Promise Article

December 2006, The Ventura County Star

Foundation expanding help for new Ventura College students

By Miguel Hernandez

Evan Goda of Ojai didn't, know how he would pay for college. But when the 18-year-old graduated from Nordhoff High School in the spring, his mora told him about a program at Ventura College that pays local high school graduates first year of tuition.

Goda qualified, and the Ventura College Foundation paid his college expenses.

Now. the Ventura Promise program has been expanded.

In November, the foundation's board changed eligibility requirements, making the money available to many more students. The program originally was for students whose families made less than $50,000 a year, but now all graduates or GED recipients from high schools in Ventura, Santa Paula, Fillmore, Ojai, Piru and Camarillo are eligible.

Ventura College President Robin Calote said the college decided to limit it to these areas because they are within the school's service area. To expand the area would be to go into territories served by Ox-nard or Moorpark colleges.

"We don't want to be poaching students from the other two colleges," Calote said.

Moorpark and Oxnard colleges are not considering the program now, Calote said.

Goda, who is leaning toward majoring in business, admits that without the program, things "might, have been a challenge."

The expanded program will begin in January for the spring semester.

Many more students eligible
About 80 of the college's nearly 13,000 students benefited from the program this year. Calote expects that number to reach 250 next year.

But about 1,200 students will be eligible for the expanded program. That's the number of high school students who graduate within the district's service area annually.

The nonprofit Ventura College Foundation was founded in 1985 and has contributed more than S5 million to the college and its students. It currently provides more than $450,000 a year in scholarships and nearly $600,000 in support to the college.

The Ventura College free-tuition program has been in place since August.

Calote, who proposed the program to the foundation board, said Ventura Promise is based on a project in Kalamazoo, Mich. Every Kalamazoo public, school graduate gets the opportunity to attend postsecondary education in Michigan with up to a 100 percent tuition scholarship.

One of the difficulties of establishing a new program is spreading the word, so Ventura College officials have talked with high school principals and counselors. Some college counselors have visited high schools to talk about the benefits.

"Kids need to know you don't have to be a top scholar or top athlete to get an education," Calote said, "Everybody can get one."

To qualify, a student must identify an educational goal, take the college's" assessment examination, work with a counselor to develop an educational plan, and complete an application for federal student aid. There is no minimum or maximum number of units that must be taken, or minimum grade-point average or assessment score that must be met.

Basic standards apply
Students must meet only the standards currently in place for admission to a community college: be 18, have completed high school or have a general equivalency diploma.

It is also open to students who have completed high school course work but have yet to pass the High School Exit Exam.

The program is now paid for through funds from the foundation: But Calote said the college hopes eventually to raise enough money so the program can be funded through interest earned from an endowment.

"The foundation has set aside $500,000 for seed money for the first two years," she said.

While the program already has attracted some generous donors, Calote hopes interest in it will grow over, the months and years to come.

"We've started fundraising for it," she said.

There is even talk of paying the tuition for two years and including the cost of books, but this will depend on how much money can be raised.

Calote said the college did not limit the program to just low-income students because there are already programs in place to help them.

"We wanted to make this program as inclusive as possible," she said.

"This isn't about the college. It's about every community making a promise to its children that they will do whatever it lakes to help them reach their goals."

Staff writer John Scheibe contributed to this report.

Basics covered
The Ventura Promise program will cover about $800 a year in fees for a full-time student for the fall and spring semesters and summer session, said Robin Calote, Ventura College president. Expenses covered during the first year include the cost of classes ($26 per unit), health fee ($14 per semester), Student Center fee ($1 per unit to maximum of $10 per year) and an Associated Student Body card ($5 per semester).