University of California, Los Angeles: Grant makes access to a UCLA education easier for underrepresented students

UCLA has received a grant worth up to $2.55 million from the state of California that will help make a college education more affordable for underrepresented students of color, further increasing access to a UCLA-quality degree.


As a partner campus in the CaliforniansForAll College Corps, UCLA will select 150 students for fellowships who will each receive $10,000 for an entire school year. They will get $7,000 in living expenses while doing 450 hours of community service and a $3,000 one-time scholarship at the end of their service.

Of the 150 fellowships, 60 to 75 spots will be set aside specifically for Dreamers students, Finzi-Smith said. Dreamers are immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and who would have been granted a path to citizenship under the federal DREAM Act, which has never passed. The rest will be open to Pell Grant recipients. The U.S. federal government provides Pell Grants to students who need financial aid for college.


Applications will be open in the summer.


“It is really exciting but also really overwhelming,” said Amanda Finzi-Smith, interim director of the UCLA Black Bruin Resource Center. Finzi-Smith led UCLA’s successful effort to secure the grant. “We’re UCLA, so whatever we do has to be the best, and we want it to be done well. And so how do we make sure that we’re keeping up with the expectation, but also making sure our students are getting a once in a lifetime experience from it?”


UCLA was named a partner campus on Jan. 18.


The grant is aimed at making a UCLA diploma a more financially feasible goal for those who may need the most help. Of the nearly 4 million Californians who owe $147 billion in student debt, Black and Latino Californians face the highest rates of default and delinquency, according to CaliforniansForAll.


Finzi-Smith underscores how the grant opens the door to any area of study and will benefit campus by bringing in more ambitious students with diverse backgrounds.


“It’s really for the entire UCLA community,” she said. “I just happened to be the one that led it because the grant focuses on underrepresented students of color.”


Deploying the multimillion-dollar grant is also just the latest task for Finzi-Smith. She also spearheaded the Sept. 27 opening of the Black Bruin Resource Center in Kerckhoff Hall. The center itself was founded as a virtual space in the summer of 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic.


CaliforniansForAll College Corps is the biggest state-level investment in a college service program in the state’s history. The program aims to help students from diverse backgrounds build leadership skills and graduate from college with less debt. It also supports the work of community-based organizations.


To apply for the grant, Finzi-Smith led a group of UCLA staffers including Monroe Gorden Jr., vice chancellor for student affairs, Douglas Barrera, Ciara Brewer, Erin Coutts, Jeffrey Hwang, Karen Hedges, Bemmy Maharramli, Miguel Martinez, Josh O’Connor, Valerie Shepard and Shalom Staub.


“To get the grant took so much work, so to make it happen is going to be a lot of work,” Finzi-Smith said.

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