City College tackles low enrollment with local high school outreach

Ryan P. Cruz, Staff Writer

With enrollment numbers steadily declining over the past decade, City College is looking for answers as to what factors are behind this decrease.

One way City College is tackling the decline in enrollment is by spreading awareness among local high school students about the benefits of attending a community college that will pay for their education through the SBCC Promise program.

The promise allows all eligible students to receive free tuition, books and supplies for two years. This program is intended to keep graduates from the area interested in attending City College. Many students have taken advantage of the community-funded initiative since it began in 2016.

“We want to get them interested in applying,” said MaryLou Hernandez, one of three student success coordinators in charge of local high school outreach. “We bring our services to them.”

Hernandez holds monthly visits to all high schools in the area, including the Los Prietos Boys Camp and La Cuesta Continuation High School.

“It’s a really great opportunity for them because you can get the promise and you don’t have to be from a traditional high school,” said Kristy Renteria, also a student success coordinator, who works alongside Hernandez and Elizabeth Stein to reach out to students who might not have considered pursuing their education or come from families who wouldn’t be able to afford college tuition.

With these monthly visits and bigger events like Vaquero Kickoff, the outreach programs help guide students through the entire process of applying and enrolling at City College.

“We want to be welcoming, informative,” said Stein. “The enrollment process can be challenging.”

Along with the help of nine student representatives at the Welcome Center, the student success coordinators hold guided tours, workshops, on-campus orientations and planning days to assist incoming students with the often overwhelming enrollment process.

“We wouldn’t be able to do any of this without the student reps,” said Renteria. “They handle so much for us. They’re here every day helping students at the Welcome Center.”

Though enrollment has been declining in the past years, the team does not believe it has to do with high school outreach. 

“A little over 60% of local students enroll at SBCC,” said Stein. “The decline is not because kids are leaving.”

According to the Santa Barbara Unified School District, the decline in enrollment has a lot to do with elementary schools in the district. In grades K-12, there has been a drop in class sizes each year for the last five years. High rent prices, fires and floods have all contributed to families moving out of the district, which puts them beyond the county lines into the areas of Allan Hancock and Ventura Colleges.

Stein, Hernandez and Renteria, who all came through community college systems before earning their master’s degrees, are not just concerned with raising the numbers. As their titles suggest, they aim to help students succeed.

“We don’t just want to get them in the door,” said Stein. “We want to get them to completion of their academic goals.”