Instead of complaining about state cuts or succumbing to apathy, dozens of adult-education supporters gathered Friday to provide input on the challenges facing the popular SBCC program.

SBCC’s Continuing Ed program, formed in 1918, now has more than 22,000 students and a plethora of programming. But the department also has been the victim of massive state cuts to higher education and has a $500,000 deficit between what it needs to operate for the year and what the state, fees and other costs will cover.

More than 100 people attended the forum at the Wake Center Auditorium on Friday afternoon, and small groups were formed among attendees to brainstorm how supporters of the program could address the budget problems.

Groups of a dozen or so gathered around tables and pads of paper to discuss what they value about the program, suggestions about what they could do to operate independent of state funding, and what they as individuals could offer to help.

Santa Barbara City Councilman Grant House led a group of 10 people in a discussion. SBCC President Andreea Serban also sat in and listened to suggestions.

When group members were asked what they value about the program, it quickly became clear that the benefits were not only about education.

“It got me out of the house and back into mainstream society,” student Steve Clark said. “It took me out of a deep depression.”

Student Audrey Harmon agreed. “It gives elderly people a reason to live,” she said.

A lineup of teachers, administrators and supporters of the program were part of the forum and spoke before the group sessions began.

Ofelia Arellano is vice president of SBCC's Continuing Ed program.

Ofelia Arellano is vice president of SBCC’s Continuing Ed program. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

House, the first to speak, talked about how he took a class after being laid off from a job in 1977, and that the class helped him learn skills he needed to start his own business, Grant House Sewing Machines.

“I’m grateful for that,” he said. “Adult ed is worth doing the work for.”

Serban said the college is looking for long-term solutions that are independent of state funding. She cited a report released two days ago that said it could take as long as the 2014-15 school year for funding to be fully restored. “We are in this situation for the long term,” she said.

Drawing on outside resources also would be key to the school’s programming. “We really need to ensure that the symbiotic relationship between the college and the community is alive,” she said.

Norm Hendry is a continuing-ed ceramics teacher who has been with the program since 1978. “The recent loss of 100 classes was a wake-up call,” he said. “The gravy days of funding are over. … We have to pick up the slack.”

One of the ways his ceramics class will try to pitch in is by hosting a pottery show and sale Dec. 5, in which all of the proceeds will go back into adult ed. The sale will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 437 Mountain Drive, and the community can expect to see more of this type of fundraising in the future.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at lcooper@noozhawk.com.

Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper

— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at lcooper@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.