First Class

In 1975, a year of classes at a University of California campus cost $630. By 1985, it was $1,300. For today’s incoming undergraduate students, a year of coursework costs more than $14,000 for California residents—financial realities that may overshadow the joy of receiving a hard-earned acceptance letter.

Preston Hale ’17 received such a letter two years ago. For several years prior he’d been doing anything to get by—painting houses, moving furniture, trimming trees, but he wanted more from his life.

“Receiving that acceptance was one of the best moments of my life… but it also scared me because I had no idea how I was going to pay for it,” says Hale.

Approximately 60 percent of UC San Diego undergraduates receive financial assistance in the form of loans, grants, work-study and scholarships. And while tuition has increased, funding from the state of California has dwindled, from nearly 18 percent in 1995 to just seven percent today.

As a means to address the growing obstacle that finances can be to a college education, in 2013 Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla initiated the Chancellor’s Associates Scholars Program, which provides a full scholarship to local low-income and first-generation students who dream of attaining a higher education.“When I received the notice from the Chancellor’s Associates Scholarship Program in the mail, I cried because I knew I was going,” says Hale. “All of that hard work, all of that sacrifice paid off.”

In June, the first class of scholars, along with Hale, turned their tassels at Commencement ceremonies.

“We are making a commitment to this community and to our country to make higher education accessible,” says Chancellor Khosla. “We continue to expand the program so more high-achieving, qualified students from underserved communities can attend UC San Diego free of financial worry and debt.”

The Chancellor’s Associates Scholarship Program—which began with 42 students, and today boasts more than 400—covers tuition, housing, books and other expenses, so students can focus completely on their studies. All incoming scholars are supported by a dedicated network of faculty and peer mentors and take part in a summer transition program, leadership and communication seminars, career and graduate school advising and more.

Many of those who graduated in June are from the program’s first three partner high schools—Gompers Preparatory Academy, Lincoln High School and Preuss School UCSD. Over the past four years, the program has grown to include eligible students transferring from local community colleges, federally recognized Native American tribes and several community-based programs like UC San Diego alumni-founded Reality Changers.

For Linda and Dan Masters, who have helped support the program since its inception, seeing the first class graduate is extremely gratifying.

“Watching them succeed is the best joy,” says Linda Masters, chair of UC San Diego Chancellor’s Associates, a group of alumni, parents, faculty, staff and friends whose annual investment helps support programs like the scholarship.

According to Masters, the program’s ability to transform futures is what makes it truly successful. For ambitious students who have endured personal hardships or come from communities where role models are lacking, the program offers not only financial assistance, but a dedicated network of support and mentorship throughout their educational careers at UC San Diego.

“We are changing the lives of over 400 young men and women from neighborhoods and schools where they thought they had little chance of a better life,” Masters says.

Support the Chancellors Associates Scholars Program here.