Free college tuition is a burning topic as the California Primaries approach (#June7) but what many people don’t know is that it has already reached a degree of realization within our own city.
Geoff Green, head of the Santa Barbara City College Foundation, has created the “SBCC Promise” which guarantees aspiring Santa Barbara students free tuition, fees, books and supplies as long as they meet certain requirements, opening college doors to many people.
Any student who lives within the district and has recently earned a high school diploma, its equivalent or who has recently been discharged from the military (after immediate enlistment out of high school) now has the chance to attend college for free. However, there are some people who see this as a bad thing.
Many people against this plan believe that “SBCC Promise” is going to spoil the students with free tuition so they lose motivation to do well in their classes. However, the plan is not going to de-incentivize people, it is merely going to give viable access to hundreds, if not thousands, of students each year who want to attend some kind of higher education but simply cannot afford it.
Many people who attend universities, especially in Santa Barbara County, don’t worry about the financial aspects of college because they have families who can support them financially. This Promise isn’t for them.
Though any student of any background within the college’s district may qualify for the free tuition, the program is an overdue acknowledgement of the various different backgrounds, struggles and difficulties that people might experience that could prevent them from ever walking into another classroom after high school.
Some people may also be against the program because they think that “SBCC Promise” is promising them a diploma at the end of two years, but this is not the case. The plan is simply allowing students with a high school diploma or equivalent to enroll and attend classes for free while still holding them to the same expectations of the other students seeking the degree. Even though the students will be in school at no personal cost, that doesn’t mean that they are there permanently.
If the students don’t make the university-wide GPA requirements or if they don’t enroll themselves in at least 12 units each semester, then they have broken their promise to SBCC. It also encourages students to take on the full-time course load because, as Martha Parham, Senior Vice President of Public Relations at the American Association of Community Colleges, told the Santa Barbara Independent, “full-time students have better performance and completion rates, so these types of programs provide pathways to opportunities that many students do not currently have.”
With this full-time requirement, students are encouraged to finish their degrees faster before the motivation wears away while also easing the stress that full-time cost can often create. Many students choose part-time school and full-time employment so they can afford the few classes they take, but with the 12-unit minimum, they can change that focus without worrying if they will be able to match their fees for the semester.
This program promises an opportunity to the plethora of students who do not enroll in some form of higher education after high school due to monetary issues. They will still have to enroll in full-time class schedules, they will still have to earn good grades in their classes and they will still have to meet the same requirements as the other students. The only difference is they no longer have to worry about the financial side of classes, enabling them to put their education into the forefront of their focus.