UC Merced officials said Wednesday a $2 million gift by a Modesto foundation will be used to help retain students and assist them in completing their degrees.
"We are very thankful for this opportunity," said Elizabeth Boretz, director of student advising and learning at UC Merced. "We are very committed to serving every student in this campus, especially the ones that need the help the most."
The Bright Family Foundation made the donation to provide advising and learning support to students. The foundation is dedicated to projects that serve the youth of the San Joaquin Valley with an emphasis on education and health, according to a UC Merced news release.
The university will use the money to establish the Calvin E. Bright Success Center, named after the president and chairman of the foundation, who also has served as a UC Merced trustee. The center, currently called the Student Advising and Learning Center, will continue to provide resources for students to achieve their academic goals at UC Merced, officials said.
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The retention rate for students who began at UC Merced in fall 2009 was 87.1 percent — the percentage of students who came back for fall 2010, Boretz said.
The retention rate for the 2006 cohort was 79.6 percent, so the rate has improved over the years. "We've been on our way up, and surpassing the 90 percentile would be great," she said.
Ideally, officials would like to see a 100 percent retention rate, she said.
Retention and degree completion are of immense importance to campus officials. They want to make sure students stay motivated and don't get discouraged by challenges they might face while attending school. "To really have that vision to complete that degree," Boretz said. "They can make it to their finish line."
The money also will enhance and expand existing programs, such as academic advising, mid-semester assessment, instructional support, personal mentoring and leadership experiences, according to officials.
"Our first plan is to take programs we've been running and to expand the capacity," Boretz said.
"We are trying to add more opportunities for students."
The campus and enrollment have been growing. This year, officials estimate the center will serve about 1,200 students.
The foundation wants to see the outcome of the work that the center will be engaged in to help students. Boretz said the center will do more tracking to assess the center's results.
The foundation also established the Calvin E. Bright Engineering Scholarship Fund for engineering students at UC Merced in 2008.
An endowment will be created to provide immediate and long-term support for students.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or email@example.com.