Legacies: The Santa Barbara City College Promise

Posted on Jan 9 by SEASONS Magazine

Michael Sanchez, left, and Leslie Marin are among the first cohort of students in the SBCC Promise Program, photo courtesy SBCC Foundation.

Michael Sanchez, left, and Leslie Marin are among the first cohort of students in the SBCC Promise Program, photo courtesy SBCC Foundation.

Making Higher Education Available to All

By Nancy A. Shobe

Longtime nonprofit executive Geoff Green has quite a reputation around town—a reputation for thinking big and making things happen. It’s no surprise that just two years into Green’s position as chief executive officer of Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) Foundation, he has spearheaded SBCC’s Promise Program.

For those who may have stumbled on the idea of the Promise Program, either through President Obama’s speech (January 2015) or while reading about higher education, the Promise Program offers free tuition to students attending their local city colleges (certain requirements must be met). Myriad community colleges nationwide have already enacted the program, and many are in the process.

After meeting with local leaders in the educational and philanthropic worlds, Green realized that SBCC could implement the Promise Program in an expanded way—by covering the cost of enrollment, required books, supplies and fees.

“The original promise of the (community college) system was to be ‘open access’ for everyone. Post Prop. 13, it became clear that there was not a way to keep the districts independently sustained on tax dollars. In 1983/84, enrollment fees were introduced. Currently, in-state resident fees are $46/unit,” Green says. The cost of books, supplies and fees more than doubles the tuition.

As a big picture person, Green asked, “How do we fix the problem structurally? We can offer scholarships, and we have forever, but that doesn’t fix the problem. We have three things going for us: we are an outstanding, nationally renowned community college, we have a highly engaged and innovative philanthropic community and we have an immediate need for impoverished people who live locally. These made the expanded program a viable option.”

Dr. Anthony Beebe, superintendent/president of SBCC, says of the Promise, “The SBCC Foundation Promise is a national model. It is a true promise—to all high school students who enroll at Santa Barbara City College within a year after receiving a high school diploma from any high school program in the SBCC district!”

Green expects to raise $1 million by the end of 2016 and $5 million in total to sustain the first three years of the program. After that, an endowment will be established to fund the program.

The Santa Barbara Foundation became a funding leader with a grant of $250,000 in September 2016. Foundation President Ron Gallo says, “We are excited to be a part of the SBCC’s Promise Program, as it is an example of a community strategically coming together to ensure a better future—not only for those students who will directly benefit, but for us all. This is a large grant for the Santa Barbara Foundation, deliberately so to indicate not only our financial support, but also our advocacy for this program. There are other such programs in California and around the nation, but none that provides the level and duration of support as this one. This is Santa Barbara at its best!”  

For more information about donating to or enrolling in SBCC’s Promise Program, visit sbccpromise.org.

This story was originally published in the winter 2016/17 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

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