SBCC Foundation Celebrates at Visionaries Circle Event

Major Donors and Others Get Update on Promise Program

SBCC Foundation CEO Geoff Green (center) with SBCC Board past President Madeleine Jacobson and current SBCC Board President Earl Armstrong.
Photo Credit: Gail Arnold

On October 25, about 75 guests came together for the Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) Foundation’s Visionaries Circle Fall Reception. Major donors and prospective ones mingled with foundation and SBCC staff and boardmembers and heard an update on the foundation’s work.

Since its founding in 1976, the foundation has provided crucial funding directly to students and to programs. According to CEO Geoff Green, the foundation bridges the gap between what public funds provide and what is necessary to be an extraordinary college. Last year, the foundation provided $4.7 million in support, including nearly $1.1 million for the highly acclaimed Promise program. This program offers two years of comprehensive support, including all required fees, books and supplies, to any student who completes his or her secondary education in the Gaviota to Carpinteria area.

Held on the Garvin Patio outside the theater, overlooking the harbor and mountains at sunset, the event featured SBCC culinary students serving their tasty hors d’oeuvres and SBCC student Ginger Rose Brucker playing the harp in the background. During the short program, Board President Earl Armstrong and SBCC President Anthony Beebe welcomed the guests and thanked donors for their support. Beebe extolled the “rocket ship” that is the Promise program, which now has 1,629 students enrolled and anticipated funding of $2.3 million this year.

Green announced some recent major gifts: Julie Nadel pledged $1 million for an endowment at the SBCC Business Division, which has been renamed the Jack & Julie Nadel School of Business & Entrepreneurship. The Jean and William Jorgensen estate gifted more than $1 million for new scholarships and the Bartlett Trust gifted $1 million to Disability Services and Programs for Students. He quickly added that these generous gifts do not happen all the time.

Green explained how Visionaries Circle donations are the unrestricted donations that keep the foundation going so that staff can spend their time bringing in larger restricted and unrestricted gifts, endowments, and grants. He thanked the donors and stressed how it is only because of the engagement and support from our community that SBCC is one of the top community colleges in the nation.

The key to the Promise program is its comprehensiveness. The state of California has long covered the tuition of low-income students through the Board of Governors Fee Waiver program. Green applauded Assembly Bill 19, recently signed by Governor Brown, which extends the Board of Governors fee waivers to all first time, first year students, as a great first step. He cautioned, however, that this effort is limited to tuition, so it in no way replaces the SBCC Promise program.

According to Green, tuition accounts for only about 20 percent of the costs faced by students. Textbooks are a huge expense, averaging $350 per student per semester, and supplies can run even more. For culinary students, a required chef’s knife and uniform can approach $1,000. By including the cost of pricey textbooks, fees, and supplies, the Promise program makes college an option for some low-income students who otherwise could not afford it.

For others, the program means attending full-time instead of part-time, and for others, it means attending continuously instead of taking time off to work and save money. Since the Promise program began last fall, there has been a dramatic shift from part-time to full-time enrollment by students in the Promise program’s geographic range — from about one third being full-time students to 90 percent being full-time. According to Green, there’s an added bonus here: this increase in full-time students leverages additional funds from the state, based on the apportionment formula, that yielded $500,000 last year and is projected to yield $1,000,000 this year.

Fundraising efforts are still underway to pay for the first three years of the Promise program. Down the road, the goal is to create an endowment fund and to expand the program to include other forms of assistance, such as meal vouchers and child care funding.

Programs such as the SBCC Promise got their start in California in 2005 with the launch of VC Promise at Ventura College. Now, there are more than 50 active or announced partnerships in the state, but according to Green, none are comparable to SBCC’s. In addition to its comprehensiveness, SBCC Promise is also distinguishable from some other programs in its duration — covering two full years, and in its open access — it is not restricted based on past academic performance.

SBCC Promise does limit participation to recent high school graduates and requires full-time status, meetings with counselors, and the development of a Student Education Plan. These rules were based on research showing that a student’s chance of success in college is correlated with early enrollment, full-time status, and access to academic counseling and support.

According to Green, “the divide between those with post-secondary education and those without has never been greater, and educators across the country continue to wrestle with the achievement gap between students of different races and ethnicities. This lends urgency to our work at the SBCC Foundation, as we partner with our community and college to secure the resources that will ensure that each and every student has the opportunity to excel and achieve their goals.”

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