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Billionaire MacKenzie Scott Donates $20 Million to Santa Barbara City College

Billionaire MacKenzie Scott announced $2.7 billion in charitable donations Tuesday, including $20 million to Santa Barbara City College and $15 million to California State University Channel Islands in Ventura County. 

Both donations are the largest one-time gifts in history for the colleges. 

Scott, who was previously married to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and her husband Dan Jewett donated the money to 286 “high-impact organizations in categories and communities that have been historically underfunded and overlooked,” she wrote in an online post announcing the gifts

“Higher education is a proven pathway to opportunity, so we looked for two- and four-year institutions successfully educating students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved,” Scott wrote. 

The gift to SBCC is unrestricted, and the college will use it “to advance its mission in bold new ways,” leaders said. 

“I would like to thank MacKenzie Scott for the trust that has been placed in us,” said SBCC Superintendent/President Utpal Goswami.

“This visionary gift could not have come at a better time, as we are embarking on the creation of our new Educational Master Plan. These funds will empower us to implement transformational initiatives that will shape our community college of the future and provide the margin of excellence that we seek.

"I would be remiss if I did not recognize the good work of our faculty and staff which brought us to where we are today. This gift will energize us to pursue our passion to serve all students.”

The money comes at a time when SBCC and other community colleges are seeing enrollment drop due to the pandemic, according to SBCC. Sign Up for the A.M. Report

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SBCC plans to return to campus in July, after being closed to most in-person classes and activities for about 15 months. 

“For more than a century, SBCC has been serving our region, and for nearly half of that time, the SBCC Foundation has been partnering with donors to enhance college programs, remove barriers for students, and spur innovation,” SBCC Foundation CEO Geoff Green said in a statement.

“A gift of this size makes an unequivocal statement that our community’s college is worthy of this level of investment, and that the work of our faculty, staff, and students is recognized. Our hope is that it will serve as a signal to other donors and highlight the fact that community colleges are perhaps the best tool we have for increasing social and economic mobility, addressing long-standing inequalities in our communities, and ensuring that all members of our community have access to a life-changing education.”

The SBCC Promise program, funded by private donations through the foundation, covers two years worth of tuition, fees, books and supplies for qualifying local students. The program launched in 2016 and benefited 1,703 students for the fall semester.

Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, which also has a Promise program, was not on the list of organizations receiving donations. 

California State University Channel Islands leaders said its $15 million gift “will be used to help the university's largely low-income, minority student population become successful college graduates by supporting a variety of campus programs aimed at increasing student retention and graduation rates and advancing equity and inclusion.” 

“This gift represents the largest one-time gift in the history of our institution, and it could not have come at a more critical time in our history,” CSUCI Interim President Richard Yao said.

“The generosity of MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett is a testament to the data that reflects the incredible work that our faculty, staff, and administration are doing every day to eliminate equity gaps and increase the social mobility of our students by creating powerful academic and co-curricular programs that support student retention and success.

"We could not be more grateful for their generosity as we recognize the transformative power that this level of support has for our students and campus.”

Other California colleges and universities that received funding include: Cal Poly Pomona, California State University Fullerton, California State University Northridge, UC Merced, Long Beach City College, Pasadena City College, Porterville College, and West Hills College Lemoore. 

— Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk@NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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