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As the daughter of an immigrant who attended Sacramento State University, I know firsthand just how transformational access to an affordable college degree can be for families and for our economy. I am proud to serve as lieutenant governor in a state that recognizes the power of our public higher education system.

Unfortunately, inefficiencies in the transfer process mean our system isn’t serving our students, state and economy as well as it could.

As the only person to serve on all three governing boards of California’s public higher education institutions — the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges — I see the barriers students face while attempting to navigate our public higher education systems. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, more than 3 out of every 4 students entering the community college system declare transfer as their goal, but only 4% of those students do so in two years. Only 19% of students transfer in four years, and 28% do so within six.

I know that we can and must do better to ensure that every Californian who wants to attend college can do so in a timely manner. This month, the California State Legislature has an opportunity to do just that by passing Assembly Bill 928 by Assemblyman Marc Berman, which charts a clear path for community college students to transfer to a four-year college.

Numerous reports identify the lack of clear transfer pathways as a key barrier to transfer. A 2017 study from the Campaign for College Opportunity reflects what I hear again and again from students: Despite major reforms in the last several years, transferring to the UC and the CSU remains complicated by factors that students have described as bureaucratic, inconsistent, and confusing. Students are forced to piece together an education plan with inconsistent requirements demanded by the different systems, schools, and departments.

In addition to adding years to a student’s time at a community college, these complexities lead students to accumulate more credits than necessary. The average transfer student accumulates over 25 more credits than what they need to transfer.

We have seen successful transfers via the Associate Degree for Transfer, or ADT, program, which provides students who meet CSU eligibility requirements with a pathway for guaranteed admission to the CSU system with junior standing — and with only 60 credits needed to transfer. Over the past decade, nearly 300,000 students have used this pathway, saving students and taxpayers time and money.

However, too many students are unable to access the Associate Degree for Transfer option because they don’t know about it, wish to attend a UC and are therefore unable to use the ADT, or an ADT pathway doesn’t exist in their desired major.

AB 928 builds upon the success of and strengthens the Associate Degree for Transfer program by consolidating multiple existing lower-division general education requirements into just one that meets transfer admission to both the CSU and UC. It also places students on an ADT pathway rather than requiring them to proactively seek it out.

The bill would create an oversight committee tasked with enhancing coordination between institutions, identifying a student-centered communications plan and expanding the number of Associate Degree for Transfer pathways available to more majors. While no single institution is to blame for the existing problems with our transfer system, a coordinated approach across the segments is critical to solving them.

By creating a more streamlined pathway to a four-year degree, AB 928 would save students time and money while also putting them on a path to earn higher wages. Additional cost savings for the state are likely as more students transfer and complete their college degrees with fewer excess units as a result of the bill.

Failure to act now would not only continue to harm students but could also keep our state from realizing our full economic potential.

A 2015 Public Policy Institute of California report found that California must produce an additional 1 million baccalaureate degrees by 2030 to meet projected workforce demands. Keeping students moving efficiently through our system of public higher education is key to ensuring California has the educated workforce to meet economic demand.

As the lieutenant governor, I know our economic success has been underpinned by the values that we share. We understand that talent can come from anywhere and that, to allow talent to rise to the top, we must keep the doors of educational opportunity open to all.

If California aims to harness the power of our world-class public higher education to meet challenges like an equitable recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and future workforce demands, it is critical that our transfer system is truly serving California students.

•••

Eleni Kounalakis is the 50th lieutenant governor of California and the first woman elected to the position. She is a sponsor of Assembly Bill 928.

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  1. Shannon Stanley 2 months ago2 months ago

    Lt. Governor Koulanakis, As a California Community College counselor with 30 years experience working one-on-one with thousands of students, I agree with with comments by Chris S. Paul K, and el. I'd like to add that while there is always room for improved efficiencies regarding CCC to UC/CSU transfer, in my experience, the accumulation of units and circuitous educational routes the following factors play a large role: *Significant challenges of attending school, paying the bills, and caring … Read More

    Lt. Governor Koulanakis,

    As a California Community College counselor with 30 years experience working one-on-one with thousands of students, I agree with with comments by Chris S. Paul K, and el.

    I’d like to add that while there is always room for improved efficiencies regarding CCC to UC/CSU transfer, in my experience, the accumulation of units and circuitous educational routes the following factors play a large role:

    *Significant challenges of attending school, paying the bills, and caring for family members with little social/societal support
    *Exploring and learning about career and educational options while attending college (& changing majors).
    *Underinvestment in higher education combined with increased student need for support and services

    I would like to see a bill that provides students more opportunities in the following areas:
    *Expand student support using proven models such as EOPS (Extended Opportunity Programs and Services). EOPS for all students?
    *Provide paid work-based learning and internships in a wide variety of fields
    *More financial aid (grant aid) per student
    *Financial aid that accounts for regional housing costs

    I’d like to add that the proposed legislation automatically places a student into a major. Even with an opt-out clause, this is a recipe for failure. AB 928 pays no mind to some of the critical factors that present barriers to student transfer: poverty, limited support services, and experiential education/opportunities to inform intrinsically meaningful educational and career choices.

