wind out of our sails," he said. He added that CUCSA also was concerned about asking the Board of Regents for tuition assistance at the same time that the regents were asking employees to pay more for health insurance, and preparing staff for the possibility of once again paying into the UC Retirement Plan.
"When UC has money available, where do we want it to go?" Johansen asked. To tuition for a limited number of employees, or into health premiums or the retirement plan, programs that benefit everyone?
Despite CUCSA's change in course, King pressed on, bringing his UC Davis scholarship proposal to his board and executive committee. They said "yes."
The scholarship program is modeled after the assembly's staff scholarship program, which began in 1981 with $7,500 in donations that came in as memorials to Margene Orzalli, a longtime employee.
Over the years, Staff Assembly added to the fund, using the proceeds from fundraisers usually associated with the annual Thank Goodness for Staff celebration. TGFS fundraisers include a raffle and bingo, as well as merchandise sales.
The scholarship fund has grown so large that it is netting about $4,000 a year in interest, King said, enough to keep the program going without any additional revenue. Also, the UC Davis Retirees Association donates $1,000 a year.
From now on, the assembly's TGFS fundraising proceeds will go into a new fund — this one for the scholarship program for staff dependents. King said he also is looking to secure donations to the fund.
"This is a baby step, nothing huge," he said, "but I think it's a good direction, especially for an institution of higher learning."
Applicants must show commitment to UC Davis
Staff Assembly scholarships for staff dependents are to be awarded in a competitive process for which applications are due by April 30.
Jennifer Lucero, Staff Assembly coordinator, explained that the first award—or awards if there is enough money for more than one—will be for the fall and winter quarters of 2007-08, and the scholarship money will be paid out as reimbursement based on submitted receipts.
Besides the typical sections for school and community activities, and work experience, the application calls for a summary of involvement in UC Davis activities by the applicant and his or her parents and-or guardians. Examples of such involvement: efforts on behalf of Staff Assembly, service on university committees, and volunteer work on campus.
“We want the recipients and their parents to be committed to UC Davis, to make these scholarships special for UC Davis,” Staff Assembly Chair Lin King said.
He acknowledged that he has received inquiries from staff members whose children are interested in the scholarships for use at other universities. That may be possible in the future, depending on growth of the scholarship fund, King said.
The application form is available online, http://staff.ucdavis.edu (click on “Scholarships-Apps”), and copies are available from Jennifer Lucero at the Staff Assembly office in the Human Resources Administration Building. Contact her at (530) 752-0988 or firstname.lastname@example.org.