SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Allan Hancock College is making a bold promise to local students.
"If you go to college and you come to Hancock, we'll cover your first-year tuition and fees," said Hancock Superintendent/President Kevin G. Walthers, Ph.D.
On Friday, the school unveiled the "Hancock Promise," a multi-faceted program that will benefit students students in Northern Santa Barbara County.
"Any family who feels like they can not afford college, it's now affordable for every single student," said Guadalupe Union School District Superintendent Ed Cora.
The Hancock Promise is scheduled to start fall 2018.
Most notably, graduating seniors who enroll at the school will receive free tuition and fees, which is estimated to be about $1,200.
They also be able to register for classes early, receive personalized counseling and free tutoring, as well as other academic support services.
"You would be able to pay for all the books," said Hancock student Jesus Negrete. "You would be able to pay for just so many things and work less and have more time to study."
Negrete knows personally just how much of a difference the savings can make.
The Cuyama Valley High School graduate spent is studying to become a surgeon.
He spent long hours driving back and forth on Highway 166 in between his time on campus and working in the Cuyama Valley.
"It would have made my life a little easier," said Negrete. "It would have also made my parent's life a little easier. If I would have gotten that money, I would have been able to buy a laptop and calculator and would have been doing a lot better in my math classes.
In addition to the lure of free tuition, the Hancock Promise is much more. It essentially will provide continuous support and guidance for local students starting in the fifth grade.
"We'll be working with students in a program called Bulldog Bound in fifth through eighth grade," said Walthers. "They'll getting the sense of what it means to go to college and get the idea that they really are going to college and if they're thinking they can't go, we'll tell them they can go."
The program will also include the "Path to Promise" step, which will be a coordinated outreach to area high schools.
Students will become more familiar with the Hancock College through workshops and events.
In addition, the "Extended Promise" phase will be aimed at assisting second-year students enrolled at Hancock. It's goal is to lead students to a successful path towards graduation and/or transfer to a four-year institution.
The Hancock Promise will be funded through a variety of sources. School officials point out the sources will primarily come through community support.
"We have partners," said Walthers. "We have an outsourced bookstore and we have a contract with them and we're going to be able to use funds from that, combined with donations for the first five to six years and over the course of the next five to six years, we'll be building an endowment of $10 million that will cover the costs."
Walthers added the school will announce in the near future it has already received a $2 million donation that will kick off the endowment drive.
"We're really confident that we're going to make this a permanent program for the community," said Walthers.
To be eligible for the Hancock Promise, students will need to meet a certain criteria, including enrollment at Hancock College directly after graduating from a high school in Northern Santa Barbara County (including public, private, charter and home schools), complete financial aid applications, register for a minimum of 12 units in both the fall and spring semesters, maintain a 2.0 grade point average during the fall semester and complete one math and one English class during the first year.
"For every one of our students, it's an absolutely awesome opportunity," said Cora. "There's absolutely not excuse for any family or any student to say, I can't go to college. Here in the Santa Maria Valley, yes you can. In Guadalupe, it doesn't matter, you can go to college."
For more information on the Hancock Promise, visit www.hancockcollege.edu/promise