The University of California was established under the Morrill Land Grant Act, which sought to make higher education free and accessible. Students still had to pay fees, though, and even in the university’s earliest days this presented a challenge to many students. Recognizing this need, Levi Strauss in 1897 donated the money to help create 28 scholarships for Berkeley students.
Since then, tuition has increased as state support has waxed and waned and the cost of education has risen steadily. The financial needs of students also have changed. Today, more than one-third of Cal’s undergraduates come from low-income families — about as many as all of the Ivy League schools combined. As the student body has grown from a few thousand at the turn of the 20th century to more than 40,000 in 2017, so too has the need for scholarships and graduate fellowships.
Scholarship and fellowship support from private donors enables the university to fulfill its public mission to accept students based on their ability to achieve, not on their capacity to pay tuition. George A. Miller ’61 created the Miller Scholars Program to help low-income students transferring to Berkeley from a community college, and Bernard and Barbro Osher have contributed nearly $16 million to the Incentive Awards Program, now the Fiat Lux Scholarship. Today, it is one of Berkeley’s most comprehensive ways to reach talented, underserved students and provides four years of funding and a variety of services.
The Haas family, whose six-generation legacy of philanthropy began when Levi Strauss established the University’s first endowed scholarships in 1897, continues to provide underserved students the opportunity to achieve their higher education goals through myriad scholarship programs. Their generous gifts support high-achieving DACA students through the Undocumented Students Program, while the Peter E. Haas Public Service Leaders program has awarded over 200 scholarships to minority undergraduate student leaders who have demonstrated a significant commitment to off- campus public service activities.
A recent anonymous $10 million gift is also ensuring that underserved students get the leg up they need to succeed through programs such as the African American Initiative and the Hope Scholars program.
These gifts are invaluable to advancing the University’s commitment to serving its community, advancing the public good, and ensuring future generations of educated leaders.