Funding for the USP’s programs and services comes from on-campus sources, the President of the University of California, and private donors. The bulk of the USP’s expenses relate to personnel costs, such as staff salaries and benefits.

Our three funding approaches

To date, we have used three main approaches to fund the USP’s programs and services:

  • leveraging sources of support from UC Berkeley
  • helping secure support from the University of California (UC) system
  • cultivating major donors

We have also conducted strategic messaging to attract external, mid-level donors, however this approach has had limited success to date.

UC Berkeley provides 25% of the USP’s funding

At the start of the USP, we looked into sources of funding within UC Berkeley that could be used for undocumented students.

  • In 2012, internal UC Berkeley funds paid for the program’s first staff position – a half-time program coordinator.
  • In 2013, based on the USP’s success, UC Berkeley increased their level of support from the half-time coordinator role to a full-time USP Director.
  • In 2013, we solicited and received funding from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion to provide training on campus for the UndocuAlly program.
  • In 2015, UC Berkeley students voted yes on a referendum to designate a portion of student fees to “comprehensive support for the success of non-traditional students, including first generation, low-income, underrepresented, transfer, undocumented, student parent, re-entry, student veteran and foster youth.” As a result, student fees now help fund part of USP’s immigration legal support.
  • In 2017, the Student Experience and Diversity team within University Development and Alumni Relations emerged and began working with USP on its fundraising efforts.

The UC Berkeley President’s Office provides 19% of the USP’s funding

In 2013, when former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano was named president of the UC system, UC Berkeley’s senate passed a resolution calling upon Ms. Napolitano to meet a list of demands, including assurance that the UC system would be a safe place for undocumented students.

In her first major speech as President, Ms. Napolitano announced a two-year, $5 million per year initiative to support undocumented students across the UC system, including student services and financial aid. The USP received $125,000, which we used to support seven different programs, including Summer Bridge ($40,000), Emergency Grants ($30,000), and Legal Services ($20,000).

In May 2016, following ongoing expressions of concern from students, the President renewed support for her UC system funding initiative, announcing a three-year commitment of $8.4 million per year. From this, UC Berkeley received $300,000 per year for services, of which the USP got$150,000 ($50,000 each for Emergency Grants, Summer Bridge, and Legal Services). In May 2019, another three-year commitment was made and UCB’s USP received $240,000.

Private Donors provide 56% of the USP’s funding

The USP also has benefited substantially from the support of major donors. For example, one of our donors provides funds for a number of USP’s programs, in particular our full-time mental health counselor. Another major donor provides significant support for the program’s full-time attorney.

In order to connect with these donors, and to reach out to new ones, we rely on strategic messaging. To that end, we share key materials, such as the USP’s five-year strategic plan, as well as a one-page sheet that outlines the USP’s categories of programs and services, and demonstrates how far dollars can go to improve the lives of undocumented students. We also share data collected over the years to help donors gain an understanding of the impact our programs have had on student progress and success.

In addition, each of our benefactors reported they were moved by meeting undocumented students and hearing their stories. And, one donor’s commitment was inspired by her family’s multi-generational respect for immigrants and their contributions to our society.

However, we’ve faced challenges in broadening our base of private donors. One reason is that – like many other public universities – UC Berkeley has been facing severe financial challenges in recent years. Part of the problem is due to a steady decrease in state support and a five-year freeze on undergraduate tuition. As a result, the university’s fundraising staff have not had sufficient time or resources to focus on the USP. However, in 2016, the USP hired its own fundraising staff, so we were able to expand our fundraising due to this reason.

Key USP expenses

The bulk of the USP’s expenses, 60%, relates to personnel costs, including staff salaries and benefits. Support for students, which includes the full host of services provided by the program (Emergency Grants, Academic Counseling, Legal Support, Mental Health services, etc.) accounts for 32 percent of the budget. We use the final 8 percent of the program’s budget to share our model with other campuses across the country.


Considerations for Getting Started

  • Are students and faculty already motivated to address the challenges and needs of undocumented students?
  • Are there students, groups, and/or faculty, who’d be willing to put time into assessing the needs and challenges faced by undocumented students, with recommendations to meet those needs?
  • Which campus community members would be willing to press the administration for action?
  • Is the administration willing to meet with undocumented students and hear their personal stories?
  • What allies that can be enlisted in the effort – the student newspaper, the student senate, faculty association, workers’ union, etc?
  • Is it possible to have some portion of student fees allocated for undocumented student programs?
  • Does your college or university president (or academic dean) have discretionary funds that might be tapped for undocumented student services?
  • If your institution is part of a statewide system, what opportunities are there to unite with other colleges/universities to press for funding from the “central office.”
  • Are there people of means in your area or donors to your college/university that have expressed support for immigrants, or who are new or first-generation Americans themselves that might be approached for support?