California’s Transfer Structure: Goals, Progress, and Recommendations
November 15, 2013 | Written by: Michele Siqueiros, Executive Director, Campaign for College Opportunity
I’d like to begin by thanking the Chair and committee members for providing me with the opportunity today to discuss an issue critical to California’s future well-being: improving community college transfer.
My name is Michele Siqueiros and I serve as the Executive Director of the Campaign for College Opportunity and as a Commissioner for the California Student Aid Commission. Most importantly, and why I’m so passionate about our work, I am the first in my family to go to college. And as the daughter of an immigrant with a 6th grade education, you can understand what a difference a college degree meant for the opportunities that I’ve been privileged to have. As many of you know, the Campaign for College Opportunity is a statewide nonprofit organization that is a bipartisan coalition of business, civil rights, and community leaders working to ensure that the next generation of students has the chance to attend and graduate college in order to meet the workforce demands of the 21st century. Our work is focused on raising public awareness, mobilizing a statewide coalition of advocates, and influencing state policy and budget decisions so that we can indeed significantly increase the number of Californians who go to college and succeed.
Today I’m grateful that you each understand the importance of improving transfer in California—and, in general, the importance of community colleges as a whole in producing more college grads, and closing the serious equity gaps that exist in success for students of color in our very diverse state. Community colleges serve over 2 million students each year, the majority of our undergrads are in the community college system, and the majority of low-income, first generation, and students of color who go to college begin their college career at a community college in California. With 112 campuses, they are the most accessible and affordable option. They also prepare students for careers that don’t require a Baccalaureate degree, especially in high-demand professions like health care. And they produce a great number of transfer students that graduate from the CSU and UC (among other colleges).
In California, community college transfer plays a major role in helping the state produce baccalaureate degrees and meet workforce demand. It’s a core function of the California Community College system, and it’s the primary reason many students start at a community college.
Last week, we released a new report on the State of Latinos in California Higher Education – I’ve brought you a quick summary of the key findings of that research report for your reference. It highlights how critical a role community colleges are for improving outcomes for Latino and all students.
Unfortunately, for decades, community college students across the state have faced significant barriers to transfer.
Inconsistent, duplicative, and ever-changing coursework requirements frustrated and discouraged students, as already noted by Colleen Moore today.
Recognizing a need to dramatically simplify the transfer pathway, The Campaign for College Opportunity in 2010 worked closely with Senator Alex Padilla who championed this historic legislative transfer reform effort with Senate Bill 1440, a bill that gained significant buy-in from the California Community Colleges’ and California State University’s system leaders, as well as both respective student organizations.
As you’re well aware, this pioneering legislation required the community colleges to develop a pathway that aligned associate degree and transfer coursework requirements, resulting in an Associate Degree for Transfer.
The Campaign for College Opportunity intended for this historic legislation to create a clear, statewide preferred transfer pathway for the majority of community college students.
It’s what students want: a clear transfer pathway that earns them a degree with guaranteed admission as juniors. It’s what the hundreds of organizations including prominent business and civil rights leaders have supported. And quite frankly, it simply makes sense.
I’d like to commend the tremendous progress in facilitating statewide transfer reform at the system-wide level. The faculty and administrative leadership at the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, along with the leadership at the CSU Chancellors Office has been impressive in the development of degrees through their Transfer Model Curriculum approach and in working hand-in-hand to move this forward. The same leadership and momentum however has not been replicated at a number of individual colleges and universities.
The unevenness of the implementation progress was covered extensively in our November 2012 report, Meeting Compliance, but Missing the Mark, and research performed by the Legislative Analyst’s Office. It is also further documented in this handout we’re sharing with you today that provides an analysis of progress for each community college and CSU.
As you can see in this analysis, implementation is falling short of SB 1440’s intent: a statewide transfer pathway at every college and into every CSU.
