It’s no secret that Santa Barbara City College gets high marks in a lot of areas. Last year, the school was named the “Number 1 Community College in the Nation,” and a recent telephone survey indicated a very high approval rating among randomly selected respondents.
But the creation of the Center for Lifelong Learning (CLL), which opened last summer after it was founded by the Board of Trustees in 2012, came amid enormous controversy. CLL replaced SBCC’s robust Adult Education program, which provided approximately 300 vocational and certificated classes and 500 personal enrichment courses to tens of thousands of students — many low income — for 60 years at virtually no cost. Following the economic downturn, trustees decided to dismantle state-funded Adult Ed courses and charge fees for certain classes, citing the need to prioritize funds for transfer students. Many vocal community members rallied against the move. “I think people were really nervous to begin with,” said CLL Executive Director Andy Harper.
But as the first daunting year wraps up, Harper is happy to report that 7,000 students have enrolled in courses, despite the fees. Though not all courses survived the transition, an average 400 classes are still offered each session. Moneywise, Harper said, statistics indicate CLL should break even by the end of this fiscal year. Many similar programs have difficulty just “getting off the ground” in the first year, Harper added.
Donations have also kept the program afloat, and 125 “tuition assistance” grants have been given to eligible students. “We’re not here just to grab their money,” Harper said. “We’re here to provide a service.” Class prices are determined by teachers, who receive 45 percent of tuition revenue. The program will continue to morph to better cater to student preferences, Harper promised. Summer registration opens June 9.