Frequently Asked Questions


What is The San Marcos Promise?

The San Marcos Promise is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization developed by the San Marcos Unified School District in an effort to expand the availability of post-secondary education scholarships for high school graduates.

What is the PACE Promise?

The PACE Promise is a joint endeavor of the San Marcos Unified School District (SMUSD) and California State University of San Marcos (CSUSM). Through this unique partnership, beginning with the graduating class of 2009, the two entities have guaranteed the admission of all students who reach key benchmarks as they complete their high school education within the SMUSD.  Students who meet academic benchmarks will also receive a four-year, $4,000 scholarship. The Class of 2019 will be the last group eligible to receive the PACE Scholarship, however the guaranteed admission program will continue beyond the class of 2019.

How can my student become a PACE Promise Scholar?

Every student is a PACE Promise Scholar!  As long as a student completes all four years of high school in the SMUSD and meets all of the program qualifications below they will become a PACE Promise Scholar.  Only students in the class of 2019 are eligible for PACE Promise Scholarship.

What are the key graduate benchmarks SMUSD students must meet to qualify for admission?

Students must . . .

    1. Be continuously enrolled in the San Marcos Unified School District beginning in 9th grade and graduate from a San Marcos high school.
    2. Complete all A-G coursework required by CSU admission policies with grades of a C or better.
    3. Meet CSU eligibility index requirements.
    4. Participate in the CSU Early Admission Program (EAP) requirements in mathematics and English during their junior (11th grade) year and meet assessments requirements before enrollment to CSUSM.
    5. Take the SAT Reasoning or ACT Exam.
    6. Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

How will my student be supported?

Support services are in place to help students stay on track. These include tutoring, summer school, counseling, and help with college entrance exam preparation. Please contact your student’s counselor for specific details about the services offered. Support from home is also critical. Parents must agree to attend PACE Promise activities, meet with the school counselor, and ensure their students access to any program services needed to stay on track.

How can I know, before it’s too late, if my child is on-track for the PACE Promise?

A middle or junior high school student is considered on-track if he or she completes each semester with an overall grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 or higher and earns a grade of C or better in both math and English. Parents of students in grades 7 and 8 can track their students progress towards grade-level benchmarks at each six-week progress report and at the end of the semester.

High School benchmarks are based on the student’s cumulative grade point average and successful completion of classes each semester. Parents of students can track their students progress towards grade-level benchmarks at each six-week progress report and at the end of the semester.Counselors and teachers welcome parent and student inquiries at any point during the school year. Frequent parent contact supports student success in powerful ways.

My seventh grader is behind in skills. He/she didn’t do well in elementary school. Will the PACE Promise still work for him?

The middle school years are the time to get ready for high school. Your student can still be very successful; your concern and encouragement are vital to your child’s success in middle school, high school, and college. The San Marcos Promise can work very well for students who need extra time to reach grade-level standards, but they must begin to take their studies seriously as soon as possible.

What if my freshman does not meet the benchmarks during one or more semesters? They did not earn a 2.0 in their A-G classes last semester and received a D in their math class. Does that mean they are out of the PACE Promise for good?

Students make mistakes; it is not required they have perfect records. Rather, the semester benchmarks are guidelines that, if met, will assure that students meet the key benchmarks upon graduation. An A-G course in which a student earns less than a C can be retaken, usually during summer school. A support class that would help her raise her math grade may be available at some sites. During the following semesters, by sustaining improved grades, her cumulative grade point average may increase to the benchmark level.
There are MANY ways to make up for a weak semester or two. The difficulty comes when poor habits are deeply ingrained, skill-level does not improve to grade-level standards, and a grade-point average is so low that to balance it, a student would have to earn perfect grades in all future classes. It’s easy to repair the damage of a brief lapse in effort; it’s more difficult as time goes on, though not necessarily impossible. Please be sure to contact your child’s counselor immediately for assistance in bringing her academic success.

What about financial assistance?

Students who meet all program benchmarks may receive financial assistance up to $1,000 per academic year for up to four years.  Once unmet financial need is determined to exist by California State University San Marcos, The San Marcos Promise will award a scholarship to assist students who have met program benchmarks.  All PACE Promise eligible students must complete and submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application which determines eligibility for various grants, including Pell grants

What is the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and how is unmet need calculated?

The FAFSA collects household and student financial information and determines a dollar amount called the EFC that is used to determine federal student aid eligibility. The formula used to calculate the EFC is established by law and measures a family’s comparative financial strength on the basis of income, assets, and family size.

The starting point for aid is always Financial Need, which will be different for each school because need is the difference between a college’s Cost of Attendance and your Expected Family Contribution. The EFC also determines grant eligibility.

What if I need more information on the program?

Please contact our Promise counselors on campus:

Mission Hills High School

Adriana Rios

(760) 290-2756

San Marcos High School

Leandro Galaz

(760) 290-3857

How are the scholarships funded?

The funding for the PACE Promise was secured by a generous 6 million dollar donation from the Leichtag Foundation in 2007.  With the establishment of The San Marcos Promise in 2014, we are seeking private contributions to expand scholarships available to students.  Please see our Donation page to learn more.