In 2006, the PACE Promise, a joint program of San Marcos Unified School District (SMUSD) and California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) was established and would guarantee CSUSM admission to all district students who meet admission requirements. Beginning with the graduating class of 2009, this program is open to qualifying SMUSD graduates who have been continuously enrolled in district schools from 9th through 12th grades.
In 2007, the Leichtag Foundation committed six million dollars to support college scholarships for students meeting PACE Promise benchmarks with a focus on serving first generation college students. In return, the Leichtag Foundation would name Joli Ann Leichtag Elementary School in honor and memory of their daughter. Through the CSUSM partnership and the generosity of the Leichtag family, the PACE Promise provides a $1,000 scholarship per year for up to 4 years.
Since 2009, the PACE Promise has awarded 463 scholarships and $1.2 million in scholarship dollars. The PACE Promise attempts to improve college accessibility for all students through accelerated and dynamic services such as campus visits to CSUSM, enhanced test preparation for English and mathematics entry-level exams, and extensive information resources regarding college and career preparation and admission. As a result, PACE Scholars are 11% more likely to graduate CSUSM within 4 years when compared to the average student.
In order to expand the PACE Promise, ensure long-term sustainability, and create additional programs to support students with college and career aspirations, The San Marcos Promise was established in 2014. The San Marcos Promise is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization funded entirely by grants and charitable contributions.