A few quiet classrooms, normally dormant on Saturdays, that sit on the SBCC campus will be the site of a new partnership that aims to provide local residents a chance to get — or finish — their business degrees.

The partnership is between the business school at CSU Channel Islands and SBCC, and the ink had barely dried on the signed agreement when CSUCI President Richard Rush said the school hopes to expand to more programs besides business.

The five-year agreement between the two schools will hold CSU accountable for the academic and administrative portions, while SBCC will provide the facilities. Offered through CSUCI’s Martin V. Smith School of Business & Economics, students will be able to work toward a bachelor of science degree in business.

The normally unused classrooms at SBCC are being rented by CSUCI at a cost of $20 an hour, expanding CSUCI’s reach to students, and giving SBCC more opportunities within the already packed business program.

“It’s really a win-win for all of us,” SBCC President Andreea Serban told a small audience gathered for the signing Wednesday in the Luria Conference and Press Center at the top of La Playa Stadium. “We hope it’s just the beginning for many other opportunities to work together.”

The program will begin in the fall of 2011, and will allow a group, or cohort, of 30 students to take one or two courses per 12-week term on Saturdays at SBCC’s campus. Serban said that every semester, more than 40 percent of the 20,000 students come to the college with the goal of transferring.

“Transfer is definitely a key aspect of our mission as defined by the education code and the goal of many of our students,” she said.

SBCC has transfer programs with 10 universities, and continuing to expand that effort is important to the school, Serban said. Expanding those transfer agreements to in-state private universities as well as out-of-state schools also is a priority.

The model the school signed off on Wednesday might just be the future for cash-strapped universities and colleges wanting to expand their reach. With the difficulty of getting to classes on a campus such as CSUCI, the program will reach out to working people and students typically unrepresented, said Rush, adding that transfer programs are something the school is “very, very interested in.”

“In the current economy, there is nothing more important than partnerships and collaborations. Why go anywhere else?” said Serban, gesturing to the view of the Pacific Ocean seen from the press box.

Rush said the program has been something he has wanted to do for years.

“We are delighted and honored that Santa Barbara City College would want to enter into this partnership with us,” he said, adding that an expanded partnership is the goal, and that the school would like to pursue other degrees as well. “Five years is just the very beginning. You’ve invited us here, and we’ve moved into the mother-in-law’s unit,” he said to laughs.

Since the Donahoe Act of 1960, transferring has been an idea and a goal for people coming out of community colleges. Over the decades, Rush said, there’s been a lot of conversation about how transfers have become difficult — but easily changed — obstacles, he said.

“By coming here, right on to the Santa Barbara City College campus, we have wiped away a number of those obstacles,” he said.

Demand for the 30 slots is expected to be very large, according to Bill Cordero, associate dean of business at CSUCI, and that according to demands studies the university has done in the Santa Barbara area, the business degree is one of the most sought after.

Cordero said he has another concern: the number of students exceeding the number of slots.

“We had the same experience when we started an MBA program in the Camarillo area,” he said. “We started with nine students, and then all the sudden we had three cohorts of 20 students each.”

CSUCI’s business program has a small business institute, and the school has different emphases, one of which is a focus on entrepreneurship, and exploring partnerships with the Scheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at SBCC most likely will be included moving forward.

“Small businesses are the engine of the U.S. economy,” Serban said. “I would hope that as we look at this partnership further, we could take a look at that area.”

The degree would take two years to finish. Officials say it works out to about $16,000 in cost, and there’s financial aid available.

Rush said that in the future, the program could possibly allow teachers living in Santa Barbara to broadcast classes back to CSUCI.

“With technology, we’re beyond e-mail, we’re beyond texting,” he said. “The world is the limit now.”

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.