Making College Degrees
Affordable and Accessible
While serving a 13-year prison sentence, Alberto “Berto” Lule started to draw cartoons as an escape. That led to reading books on art history, and when Berto left prison, he had a burning desire to study art history and pursue a career in the field, but zero means by which to do it.
That’s when the Santa Barbara City College Foundation entered his life. The Foundation, started in 1976, provides support and programs for students at Santa Barbara City College and is the private philanthropic partner to the community college. The SBCC Promise, the cornerstone initiative of the Foundation, affords the opportunity for any recent, local high school graduate to pursue higher education at Santa Barbara City College free of charge for two years. In addition, the Foundation offers a wide range of grants, scholarships, and support for college programs.
Whereas the top universities in the country trumpet their devastatingly low acceptance rates every year in U.S. News & World Report, Santa Barbara City College prides itself on the opposite. “We take the top 100 percent of applicants,” boasts CEO Geoff Green. “There are no criteria, other than being a breathing adult who wants to learn. It is truly accessible to everyone.”
Green is not just an advocate for the SBCC Foundation, but also the mission and accomplishments of this typically underappreciated tier of the California higher education system itself. At Santa Barbara City College, beyond focusing on just providing students with a liberal arts education, the curriculum provides students with the opportunity to learn marketable trade skills and access to a course of study that will lead directly to a job.
“Roughly thirty to forty percent of our students are enrolled in career technical programs,” says Green. Those include programs that provide graduates with professional certificates that often qualify them for jobs in the community for which there is a demonstrable need, from alcohol and drug counselor to auto mechanic.
Ironically, even though the community college system may seem like the least expensive path to higher education, because of the way financial aid is dispersed in California, it turns out that it can be the most expensive one to pursue. The financial aid system in the U.S. was built around the four-year university model. “One of the very real side effects of that is that community college students are frequently left out of the system,” says Green.
In Berto Lule’s case, support from the SBCC Foundation turned out to be exactly what made his educational journey possible. Community college seemed to him like the only option, but as a recent parolee, there was no way he could afford it. So Berto enrolled in Transitions, one of the SBCC programs funded by the Foundation that provides guidance and access to college for individuals released from the criminal justice system.
As a student at Santa Barbara City College, he earned all A’s in his art classes, and then landed a prestigious internship with the SBCC Atkinson Gallery, also sponsored by the SBCC Foundation. He graduated from SBCC in 2018, earned his graduate degree in art history at UCLA, and now works as a curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.
Chief Development Officer: Sarah Stretz
The SBCC Foundation has provided Santa Barbara City College with private philanthropic support since 1976, serving as the vehicle through which individuals and organizations may invest in the college and its students. As an independent 501c3 nonprofit organization and partner to SBCC, the SBCC Foundation provides more than $5 million annually for student success programs, scholarships, book grants, emergency funds, and other critical needs of the college. For more than four decades, the resources raised and managed by the SBCC Foundation have supported SBCC students as they prepare for careers, transfer to four-year universities, and pursue lifelong learning goals.
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The SBCC Promise has allowed me to find myself and has been incredibly helpful in my academic journey. By covering the cost of going to college for two years, I’ve been able to focus on my studies.
Be Part of the Education Solution
Donations to the Santa Barbara City College Foundation will fund programs like the very one that helped Alberto “Berto” Lule realize his dream of having a career in art history. The Foundation is also currently striving to make the SBCC Promise a permanent offering, and works continually to improve and expand access to a greater share of the Santa Barbara community. The cost of one student’s participation in the SBCC Promise varies with the student and their course of study, but currently ranges between $2,500 and $5,000.
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