Anthony Beebe SBCC
Santa Barbara City College Superintendent-President Anthony Beebe on Friday announced plans to retire this summer.  (Courtesy photo)

If there was ever a fan of community colleges, it’s Anthony Beebe, who was hired to be the new head of Santa Barbara City College as retiring president Lori Gaskin finishes up Aug. 1.

“I really found out that, in my heart, this is the best way that you can possibly impact a large number of individuals,” Beebe said of community colleges during an interview with Noozhawk.

After working his way up through the administrative ranks at several community colleges, Beebe capped his pre-Santa Barbara career as the head the of the San Diego Community College District’s adult education program before two years as the president of SDCC.

The Santa Barbara City College Board of Trustees hired him in May after a search process that included public presentations by the finalists, including Beebe. 

“When I heard that the job was open here in Santa Barbara, I thought, ‘This is one of the top community colleges in the nation’,” Beebe said.

“The job opportunity is something that I’ve already been doing for 10 years, so I’m familiar with being a president — I’m not a newbie in that sense — and I bring a skill set related to adult education and working with a community that I think really complements what it is that they’re trying to achieve in this college.”

At the top of Beebe’s priority list is enrolling local students and “scaling the institution to fit the needs of the community,” both educationally and considering local workforce needs from business and industry. 

The college’s recent decline in enrollment, he added, isn’t a negative, but an opportunity to accomplish that latter priority.

“Our goal and my goal is really to focus locally on working to try to transition as many high school students as we possibly can,” he said. “We have one of the highest transition rates right now from our feeder high schools to the college at about 45 percent.”

The other 55 percent, however, is where the new president will be focusing his recruitment efforts — people who may be first-generation college students or have financial obstacles to attending higher education. 

SBCC’s College Promise program, Beebe said, allows these students to attend tuition-free, with books, supplies and other financial concerns taken care of for them.

The number of international students attending City College — and the local housing they require — have been an issue of concern for some of the community, but is one Beebe said isn’t worrisome under closer inspection.

“Frankly, there are other colleges that have many other international students and really make a concerted effort to bring in international students because of the financial aspects of that,” he said.

“We have capped our international students and are not being active in marketing to the international-student genre, if you will. We’ve capped that number of international students to 1,500.”

The greater issues surrounding student housing, he said, including the effects of noise, are “really something that is apart from what the college is involved with,” he said.

There are people planning to develop student housing near the campus but SBCC isn’t directly involved.

“There are some projects that apparently are in the works that haven’t been put through the planning and development process at the city, so we’re just kind of taking a wait-and-see with what people are going to do with some of that,” he said.

One pressing issue the campus faces, Beebe explained, is its aging facilities.

“This college is 109 years old,” he said. “It’s been around a while; it’s been in the community for a long, long time. And it’s grown with the community.”

Beebe said he’s spoken with faculty who have recounted teaching classes in rooms that leak during rainstorms, which is “obviously a difficult learning environment for people to be successful in.”

It’s incumbent on him, he added, to figure out how to address the college’s maintenance problems.

“And that’s really what my job is all about — to be a good steward with the public’s money and to make sure that I’m maintaining the property and the assets here the best I can.”

Between his own educational experiences and his eight years leading the San Diego Continuing Education program, the importance of adult education has been firmly stamped into Beebe’s vision for SBCC.

He is leading the college’s exploration of a revamped emeritus-type adult-education program that would be offered free to older adults who can’t afford to be able to pay for certain types of classes.

Beebe also envisions a parenting program for new parents and those who have had kids for several years that would address, at its heart, how to be a good parent.

“Not everybody has that operating manual in front of them about how to be a good parent,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.