Students wave to their family members and friends as they wait to collect their deplomas during the Santa Monica College 2011 graduation ceremony at the Corsair Field. (File photo).

Santa Monica College will offer priority enrollment to students who live in the SMC district and/or students that graduated from a school within the district.

According to SMC, the program is the first phase of a Santa Monica College Promise program, with a planned launch date of fall 2017, to help students reduce the expenses related to their first year at SMC.

Priority enrollment will begin in early December for the Winter of 2017. To be eligible, students must be in good academic standing, have less than 90 credits at SMC, and complete the required pre-enrollment orientation, assessment and educational planning by Nov. 22.

Current residents of Santa Monica and Malibu are eligible; F-1 visa students are not. In addition, graduating seniors and alumni of Santa Monica High School, Malibu High School, Olympic High School, St. Monica Catholic High School, Crossroads School, New Roads School, Pacifica Christian High School, and Lighthouse Academy—regardless of home address—are also eligible.

“Santa Monica College has always been a tremendous asset to the Santa Monica and Malibu communities,” said SMC Superintendent/President Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery. “By giving local students and graduates priority enrollment, SMC will continue to build upon decades of commitment to provide our communities the highest quality in postsecondary education, reflecting the values of open access and educational equity of which we are all so proud.”

Santa Monica College is asking voters to approve a new bond on the Nov. 8 ballot. Critics of the bond, and SMC in general, have argued the school does not do enough to cater to students from within its district borders.

SMC Boardmember Dr. Louise Jaffe said the timing of the new priority registration program has nothing to do with the upcoming election but was a priority for Jeffery facilitated by changes at the state level.

So called “Promise” programs are designed to increase enrollment at local schools and the Governor recently signed the California College Promise Innovation Grant Program into law creating a new funding mechanism to increasing college preparation, college access, and college success.

State rules already require priority enrollment for some groups such as veterans, foster youth and those with disabilities. The new local priority won’t supersede any of the state mandates.

“Our local students will have priority ahead of other similar students from outside our district’s borders,” said Jaffe.

According to SMC, about 4,300 students (or about 13 percent) currently attending Santa Monica College’s state funded credit and noncredit programs list their home residence as Santa Monica or Malibu. About 5,500 Santa Monica/Malibu residents attend the programs annually.

More than 2,000 of the 6,000 non-credit continuing education students list Malibu/Santa Monica as their home address.

Jaffe said 57 percent of Samohi graduates attend a class at Santa Monica College within four years of graduation and many utilize one of the existing partnership programs such as a dual enrollment program that allows high school students to accrue up to 14 college units.

“This is a great opportunity for our current high school seniors to apply for priority enrollment at SMC starting in January 2017,” said Dr. Sylvia Rousseau, co-interim superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD). “We are extremely fortunate to have such a wonderful partnership with SMC that will now include this new program, in addition to our thriving dual enrollment and concurrent enrollment programs. This is another step toward establishing Excellence through Equity.”

SMMUSD boardmember Richard Tahvildaran Jesswein is also a teacher at SMC. He said priority enrollment is one tool that, when combined with other efforts, will hopefully encourage local students to think about their post-graduation education plans.

“With the Promise Program, and us coming in early, it can be presented to (students) early. That is really something interesting that is hopefully, if the school district picks up the promise and combines it with other projects, will start to walk this path where we’re going to see some real improvements in young people graduating from our schools,” he said.

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