New pathway gives California community college students guaranteed admission to private colleges

July 25, 2018

Pepperdine University is among the private schools that participate in the Associate Degree for Transfer program.

Three dozen private California colleges and universities are offering a path to guaranteed admissions for community college students, adding a new option for those who want to earn their bachelor’s degrees in four years.

The actions of the private colleges are part of a continuing trend that has seen stronger ties between the state’s community college system and its four-year colleges and universities.

The Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges on July 16 approved an agreement that allows the private, nonprofit colleges and universities to begin accepting community college students as juniors if they meet academic requirements and take specific courses through a new transfer program. Community college students were always able to apply to these schools but this program offers them a direct pathway for admission. The agreement covers only non-profit schools.

Students can get credit for a minimum of 60 semester units or 90 quarter units for core courses that align to the major as long as the student receives a passing grade of C or better. Courses in licensure programs or state requirements may require a B or better.

Here are the majors for each of the 36 colleges that will accept transfer students under this program.

All but one of the 36 private institutions plan to accept students as juniors in either the fall or spring semesters of the 2018-19 academic year. Some of the colleges are Azusa Pacific University and Pepperdine University near Los Angeles, Mills College and University of San Francisco in the Bay Area, University of Redlands and Whittier College, east of Los Angeles.

The move is part of a wider state effort to increase the number of students earning a bachelor’s degree by shortening the time students need to graduate. The state is especially focusing on helping California’s 2.1 million community college students earn a degree in four years.

While some students enroll at community colleges to earn a two-year degree or a certificate, roughly 70 percent enroll with the goal of transferring to a four-year college or university. Easier transfer agreements can save students from repeating classes or taking the wrong ones.

Some of the partnering private institutions have religious affiliations.

Laura Hope, executive vice chancellor of the community college system, said at the public hearing last week that the schools give options to students who want to study at a faith-based institution “that supports their values.”

Another perk is that because the UC and CSU systems are struggling to provide classroom and dorm space, the private colleges can pick up the slack for students who live nearby. “Many of our students who transfer to a private university, they do so because they’re place-bound,” Hope said. “Geography is one of the reasons they may want to make that selection.”

The transfer program, known as the Associate Degree for Transfer, is similar to the agreement that exists between the community college system and the California State University. That deal with CSU allows students to earn an associate degree in two years at a community college and then enter the university system as juniors — as long as they take specific courses for the majors they want to pursue.

The University of California announced this year that it too would create an easier roadmap for community college students seeking to transfer that in some cases would mirror the associate degree for transfer program. The community college system struck a transfer deal with an online college last year and with Historically Black Colleges and Universities in 2015, as well.

“This is a long-time coming. I’m really excited about this item,” said Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges president Cecilia V. Estolano just before the board approved the private schools agreement.

There are small differences between the CSU and private college transfer agreements. The private colleges can require up to 68 units while CSU requires 60. The extra eight units may be religious- or service-related courses that the private colleges may require of its students. Both approaches are meant to allow students to earn bachelor’s degrees in four years.

Like the CSU transfer deal, some private colleges won’t be able to accept certain majors because those programs aren’t offered at their campuses or some of the degree programs require additional coursework that the students didn’t take at their community colleges.

The agreement also helps to ensure that students attending private, nonprofit colleges in California will be able to receive the maximum amount of money through the state’s chief financial aid program, the Cal Grant. The 2018-19 budget signed into law last month said that the private, nonprofit college sector has to admit at least 2,000 transfer students in 2018 through the transfer program or see the maximum Cal Grant for their students drop from $9,084 to $8,056 the following year. The minimum number of students the sector has to admit under this transfer program increases each subsequent year through 2023.

There are tradeoffs between attending a public or private college through the transfer program. Private colleges can offer substantial financial aid, but are likely still more expensive than a CSU education. The federal government’s College Scorecard portal allows the public to compare the cost and graduation rates of thousands of colleges.

Some of the state’s more prestigious private institutions, including Caltech, Stanford and the University of Southern California, plus some highly selective liberal arts colleges like Claremont McKenna and Pomona, aren’t involved in the transfer arrangement.

The chancellor of the California community college system, Eloy Ortiz Oakley, called out two of those private institutions for not participating in the transfer agreement.

During the July 16 board meeting, he told Kristen F. Soares, president of the The Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities which represents 82 of the state’s private nonprofit colleges of which 70 are undergraduate institutions, “If there’s anything I can do to help USC and Stanford understand the value of the California Community Colleges … especially since they receive so much state funding, let me know what I can do.”

USC’s dean of admissions Tim Brunold said the university did review the transfer pathway program and “we ultimately decided that the (Associate Degree for Transfer) did not match our academic requirements and programs.”

He noted that half of the university’s 2,300 admitted transfer students came from California community colleges for the upcoming 2018-19 school year. “We are committed to accepting qualified community college students.”

A spokesperson for Stanford University said that while the institution commends the community college system and the participating private colleges for creating the transfer deal, the school itself doesn’t have transfer deals with other colleges. “We are able to admit only a very limited number of undergraduate transfer students each year,” said E.J. Miranda, senior director of media relations.

Most of the 36 colleges joining the transfer agreement admit more than half of the freshman applicants they receive, according to an EdSource review of 2016 U.S. News & World Report data.

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