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A student learning in a science classroom. Image courtesy of Santa Barbara City College.

For high school students considering higher education, preparation is essential. Taking rigorous course work, having mentors, tutors, and academic support, as well as a sense of responsibility and maturity can make the difference between dropping out and continuing into college.

In a recent New York Times article, reporter Motoko Rich questioned the high graduation rate at a South Carolina high school, indicating that a diploma does not necessarily guarantee students will be ready for college, or the working world. Rich writes “It is a pattern repeated in other school districts across the state and country – urban, suburban and rural – where the number of students earning high school diplomas has risen to historic peaks, yet measures of academic readiness for college or jobs are much lower. This has led educators to question the real value of a high school diploma and whether graduation requirements are too easy.”

But how do South Coast students stack up to the rest of the country?

The Santa Barbara and Carpinteria Unified School Districts work in partnership with Santa Barbara City College to make sure high school students have the resources they need to make a smooth transition from high school to college. And with a whopping 44 percent of June 2015 high school graduates from these districts enrolling at Santa Barbara City College in the fall 2015 semester, this collaboration is critical.

While still in high school, students have the opportunity to participate in the SBCC Dual Enrollment program. In fall 2014, 2,089 local high school students participated in the program while 2,108 students participated in spring 2015. The SBCC Dual Enrollment Program consists of college classes offered at local high school sites as well as enrollment opportunities for high school students interested in taking classes at the SBCC campus. Participating in this program eases the transition from high school to college while encouraging students to continue pursuing postsecondary education.

High school students also have the opportunity to participate in the “Get Focused, Stay Focused” program, which seeks to inspire students to cultivate skills for their college and career experiences so they are more successful once they get there. “In this program, they [students] spend a semester in 9th grade researching those careers and then in 10th grade they do more research on more careers. In 11th grade, they are still doing research on more careers. The platform is such that they can go in and change that direction. They learn how to change it and update their goals so when they matriculate to college they can work with their college counselor,” said Diane Hollems, former SBCC dean, in an interview with the Santa Barbara Independent.

Current SBCC students benefit from a number of student “success services,” – resources provided to assist in the development of the entire student as they pursue academic success. Programs like Gateway to Success offer tutoring both inside and outside the classroom. In between spring and fall 2015 alone, the Gateway to Success program provided tutoring jobs for more than 200 tutors who provided more than 40,000 hours of tutoring in more than 700 class sections. Disabled Student Programs and Services (DSPS) continue to create an accessible learning community for individuals with disabilities. The Guardian Scholars program supports foster youth emancipated at the age of 18 who are in pursuit of a college education through resources and guidance that participants need to succeed in school. Additionally, the Honors Program, Veterans Support Program, and counseling programs all contribute to the unique and diverse needs of students on the SBCC campus. For those unable to find a quiet place to study, the SBCC library is one of the few libraries in the community college system that is open seven days a week, serving thousands of students as they attain their goals for higher education.

SBCC’s EOPS (Extended Opportunity Programs and Services) Department runs several programs for students including Running Start, SPARC, and Transitions. Running Start is a six week summer program for local high school students completing 12th grade, but who might be financially or academically underprepared for college. SPARC (Single Parents Arriving Ready for College) is a six week summer program for single parent students who are new to college or returning to college and might be struggling academically. Transitions is a summer program providing access to higher education to individuals released from the California criminal justice system, creating a smooth transition from prison to the community college. Through summer bridge programs, students are given an opportunity to enter higher education that they would not have otherwise.

“The most recent evaluation of 12th graders on a national test of reading and math found that fewer than 40 percent were ready for college level work. College remediation and dropout rates remain stubbornly high, particularly at two-year institutions, where fewer than a third who enroll complete a degree even within three years.”

Santa Barbara City College is ahead of the curve, ranked fourth in the state for community college transfers to University of California campuses. In addition to transfers, City College offers career training in diverse fields such as automotive technology, marine diving technology, culinary arts, and entrepreneurship. Thanks to the quality education students receive, they leave school prepared for careers and ready to become the next generation of leaders.

At the completion of the 2014-2015 school year, nearly 1,700 students received degrees or certificates from SBCC.

The SBCC Foundation and its family of donors play an important role, providing $4 million annually to support campus and student success programs and resources. Funding also provides for book grants, critical college needs, and scholarships. Just in the 2015-2016 academic year alone, the foundation provided nearly $1 million in scholarships and awards to 1,518 students. The foundation acts in partnership with the college and bridges the gap between available public funding and institutional need, as determined by the college leadership. Serving as the vehicle through which individuals and organizations may invest in the college, the foundation fuels the educational excellence that has long been the hallmark of SBCC.

At Santa Barbara City College, faculty and staff understand that educating the mind does not happen in a vacuum. Students want (and need) connections and relationships to the educational system so that they can fully engage in the academic process. Working with students at the high school level to prepare them for higher education, and then continuing to offer a suite of services for students once they have enrolled at the college, does more than just set them on a path for graduation. It assists them in the development of goals, in the pursuit of lifelong passions, and ultimately prepares them to carry on the mantle of stewardship, entrepreneurship, and productivity in Santa Barbara County.

Author: Jessica Tade


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