Critical Condition: Prescription for Improving Transfer Pathways in the Health Professions

Over the past year, the COVID-19 global pandemic has highlighted the critical role that health professionals play in our society. Without bold action however, the demand for health professionals and healthcare workers in California will not be met. State and college leaders must support the development of pathways for students to enter these critical professions. This will require investments in the capacity of California’s community colleges and public four-year universities to educate enough students to fill these gaps, and it will require policymakers and practitioners to find ways to strengthen the pathways for students to earn high-value credentials and degrees in health-related fields.

While many health fields—including allied health fields and nursing—have traditionally required associate degrees for entry, the bachelor’s degree has become increasingly important. Between 2013 and 2018, the percentage of nurses with bachelor’s degrees increased from 36% to 57% in the U.S. This figure remains below the 80% target set by the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine. Our June 2021 report, Chutes or Ladders? Strengthening Community College Transfer So More Students Earn the Degrees They Seek, highlighted the positive impact that the Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) has had on students’ ability to transfer and earn associate and baccalaureate degrees at the California Community Colleges and the California State University (CSU). However, that report also noted generally low rates of ADT conferral in health fields. In this report, we look more closely at ADT awards in health fields and discuss practices and challenges relayed by administrators at campuses with high rates of ADT conferral and acceptance in health fields.