The University of California is trying a new tack to generate more student scholarship money, and it's not just hitting up the usual billionaires.

A celebrity-studded crowdsourcing campaign that launched Wednesday, Promise for Education, counts on students and young alumni to tap into their extensive social media networks to ease the financial burden on students across the system.

The six-week campaign began quietly a few days ago and by Wednesday, had collected more than $900,000 in pledges.

The idea: By setting fundraising goals and making promises to their thousands of would-be donors -- quitting smoking, for example, volunteering, or dressing in a silly costume -- donations big and small will expand UC's scholarship programs.

(Screenshot of website.)

"If I can raise $1,000, I will climb a mountain," said Brittaney Khong, a 2013 UC San Diego graduate who said she wouldn't have been able to afford college without scholarships.

UCLA graduate Angela Sanchez has promised to coordinate a 24-hour magic show; UC Student Regent Cinthia Flores, a law student at UC Irvine, has vowed to dress as Superman for a day -- a real sacrifice, she said, as she is "obsessed" with Batman, his rival.

"I can't make a monetary contribution of $1,000," Flores said. "But I can make a promise."

The money collected in the drive will go straight to a systemwide scholarship fund or -- if the donor prefers -- to student aid at a particular campus. UC officials stressed that the proceeds would expand existing scholarship programs, not replace them.


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UC students receive nearly $700 million each year from private donors or tuition-funded scholarships, such as the system's need-based Blue & Gold Opportunity Plan. About half of all UC students don't pay any systemwide tuition or fees because of their families' limited income; the new drive could help them pay for books or other education expenses, said UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein.

Gov. Jerry Brown has supported the crowdsourcing campaign, offering to have a brown-bag lunch with a student from each UC campus if he raises $10,000. Also joining the cause are actors Jamie Foxx and David Spade, NBA player Matt Barnes, Beach Boys singer Mike Love and the "Twilight" filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke.

The online platform was created with Noise, a creative agency that specializes in engaging 18- to 34-year-odds. Other sponsors include Facebook, Bank of America, Spotify and muzik, the creators of the SmartHeadPhone.

The overall fundraising goal, as of now, is open-ended -- "as much as we possibly can," said UC Regent Sherry Lansing.

More information is online at www.promise foreducation.org.

Follow Katy Murphy at Twitter.com/katymurphy.