About 50 community members, faculty, students and staff took off Saturday, Jan. 25, from the parking lot at the Anteater Recreation Center for a 25-mile bike ride in support of higher education, led by UC Irvine Chancellor Michael V. Drake.

Under sunny blue skies and with able assistance from attentive members of Anteater Cycling – the student club team – the tour of Irvine proved a pleasant excursion for all.

“It’s actually a wonderful time for us to get together on a really glorious Saturday morning in January to take a ride around Irvine,” Drake said, “and to take some time to think about what a special university we have and … how important health is to all of us in keeping our lives going in the direction that we like.”

The event was Drake’s fulfillment of the Promise for Education he made last fall as part of a University of California systemwide scholarship campaign. He earned the most pledges of any participant, bringing in $21,443.

Launched last September, Promise for Education involved University of California community members who posted online promises – some serious, some whimsical – that they would fulfill if supporters helped them reach stated pledge goals. In six weeks, the UC system racked up more than 1,000 promises and nearly 4,000 contributions totaling $1.3 million.

The campuses tried the crowdsourcing tactic in response to decreased state support for higher education. In the last five years, state funding for the University of California system has been cut by nearly $900 million. While the state once covered 78 percent of the cost of a UC student’s education, it now covers just 39 percent.

The indirect costs of the program were underwritten, so all monies earned will go toward retiring student debt.