Center for Lifelong Learning

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The Mission & History of CLL


The Center for Lifelong Learning mission is  to be responsive to the diverse lifelong learning needs of adult members of the Santa Barbara Community.

The Center for Lifelong Learning supports the overall Santa Barbara community through expanded knowledge of the arts, promotion of healthy living styles, and pursuit of intellectual studies.

The Center for Lifelong Learning will be the social, cultural and educational hub for the Santa Barbara community, continuing the tradition of excellence described by Selmer Wake:

"All the hard work and dedicated interest of so many people involved over so many years have developed a program unmatched for its excellence almost anywhere in the country."

-- Selmer Wake, from "A History of the Santa Barbara Community College District, Personal Experiences and Observations" (1992)



California has a long, rich tradition of adult education, which began in 1856 with the first evening classes sponsored by the San Francisco Public Schools. With the advent of State funding in 1907, new evening schools began to be established in a growing number of cities.

In The Beginning

By the second decade of the 20th century, a large number of immigrants living throughout the country - including Santa Barbara - could not read, write or speak English. In 1918, the Santa Barbara Board of Education accepted a recommendation by civic leader Pearl Chase to establish evening classes in citizenship and English for the foreign-born. Eighty-one students enrolled in the new program.

In 1919, a new state apportionment bill made it possible for the Santa Barbara Board of Education to create a separate division for adult education classes. Over the next several decades the program expanded to include basic vocational classes in typing, shorthand, bookkeeping and Spanish. During the Great Depression, it offered special federal emergency relief classes. It also provided federally-funded defense training classes in the 1940s to meet the demands of World War II.

Post-World War II

After World War II, when veterans and defense workers returned to civilian life, enrollments in the Adult Education Program grew rapidly. The number and types of course offerings increased and included liberal arts, fine arts and crafts. The Adult Education Program established the Santa Barbara Citizens’ Advisory Council in 1951. The purpose was to enhance communication with the local community as the Adult Education Program expanded. The Advisory Council selected members who were involved in local organizations. In addition, they were also selected for their commitment to the principle that continuing education opportunities should be provided to all adults in the community.

In 1959, Santa Barbara Junior College was renamed Santa Barbara City College, and Adult Education became a division of SBCC. In the fall of 1970 the College renamed the “Adult Education Division” the “Continuing Education Division,” although it continued to be known as “Adult Ed” by many students and locals for years.

By the early 21st century, the Continuing Education Division offered close to 800 classes each fall, winter, and spring term. (Summer terms offered about half that.) It has been estimated that about one out of every four adults in the Santa Barbara area has taken a Continuing Education class at some time.

SBCC Continuing Education Today

The economic crisis that began in 2008 hit California particularly hard. Schools and other entities dependent upon State funding find themselves having to make difficult decisions in response to budgets cuts and revised regulations as the State reexamines its priorities. All noncredit curriculum is in the process of being reviewed and rewritten -- including required language contained with course outlines -- under the direction of the Chancellor’s Office Academic Affairs office.

Although the current challenges are great, SBCC Continuing Education Division is committed to being fiscally responsible and compliant with all State regulations while offering a vibrant and diverse curriculum to the adults of our community.

The Center for Lifelong Learning

On September 27, 2012, the SBCC Board of Trustees voted to support the recommendation to restructure the Continuing Education (CE) division starting in fall 2013 in order to more effectively address the two distinct educational areas of CE: (1) lifelong learning; and (2) college and career preparation.

With the Board's action, lifelong learning will now be embraced within a new Center for Lifelong Learning (CLL) under the auspices of the Educational Programs division. CLL is conceived as a premier, first-class fee-based program - one with a rich, dynamic, and vibrant set of offerings. Everyone involved in this transition is committed to (1) ensuring that the heritage of the program is maintained through a relevant, enriching, and expansive curriculum; and (2) keeping the fees well below the average for fee-based programs and to provide support through scholarships, subsidies, and fundraising.


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