UC Closes Door to Mid-Year Community-College Transfers

UC Closes Door to Mid-Year Community-College Transfers

BERKELEY, Calif.

Community college student Anoop Kaur expected to work hard and make good grades to transfer to the prestigious University of California.

She didn’t expect her future to depend on whether state officials have the smarts to handle California’s money troubles.

Last month, students such as Kaur got a jolt when the UC system closed its doors on almost all mid-year community-college transfers, saying they couldn’t afford to take the 1,500 expected transfer students for the next term.

And it’s likely to get much worse next fall. UC may have to cut enrollment growth by 5,000 students, and the California State University system also expects to turn away thousands of students.

“We’ve just got some serious problems here,” says UC Regent Ward Connerly. “This is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of number of students that we have to turn away.”

The disappointed students were the latest casualties of a multibillion-dollar budget mess that set the stage for the raucous attempt to recall Gov. Gray Davis.

More than that, the rejections, made without even looking at the applications, were a blow to a longtime social contract, known as the Master Plan for Higher Education, that assures California’s top students a place within the UC system.

“It’s just not something that’s fair,” says Kaur, a student at Ohlone College in the San Francisco suburb of Fremont. “A lot of students who come to Ohlone or other community colleges come because it’s cheaper or they need to do better. They work so hard. To cut that off — it’s really not fair.”

UC has tried to find other ways of dealing with a $410 million cut in state funding, but system President Richard C. Atkinson said “we have reached a point where the educational experience at the University of California will be severely compromised if we continue to grow without funding to support new students.”

Lawmakers have already said they won’t fund enrollment growth for 2004-2005 at the nine-campus UC system, which has about 200,000 students, or the 23-campus California State University system.

Under the Master Plan, drafted under the leadership of former UC President Clark Kerr and released in 1960, the state promises a place at UC for community-college students who meet grade requirements and for the top 12.5 percent of California high-school students. CSU, which has about 400,000 students and is the nation’s largest public university system, promises to take the top one-third of California high-school graduates.

The problem is not limited to California; budgets are being cut and tuition raised at four-year public colleges and universities in 49 of the 50 states.

That may be a sign of shifting priorities, said Dr. David Ward, president of the American Council on Education.

“The Master Plan was part of a period of idealism in the 1950s and 1960s which dealt with the idea of providing access to all Californians,” Ward says. “What has now happened is that the state may not be able to afford that. The conditions of 1950, when maybe the feelings about the commitment of the public and the tax base could sustain this concept, are breaking down in every state in the union.”

Some community-college transfers were able to get into UC this spring — namely the 500 students who had signed contracts with individual campuses guaranteeing them a spot under partnership agreements set up between some UC campuses and community colleges.

— Associated Press



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