Alexis Footman: Holiday season bears good news

November 22, 2012 

As many students and faculty members have traveled home to spend this Thanksgiving holiday with their families, the University of California at Merced certainly has a lot to be thankful for this year.

Among a total of seven other universities, including Harvard University, Cornell University and Michigan State University, UC Merced's graduate program has received a $50,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The grant is intended to increase each university's effectiveness in preparing graduate students for faculty careers. With a total of 329 graduate students, the grant will be more than beneficial for the growing program.

As a future graduate student, I have been learning a lot about the importance of grants and outside sources of funding.

The acquisition of the graduate division grant came not long after the Bernard Osher Foundation donated $500,000 to assist community college student transfers at UC Merced.

The donation was received in early November and is expected to provide scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 per student to up to 10 transfer students from California community colleges, who have shown the greatest potential to fulfill their educational goals at UC Merced.

Even bigger news to all students of Merced County is the passing of Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 tax initiative. The ballot measure will raise income taxes on the wealthiest citizens in the state, along with increasing sales tax by a quarter of a cent.

The outcome of this year's election will ensure that UC Merced, along with other University of California and California State University campuses, avoids tuition hikes and budget cuts. The tuition is expected to freeze for the remainder of the 2012-2013 school year.

Chancellor Dorothy Leland released a post-election statement sharing her gratitude for the large number of students who turned out at the campus polling site. She also discussed the challenges that remain despite the positive election results.

Still, passing Proposition 30 will allow the thousands of students, who were worried about the proposed midyear tuition hike, to enjoy the holidays free from concerns of being unable to afford returning for the spring semester.

Last week UC Merced also announced the expected grand opening of the new residence hall, which has been deemed the Half Dome. The new building, set to welcome students in 2013, is expected to increase the availability of campus housing for both incoming and continuing students.

The top two floors of the housing unit will be designated for current students, while freshman will occupy the remaining floors. This is definitely good news for all of the students who are on the waiting list to be considered for on-campus housing.

While there are still significant challenges in the near future for UC Merced, this year has undoubtedly been one of the best concerning the overall growth of the university.

As stated by Leland, this is a time not only for celebration but for even more focus and planning for the years ahead.

Alexis Footman is a senior at UC Merced and is majoring in psychology.

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