College Is Covered at Santa Barbara City College

SBCC Foundation Ensures Regional Students Return to School Post-Pandemic

College Is Covered at Santa Barbara City College

SBCC Foundation Ensures Regional Students Return to School Post-Pandemic

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

Santa Barbara City College’s groundbreaking SBCC Promise is bouncing back after a 35 percent enrollment drop since the early days of the pandemic. With the slow return to some semblance of normalcy, students are revisiting the promise of a debt-free education at one of the finest community colleges in the nation.

Across the country, college promises have taken on a range of student support, with offerings of a semester or a year of tuition-free learning. SBCC, on the other hand, goes bigger. “What we are doing here is leading nationally, absolutely top of the heap,” said Geoff Green, CEO of the SBCC Foundation, which launched the program in 2016 with funding from the private sector. As students return and numbers stabilize, Green would like to tackle a few items on his wish list: offer the SBCC Promise to all local prospects no matter when they graduated high school; extend the program to part-time students; and help cover childcare for Promise parents.

For more details, I asked SBCC Promise Manager Sergio Lagunas. 

What’s the Promise offer? The SBCC Promise supports students who complete high school (or equivalent programs) within the school’s district [from Gaviota to Rincon]. Students must enroll during their first or second semester following high school completion. The Promise covers all required registration fees (tuition), 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 counselor to maintain eligibility.

Who’s eligible? Eligible students are local graduates from a public, private, or alternative high school, including homeschool, court school, or online school in the district. They are also new college students who graduate from high school or equivalent programs, including Adult High School, GED completion, or have passed the California High School Proficiency Exam in the district. SBCC Promise [covers] AB 540 and undocumented students who meet all eligibility requirements.

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

We recognize every student is unique, and each student has individual educational and career goals. In fact, about 40 percent of SBCC Promise students are enrolled in a Career Technical Education program, such as Cosmetology, Real Estate, and Culinary Arts. Most students participate in the SBCC Promise during the two years of eligibility; however, there are students who complete their educational goals sooner due to completing courses through the dual enrollment program while attending high school. 

What are some recent challenges? Many students have faced challenges involving online education, family responsibilities, and illness since March 2020 that have led students to drop courses or withdraw completely for a semester or an entire year. We understand that the pandemic has caused many students to postpone their education, and we welcome any eligible returning students to continue.

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