SBCC Promise a Draw for High School Grads

Program Offers Two Years for Free

SBCC Campus
Paul Wellman (file)

The Santa Barbara City College Promise is boosting enrollment numbers and increasing the number of full-time students, leading to better overall success while at SBCC and to more transfers to four-year universities. The Promise provides regional high school grads the opportunity to attend SBCC full-time for two years free of charge, covering tuition, fees, books, and supplies. “Before, students had to work multiple jobs to cover expenses,” said Lucille Boss, director of scholarships for the SBCC Foundation. “Now, we’re seeing students going to school full-time and taking more units.”

SBCC boasts one of the highest capture rates in the country, said Boss, meaning the college’s success in enrolling high school grads from within its district. “We’ve gotten students to college,” said Boss. “Now we have to get them through college.” Full-time enrollment is one way of increasing the likelihood of getting through college and is one of the requirements for the Promise. Students are also required to complete a student education plan and to meet with an academic counselor at least once a semester. Removing financial barriers and providing students with encouragement and planning is allowing these students to thrive, said Boss. “We’ve been absolutely surprised and impressed,” she said. “[Promise students] are averaging more than 12, and even more than 13, units [per semester],” she said. Now entering its third year, the program has already begun to change lives. “My family’s income barely kept food on the table and a roof over our heads,” said student Armando Ibarra, who worried that he wouldn’t be able to afford college. “But I learned I could go to college through the SBCC Promise.”

The increase in Promise students comes during a decrease in overall SBCC enrollment. Since 2009, the community college has seen a steady decrease in enrollment from peak numbers just greater than 20,000 in 2009 to 17,111 last fall. But the college is not concerned, said Luz Reyes-Martin, executive director of public affairs and communications. “Our current size is meeting the needs of our local community and has decreased impact on our facilities and parking,” she said. “Our focus has been on improving student outcomes. We’re not trying to increase enrollment or market outside of our district or state. And we’re trying to encourage more full-time [enrollment].”

In fall 2017, only 34 percent of the total student body was enrolled full-time, while 100 percent of Promise students were full-time. With goals of student success in mind, SBCC Promise is helping the college move in the right direction. “It’s showing us what’s working and what’s not,” said Boss. “It’s showing us how to better support our students.”


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