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University of California aims to raise transfer rates by 38 percent

San Francisco

This state, which boasts the nation’s largest
two-year college system and one of the best community college student
transfer rates, thinks it can do even better.

California has been a leader in encouraging students to start their
college careers at two-year schools and finish up at four-year ones,
largely because of overcrowding at senior institutions.

But even though its transfer record has been the envy of other
states, California relies largely on a complicated patchwork of
individual pacts and agreements.

The state community college system office has been working for some
time to streamline the system. Late last year, it began to see a return
on its negotiating investment.

The University of California (UC) considered the state’s top-tier
system, in November agreed to try and increase community college
transfers to 14,500 by 2005. That would represent a 38 percent jump
over the number of transfers the college system accepted last year,
statistics from the California community colleges state chancellor’s
office show.

“This agreement provides significantly increased access to the UC
system for our students,” says California Community Colleges Chancellor
Thomas J. Nussbaum.

The Space Crunch

The university system already gives community college students top
priority among all transfer applications — ahead of transfers from
other institutions, whether in-state, out-of-state, or international.
Nearly 10,500 students transferred from California community colleges
to the system’s nine campuses last year, community college system
statistics show.

But that’s still far less than transferred to California State
University (CSU), the state’s secondary university system. More than
48,000 transferred to its twenty-two campuses last year.

An estimated 10,000 community college students transferred to private or out-of-state universities.

Not only are community college transfer students given high
admission priority, but both UC and CSU have instituted a number of
transfer guarantee programs to help students prepare.

Meanwhile, a movement to guarantee that the state’s top high school
students automatically get admitted into the two university system
could leave less room for community college transfers.

State Sen. Teresa Hughes of Los Angeles wants the California
constitution to specify be admitted to the university systems.
Currently, state law says that all in-state applicants must be admitted
to the UC system, the CSU system, or the community college system.

The proposed amendment would require that students who rank in the
upper 12.5 percent of their graduating high school class be entitled to
admission to the University of California. It also would mandate that
the upper one-third of a high school graduating class be entitled to
admission to the Cal State University system.

That legislation is pending.

The Early Years

More than a decade ago, UC-Davis pioneered a transfer agreement with a community college in response to student complaints.

The so-called transfer admission agreement with the Los Rios
Community College District in 1996 lays out what coursework students
need to transfer to the university. Students enter a contract with
UC-Davis and upon completion of the courses with a minimum grade point
average of 2.8 to 3.1, they are guaranteed admission to the major of
their choice.

The pact applies even to crowded and competitive majors such as
engineering and computer science. Only landscape architecture is
exempted because it requires a student screening process.

“We’re looking for students who are well-prepared in the lower
division courses for their majors,” says Bob Ferrando, associate
director of undergraduate admissions at the Davis campus.

Since the initiation of the contracts the university has extended
the program to fifty-five other community colleges — more than half of
the 107 two-year institutions in the state.

Last fall, nearly 700 community college students entered the Davis
campus under such an agreement — which accounted for about half of all
university’s community college transfers.

The Spread of Transfer Plans

The transfer contract program has also been adopted by UC campuses
at Santa Cruz, San Diego, Riverside, and some CSU campuses.

But at some of those campuses, high-demand majors often are
excluded. For example, the pacts don’t apply to engineering at UC-San
Diego and UC-Riverside, nursing at CSU-Hayward, and nursing and
occupational therapy at San Jose State.

“Students are looking for those [transfer contracts] now, because
they guarantee admission,” says Adrienne Pierre-Charles, interim
coordinator at De Anza College’s transfer center.

The agreements sometimes offer additional benefits to students.
Both San Jose State University and California State University-Hayward,
for instance, waive the $55 application fee for transfer students with

“That’s something that we decided to do because we felt so strongly
about the program,” says Donna Ziel, associate director of San Jose
State’s students outreach and retention office. “We like it because
[the agreement] makes the student go through a counseling session. The
students are better prepared.”

At San Jose State, students with transfer contracts also receive
early admission notice, before the open enrollment period for other
applicants. In fact, nearly 740 students have been accepted for
admission to San Jose State for the 1998-99 academic year with transfer
contracts, up from 640 the year before.

San Jose State administrators say that they have been so pleased
with the program that they plan to expand it from the current ten to
thirteen community colleges.

At CSU-Hayward, community college students who enroll in a similar
program called “dual admission” are issued university identification
cards. The cards allow students access to the university library, as
well as health services and campus activities at the same rates as
CSU-Hayward students.

Some 500 students from ten community colleges participate in the
program at CSU-Hayward, where more than 70 percent of enrolled students
are transfers, mostly from nearby community colleges.

The state’s higher education master plan spells out that the two
university systems should maintain enrollment of 60 percent upper
division students, versus 40 percent lower division.

“We do that by enrolling two transfers for every freshman,”
explains Allison Jones, senior director of access and retention for
CSU. “Systemwide, we have about 70 percent upper division, and 30
percent lower division.”

The California state code for education stipulates that upper
division transfer students have priority admission to the university
systems, second only to continuing undergraduates at those
universities. For example, CSU-Northridge, which has been forced to
restrict some enrollment, nonetheless is still accepting upper-division
transfer students. transfer students.

“Our lower division just jam-packed,” says Cydney Walsh the school’ admissions and records analyst.

Alternative Criteria

Not all universities have been happy with guaranteed admission.

The university of California-Irvine had a transfer program similar
to the contract concept, but canceled it in 1996 because of a poor
response rate, says Dr. Susan Wilbur, the university’s admissions

Irvine instead has opted for a transfer program that gives priority
admission consideration and guaranteed her using to community college
honors students.

Unlike other programs this plan requires community college faculty
members to participate, which “emphasizes the importance of faculty in
promoting transfer,” Wilbur says.

“It also gives the faculty members an important entree to the
university,” she says, “and for us, an important new link to the
community college.”

COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates

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