The Challenge

The Ventura College Promise (VC Promise) was designed to encourage students to enroll in college the fall semester after graduating high school and enable them to attend full-time. Data indicates that these two factors — transitioning directly from high school to college and having at least one semester of full-time experience — significantly increase the likelihood of students succeeding in and completing college.


VC Promise covers the full costs of tuition, as well as health and student center fees for the first year of up to 1,000 Ventura College students each year. To be eligible for the program, students must be under the age of 20, live in Ventura County, qualify for in-state tuition, and have graduated from a Ventura County High School or received their GED during the previous school year.

The first thousand students who meet these eligibility requirements, fill out the FAFSA or California Dream Act Application, the application to Ventura College, and the Promise Application are accepted as members of the Ventura College cohort, and receive free tuition and some student fees. In order to continue in the program, students must attend orientation, take assessment tests, and meet with a counselor to register and develop an education plan. Promise students are also encouraged to take part in the First Year Experience program, where they learn about and receive a wide range of support offered by Ventura College.

One aspect of the VC Promise that makes it unique compared to many other college promise programs is that outside of aid distributed to students by the state, all of their revenue comes from a mixture of private donations and “The Marketplace” — a regular weekend event for which Ventura College parking spots are rented to vendors for a swap meet.

Two elements are essential to developing a promise program that depends on private donations as a chief source of revenue: patience and trust from the college administration and board, and a clear presentation of the benefits that community colleges have on local communities. Trust and patience from the college administration and board is essential because developing significant private donations takes time. There must be some investment in developing infrastructure, and then patience as trust is developed between potential donors and the college and donations slowly increase.

The other element is offering a clear vision of what the promise program can do for local economic development. Community college students are less likely than students of 4-year institutions to leave their local community, and the skills and experience gained at community college enable them to fill critical openings in a diverse range of industries, as well as significantly increase students’ future earnings. These factors combine to make an investment in the local community college’s promise program a valuable investment in the local community.


The outcomes of VC Promise have been significant. The most recent data, looking at the outcomes of the 2012 promise cohort, shows that VC Promise students are 70% more likely to earn a degree or certificate within 4 years than their non-promise counterparts. These differences are particularly pronounced for Hispanic students and male students, both of which are approximately twice as likely to earn a degree or certificate as a promise student, than not. The full report from the 2012 cohort is available below.

Other Comments

In 2017, Ventura College received seed money to pilot a veteran-specific promise program. Because one criterion of the VC Promise is having just graduated from high school, veterans are not eligible for that funding. Yet because GI Bill funding expires 48 months after starting it, students with aspirations to complete a four-year degree or beyond are often best served by not utilizing their GI Bill benefits on comparably low-cost community college tuition. Ventura College is excited to be able to begin piloting a solution to this gap with the William and Helen Scarpino Veterans Promise.
To learn more, please see the below contact information:
Anne King
Executive Director
Ventura College Foundation

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 24th, 2017 at 4:49 pm