Starting fall 2018, students who graduate from high schools within the Allan Hancock Joint Community College District and immediately enroll at the college will receive free tuition and fees for one year. Known as the Hancock Promise, the new program removes financial barriers and expands opportunities for all students to succeed from elementary school through college.

“We are dedicated to changing the odds for our community,” said Hancock Superintendent/President Kevin G. Walthers, Ph.D. “The Promise ensures higher education is as accessible and affordable for our community as possible.”

Promise students will save at least $1,200 in tuition and fees, register for classes early with priority registration, set an academic plan for success with personalized counseling, as well as receive free tutoring and other academic support services.

To be eligible for the Promise, a student must enroll at Hancock directly after graduating from a high school located within the district, which covers northern Santa Barbara County and Cuyama. It applies to students who graduate from private, public, charter or home schools, and people who earn their GED or pass the California High School Proficiency Exam as long as they are located in the district.

In order to be eligible, students must also 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 in the fall to be eligible for the Promise in the spring and complete at least one math and one English class during the first year if required for their major.

“We know that full-time students have better performance and completion rates. The Hancock Promise allows our students to travel down pathways to success faster with more direction and guidance,” added Walthers.

The Hancock Promise is a four-step plan to provide continuous support and guidance for students from elementary school through college. Though not the first community college in the state to launch a promise program, Hancock is the first to focus on early outreach to elementary and junior high students. The Bulldog Bound component targets fifth through eighth grade students and their families to develop a college-going culture. Through outreach events, students will become familiar with the campus, programs and services.

“No other Promise program in the state makes outreach to fifth through eighth graders a priority,” said Nohemy Ornelas, Hancock’s associate superintendent/vice president, Student Services. “Getting students excited about college at an early age will have a ripple effect in their own families and in the whole community.”

The college will host several Bulldog Bound events throughout the year. Fifth graders and their families are invited to catch Hancock football host San Bernardino on Saturday, September 30, at 2 p.m. Hancock also plans to expand its annual Career Exploration Day on Friday, October 6, to benefit junior high and high school students.

The second component, Path to Promise, helps high school students prepare for success in college. Students will become more familiar with Hancock programs and services through a variety of workshops and outreach events at the college, such as the Young Educated Latino Leaders (YELL) Conference, Career Exploration Day and concurrent enrollment. The college will also continue to offer counseling, orientation and educational planning at the high schools.

“We want students and their families to understand and believe a college education is possible,” said Ornelas. “The Path to Promise is about students feeling supported, engaged, directed, valued and nurtured by the college throughout high school. When they set foot on campus as freshmen, it will already feel like home.”

The path leads graduating high school students to the Hancock Promise and one year of free tuition and fees at the college. They will receive priority registration and be eligible for countless services and programs to help them thrive. The college’s commitment continues into the second year through the fourth and final component of the Promise, the Extended Promise. The Extended Promise focuses on ensuring second-year success with a degree, certificate or transfer to a four-year university.

“During students’ second year, Promise students will continue to receive direction and services to help them succeed – counseling, assistance with scholarships, transfer applications and job interview preparation,” said Ornelas. “The bottom line is the college will focus on ensuring students succeed.”

Data show that 37 percent of graduating seniors from district high schools enroll at Hancock. The college’s goal with the Hancock Promise is to increase that rate.

The Hancock Promise is funded entirely through private donations, grants and corporate gifts. With this announcement, the college is launching a five-year, $10 million endowment campaign through the Allan Hancock College Foundation to ensure the sustainability of the Promise.

“There is already a long history of community support for students at Hancock,” said Valerie Moya Boice, president of the Allan Hancock College Foundation Board. “The Promise allows more students the opportunity to benefit from the wonderful programs at the college!”

Long-time Santa Maria Valley resident Doris Lahr and her family were the inaugural donors. Companies including Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Marian Regional Medical Center and AERA Energy have already pledged their support to the Hancock Promise.

“At Aera, we’re proud of our partnership with Allan Hancock College and our investments in educational opportunities,” said Rick Rust, public affairs analyst with Aera Energy. “We are excited that the Hancock Promise will empower families to see their students as college bound from a young age. We look forward to working with the college to build stronger communities together.”

For more information about the Hancock Promise, visit , send an email to or call (805) 347-7550.