College is covered at Santa Barbara City College

College is covered at Santa Barbara City College

SBCC Foundation ensures area students return to school after pandemic

Paola Melchor is a recent graduate of the SBCC Promise program. | Credit: Courtesy

Santa Barbara City College’s revolutionary SBCC promise bounces after a 35% drop in enrollment since the early days of the pandemic. With the slow return to some semblance of normalcy, students are revisiting the promise of debt-free education at one of the nation’s top community colleges.

Across the country, college pledges have supported a range of student support, with one-semester or one-year tuition-free learning offerings. SBCC, on the other hand, is going bigger. “What we’re doing here is nationally leading, absolutely ahead of the pack,” said Geoff Green, CEO of the SBCC Foundation, which launched the program in 2016 with private sector funding. As students return and the numbers stabilize, Green would like to tackle a few items on his wishlist: offering the SBCC promise to all local prospects, no matter when they graduated from high school; extend the program to part-time students; and help cover child care for the parents of Promise.

For more details, I asked the director of the SBCC promise, Sergio Lagunas.

What is the Promise offer? The SBCC pledge supports students who complete high school (or equivalent programs) in the school district [from Gaviota to Rincon]. Students must register during their first or second semester after completing high school. The pledge covers all required registration fees (tuition fees), student fees, textbooks and course materials for two academic years, including summer terms. Participating students must enroll full-time, apply for financial aid, and meet with an academic advisor to maintain eligibility.

Who is eligible? Eligible students are local graduates from a public, private, or alternative high school, including homeschool, court school, or district online school. These are also new students who have graduated from high school or equivalent programs, including adult high school, GED completion, or who have passed the California high school qualifying exam in the district. CCSC Promise [covers] AB 540 and undocumented students who meet all the eligibility conditions.

How is it going? Since fall 2016, we have helped 5,770 students by covering their tuition and student fees, all required textbooks and all required course materials. The average SBCC Promise student saves around $ 900 each semester for two academic years.

We recognize that each student is unique and that each student has individual educational and career goals. In fact, about 40 percent of SBCC Promise students are enrolled in a professional technical education program, such as cosmetology, real estate, and the culinary arts. Most students participate in the SBCC pledge during the two years of eligibility; however, there are students who reach their educational goals earlier because they complete courses under the dual enrollment program while attending high school.

What are the recent challenges? Many students have faced challenges related to online education, family responsibilities, and illness since March 2020, which have resulted in students dropping out of classes or withdrawing altogether for a semester or an entire year. We understand that the pandemic has caused many students to postpone their studies, and we invite all eligible returning students to continue.

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