The Campaign for College Opportunity became gravely concerned that uneven implementation would result in unequal opportunity for students depending on where they live. So if you’re in one of the largest community college districts in the state, like Los Angeles, your access to this pathway is appallingly low. But if you’re at Butte, Cypress, Diablo Valley, Moorpark, San Diego or here at Fullerton – you’ve got significantly more opportunities available to you. I want to say emphatically, it was never our intent to create “another” way to transfer in California, adding to the already hectic transfer maze that students must navigate.
The introduction of Senate Bill 440 this past legislative session year was to address this unevenness and accomplishes the following:
- Establishes clear deadlines and benchmarks for each community college to offer Associate Degrees for Transfer at and for each California State University campus to accept these degrees.
- Requires the CSU to develop an admissions redirection process for Associate Degree for Transfer students to ensure the promise of a guaranteed admission into the CSU system.
- Improves flexibility and response to students’ needs by requiring the systems to develop at least two Associate Degrees for Transfer patterns in areas of emphasis by fall 2015.
- Creates a commitment to outreach and marketing by requiring the community colleges and the CSU, in consultation with key stakeholders including students, to develop a student-centered communication and marketing strategy for the transfer degree pathway, a sorely needed development.
As you know, SB 440 was passed unanimously by your committee, enjoyed wide support from the Legislature, and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Brown. It continues to have strong support from business, civic, and student leaders across California and received wide endorsement by editorial boards in major newspapers.
It is our belief that if properly implemented, together, these policies will significantly strengthen the Associate Degrees for Transfer pathway. This is not just good policy. This is good for students. This is good for the State of California. This is a good use of resources that reduces the cost of increasing BA production and helps free up course access.
But let me be clear, this good is only realized if the full intent of the law is implemented, if each of you keep paying attention, and if the leadership and faculty at our colleges and universities have the support necessary and the commitment required to see this to fruition.
Just recently we visited campuses that we deemed are high performing in terms of implementing this transfer pathway. And these common features emerged:
- Had this not been legislated, this solution to improving transfer in our state wouldn’t have occurred. Your leadership is critical.
- The strong leadership at the statewide level and with the Implementation and Oversight Committee has been essential.
- Leadership and commitment locally, at each campus site and with a designated campus leader is one of the key differences between a campus with strong implementation and one without it.
In 2010, seeking to also ensure a smoother pipeline from community colleges to the University of California, we also successfully passed AB 2302. This legislation, authored by Assembly member Fong, encouraged the UC to develop a pathway similar to the new transfer pathway created through SB 1440.
The reality is that the autonomous nature of the UC system makes it challenging to implement an associate degree with an admission’s guarantee to the UC system.
The UC has agreed to offer comprehensive admission’s review to students who have completed an SB 1440 degree and we believe that it is in the UC’s best interest to take that practice further by committing to giving SB 1440 students an admissions criteria bonus when considering their applications.
We also strongly believe that should the UC take steps to develop their own associate degree for transfer pathway systemwide that could help ensure greater transfer diversity while offering eligible community college students a clear path to their system. I’m glad that you will hear from representatives of the UC to discuss this further.
When the hard work of getting a good bill written and signed into law happened, we knew it was just the beginning.
My hope is that your attention to the importance of this issue will not wane, that you will ensure strong implementation of transfer reform and keep monitoring progress. Furthermore, my hope is that—along with the Governor and your fellow legislators—you will fund and support transfer reform, and that you will seek to develop a strong plan for higher education that articulates a public agenda for higher education that can increase college access and improve transfer and college completion rates.
The Campaign for College Opportunity remains committed to working with the Legislature and system stakeholders to ensure that California moves closer to a fully-realized solution to the state’s broken transfer function. The time is now; students are waiting. As Senator Padilla said at SB 1440’s signing, “and now to keep the promise.”
About the Author:Michele Siqueiros is the Executive Director of the Campaign for College Opportunity.
To read her complete bio, click here. Follow her on Twitter @MSCollegeOpp