The Promise of Higher Education

By Giving List Staff   |   January 2, 2021

The goal was audacious: provide every recent high school graduate in the south coast area of Santa Barbara with two years of college education for free. There would be no eligibility requirements beyond a student’s commitment to enroll full time, remain in good standing, and take advantage of academic advising. 

Since 2016, when the Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) Promise was launched, more than 5,000 students have received free tuition, books, supplies, even bus passes and student health services. 

“We call it a promise for a reason,” says Geoff Green, the CEO of the Santa Barbara City College Foundation. “This is a commitment we are making in perpetuity.” 

The initiative has been a resounding success. It has dramatically increased the number of local students enrolled full-time at SBCC, which research shows leads to higher rates of completion and transfer to four-year colleges. In addition, SBCC Promise students’ average GPA stands above a 3.0. And with student debt hitting a whopping $1.7 trillion, what the SBCC Foundation has managed to do here is a template for the nation – a fact that the White House took notice of in 2016 when the SBCC Promise received national recognition upon its launch.

“A century ago, America had a serious debate about whether universal public high school was even necessary” Green says. “One hundred years later and it is clear that for the vast majority of people, high school isn’t enough.” 

For SBCC graduate Leslie Marin, the Promise made it possible for her to be the first person in her family to attend and graduate from college. After the Promise, she transferred to the University of California, Santa Barbara on a full scholarship where she has a 3.7 GPA. 

“[The SBCC Promise] took a huge financial burden off my shoulders and my parents’ shoulders,” Marin says. “I wouldn’t have been able to go to college right after high school; I would have had to take a couple semesters off to pay for tuition and supplies.”

This is but one example of how the SBCC Foundation stands up for its students. When COVID-19 hit, the Foundation distributed more than $2 million in emergency grants to 2,335 students in a mere three weeks to help them stay enrolled and moving forward even as stay-at-home orders were creating a wave of unemployment. 

“So many of our students tend to live at the economic margins,” Green says. “It was our obligation when the pandemic hit to provide a bridge until other support became available.”


SBCC Foundation
Phone: (805) 730-4411
CEO: Geoff Green


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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Supporting SBCC Runs in the Family

“I grew up with Santa Barbara City College as a part of my world. My father was a trustee for 28 years, and a co-founder of the SBCC Foundation. As an adult, I have continued to support SBCC through the SBCC Foundation as a board member, volunteer, and donor for more than 15 years. SBCC profoundly changes lives and you can’t put a price on that. Those of us who have seen what an SBCC education can do, and have a way to help, have a duty to do so. It transforms the lives of our students, their families, and makes our community stronger.”
– Kandy Luria-Budgor, Board Member, Volunteer, and Donor

The Students Come First

In the days and weeks following the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, the SBCC Foundation moved into high gear to provide more than $2 million of emergency aid.
When asked how the Foundation was able to do this, CEO Geoff Green explained that they had dipped into their reserves – to the tune of $1.5 million – and raised an additional $500,000.
When it mattered most, the Foundation did what it always does: put the students first, even if this meant making a huge financial stretch at the onset of a crisis that will have long-term economic effects. Given the incredible impact of its work, and its selflessness in a time of crisis, please consider supporting the SBCC Foundation today.

Board of Directors

N. Scott Vincent, President
Laurie Ashton, J.D., Vice President
Edward “Ted” Friedel, Vice President
Jeff Pitman, Treasurer
Kandy Luria-Budgor, Secretary
Frank Tabar
Sarah de Tagyos
Roger Durling
Graciela Montgomery
Pedro Paz, PhD
Michelle Lee Pickett, J.D.
Wendy Read, J.D.
Frank Schipper