More California community college students are expected to transfer to the University of California — and face fewer hassles along the way — starting in fall 2019 as the result of a new agreement between the two education systems.
Community college students who complete existing sequences of courses — known as pathways — that make it easier to transfer into particular majors at UC’s nine undergraduate campuses will be guaranteed a spot somewhere in UC if their grades are high enough, under the plan announced Wednesday. Plus, more pathways are expected to be added to the current 21 subject areas.
In addition, the community college system’s associate degrees for transfer, which already guarantee a spot somewhere in the 23-campus California State University, will be reviewed to make them also guarantees for UC transfer, according to the “memorandum of understanding” signed by UC president Janet Napolitano and California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley.
In an interview with EdSource, Oakley said he expects the changes will increase the number of community college students who transfer to UC by 10 to 15 percent in the first few years and then more as more students come to “see UC as a real possibility.” About 20,000 students made such a transfer this year, officials reported. In addition, Oakley predicted that more community colleges, especially those that serve rural and low-income students, will send substantial numbers of transfer students to UC.
However, both community college and UC officials caution that the agreement does not mean that students will be able to transfer to their first-choice campus, and explain that students may be referred to other campuses even if they at first did not consider those locations. Officials also said that existing guaranteed transfer routes involving six UC campuses will be maintained.
In a preview of Wednesday’s announcement, Napolitano called last month for the university system to explore ways to guarantee admission to academically eligible California community college students. The change she now formally embraces would mean that someone who completes an existing Transfer Pathway with qualifying grades would be guaranteed UC admission. That would be a big departure from the current arrangement, under which the pathways give an advantage in competitive admission but no locked guarantee. These course pathways are available for 21 popular majors, such as chemistry, English, mathematics and film.
On Wednesday, Napolitano said in a statement that the new agreement “will not only make it easier for qualified students to transfer to the university, it will help ensure that they excel once they arrive. We hope to see the tangible, positive effects of these efforts by fall of next year.”
Not everything is set in stone yet since some details will require approval by the UC Academic Senate, the faculty leaders’ group. That panel also sets the required grade point average for transfers, which now is a minimum 2.4 in transferable courses and can be higher in certain majors.
The agreement partly reflects pressure from Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature for California’s public universities to enroll more transfer students as a more economical path both for families and taxpayers and to increase graduation rates. The memorandum said UC will need additional funding from the state if enrollment rises as a result of more transfers.
“Increasing transfer rates have never been more important for the state’s economy,” the document says. “The changing face of the California populace requires a renewed commitment to higher education in ways that advantage students who wish to begin their educational journey at a community college.”
A similar guarantee of admission already exists between the state’s community colleges and the other public four-year university system, Cal State University. Under those special Associate Degrees for Transfer, students take two years of courses specifically designed for the transfer agreement and then enter a Cal State campus as juniors — giving them an opportunity to complete their bachelor’s degrees much more quickly than the typical community college student. In 2016, roughly 38,000 students earned an Associate Degree for Transfer — about one-quarter of all associate degrees in the state’s community college system.
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