    Studies clearly show that socio-economic status is the largest predictor of educational success. The ever-widening income inequities in our state cannot be absent from the solutions to educational achievement and workforce readiness.

  2. Chris Stampolis 2 months ago2 months ago

    Lt. Governor Koulanakis, While your intent to increase transfer degrees is commendable, you have a few errors in your column that need to be addressed. 1) The standard for CSU transfer is higher, not lower, than the standard for transfer to UC. There are zero courses required for a transfer to UC that are not required for a transfer to CSU. However, CSU requires classes in American Government and ethnic studies that are not required … Read More

    Lt. Governor Koulanakis,

    While your intent to increase transfer degrees is commendable, you have a few errors in your column that need to be addressed.

    1) The standard for CSU transfer is higher, not lower, than the standard for transfer to UC. There are zero courses required for a transfer to UC that are not required for a transfer to CSU. However, CSU requires classes in American Government and ethnic studies that are not required at UC. I support students taking those courses. I am not arguing that CSU admission standards should be lowered. I simply am noting that it is easier, not more difficult to meet transfer requirements to UC, than to CSU.

    2) You write above “wish to attend a UC and are therefore unable to use the ADT.” I just read the entire text of AB 948. The bill’s language specifically requires the Regents of the University of California to decide whether or not to accept transfer admission changes. The bill gives the Regents the continued right to say “no” to the recommendations that could flow from AB 948, although there is reasonable hope that the UC, CSU and CC systems will work together in a collegial manner. However, AB 948 does not fix the ADT concern you mentioned. Further, IGETC already solves most of the concerns raised in AB 948.

    3) The measurable challenge must focus on updating assist.org, the statewide website that lists which CC courses are accepted for direct transfer to which CSU and UC campuses. The vast majority of Community Colleges in California have not obtained pre-approval to transfer courses to all the CSU campuses and all of the UC campuses. Often community colleges only have completed the course review process with their close-by neighboring CSU and UC campuses. AB 948 should require appropriate staffing and funding for assist.org so ALL the Community College campuses are required to seek approval for ALL of their transferable courses to ALL of the CSU and UC campuses. This is not an academic problem – it is a bureaucratic oversight – and one that you as our Lieutenant Governor can champion to fix along with Assemblymember Berman.

    4) I speak from personal experience, with several kids who either are in process of transfer or who have earned their AA degrees concurrent with their high school diplomas and then gained freshman admission with advanced standing to the CSU system. AB 948 is a tolerable idea, but one that the bill’s own language states will require at least four years to implement. Fix the assist.org challenges this year and many of the course transfer obstacles will dissolve.

    Best educational regards,
    Chris Stampolis

  3. paul keefer, Board of Trustee, SCOE 2 months ago2 months ago

    It would be a valuable exercise to determine all of the pressures on the California higher education and determine the number of students trying to reach specific goals. How many graduating seniors qualify for the UC system and yet a seat is not available to them? How many transfer students from the community colleges can be accommodated that qualify and be made available to the current the UC system? There are only so many seats … Read More

    It would be a valuable exercise to determine all of the pressures on the California higher education and determine the number of students trying to reach specific goals. How many graduating seniors qualify for the UC system and yet a seat is not available to them? How many transfer students from the community colleges can be accommodated that qualify and be made available to the current the UC system? There are only so many seats within all of the schools and one school, UC Berkeley, has been ordered to freeze enrollment (https://www.berkeleyside.org/2021/08/24/judge-freezes-uc-berkeleys-student-enrollment-at-2020-21-levels). What is the master plan for higher education to inform students or will be continue to have disappointed Californians because we fail to plan and execute?

  4. el 2 months ago2 months ago

    One of the challenges for students who want to transfer with a STEM major is that there are many classes taken by students at the sophomore level at the 4 year schools that are not offered at the community college, or at least they aren't at our community college. In addition, some prerequisite sequences that can be done in two semesters at CSU take three semesters to complete at the community college. This seems to … Read More

    One of the challenges for students who want to transfer with a STEM major is that there are many classes taken by students at the sophomore level at the 4 year schools that are not offered at the community college, or at least they aren’t at our community college. In addition, some prerequisite sequences that can be done in two semesters at CSU take three semesters to complete at the community college. This seems to be due to assumptions baked in to who attends the community college rather than a true limitation based on the resources of the college.

    Without access to these foundation courses early, at best the junior/senior year then becomes significantly compressed with the student attending a new school and taking multiple high difficulty classes in their major. It’s not technically impossible but it does add to the difficulty compared to a student who has been in resident at the four year school. It also makes it more likely that the student will either decide that major isn’t as compelling as they thought or that they’ll despair and think that they don’t have the skills to complete it.

    With the new tools we have from the pandemic, I wonder what options we might have to bring some of these classes to the community colleges, even if not all of them, even if done maybe in partnership with a four year school supporting multiple community colleges in a hybrid arrangement. I wonder if some of the sequences that are extended might have the option of two paths, one that mirrors the CSU sequence for well prepared students, and maybe the more extended one for students who would prefer that (because some do).