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UCLA’s lack of funding for transfer center cheapens transfer students’ experiences

The Transfer Student Center at UCLA has been an exceptional resource for easing transfers into the fast-paced rigors of the quarter system. Inconsistent funding from the Student Fees Allocation Committee leaves its future uncertain, causing concern for the transfer community. (Daniel Leibowitz/Daily Bruin staff)

By Jackson Combe

Feb. 6, 2020 10:52 pm

Most new Bruins spend their time upon getting accepted excited for the college experience at UCLA.

But for new transfer students, this excitement often gives way to anxiety surrounding the fact that they only have two years to maximize their experience.

The Transfer Student Center, a part of the Bruin Resource Center, provides services and resources aimed at assisting transfer students’ transitions to UCLA, including counseling, community building and events that inform them of available resources.

Unfortunately, the TSC isn’t endowed with a consistent and sustainable source of funding.

The TSC relies on funding from the Student Fees Allocation Committee to pay for space, staff and programming. In the 2017-2018 school year, the SFAC allocated its entire $5 million surplus in the interest of promoting organizations that meet student needs, allowing the TSC to program community building and transition events.

But it was announced Jan. 8 that the committee budget for the next two years is only $2 million. In comparison to the funding available in 2017-2018, the steep drop-off means many programs will not be able to maintain their current level of activity.

And for students who have to cram four years into two, that drop-off could plunge them into a world of academic uncertainty.

Many transfers rely on services the TSC provides to integrate smoothly into the fast-paced learning environment of UCLA’s quarter system. But if the TSC can’t secure funding, new students will be forced to adjust without the reassurance that a dedicated space can provide for them. UCLA has an exemplary reputation for its treatment of transfers, but these budget cuts might be the end of that era.

And a new era won’t mean good things for transfer students. Recently, the Transfer Leadership Coalition has expressed concern about the evaporation of funds to support these essential services.

Milagros Martinez Stordeur, a fourth-year political science student and co-chair of the TLC, said the surplus in 2017-2018 led to an expectation of similar funding in the future, and that the TSC isn’t the only program in danger of being cut.

“It’s not just a this-year issue, as far as not having enough funds in their budget to fund all these requests,” Martinez Stordeur said. “The expectation that there would be sufficient funds was there, but then the funds depleted and now they’re not able to meet the demands that we’re used to.”

Lack of funding is a trend that anyone within UCLA’s atmosphere is familiar with, but in the case of the TSC, a discontinuation of programming can and will severely compromise a large portion of UCLA’s student body. The university has consistently and correctly said its transfer students are worth serving – but by allowing their fates to be dictated by unstable Undergraduate Students Association Council funding, UCLA paints a different picture.

It’s no surprise UCLA boasts of its transfer-friendly campus – these students’ experiences are well-documented as largely positive. The TSC reported that 41.3% of UCLA’s transfer students are first-generation college students, and that 92% come from California Community Colleges, statistics that imply that investing in the success of transfers directly serves the university’s mission of encouraging a diverse student body.

First-generation students may not know what to expect from college, meaning that the TSC could bridge this crucial gap and make students aware of the resources available to them.

And the current resources certainly aren’t going to waste.

BruinCards must be swiped to enter the center, which means data is available on how many students have been using it. From fall 2017 to winter 2019, there were 41,548 visits to the TSC – hardly an inconsequential figure considering UCLA’s transfer population of around 7,000.

Safvet Besen, a fourth-year political science student who transferred from Orange Coast College in fall 2018, said finding a community was vital in his transition to UCLA.

“I think when you have the time to be here all four years, you are able to kind of develop and understand how UCLA works a lot better, and I felt like a lot more times I had to learn how to be and kind of get by on my own,” Besen said. “I just think that it’s really important to have those extracurricular activities that kind of make you feel like there’s people in the same situation you’re in, and that you’re not alone in whatever you’re going through.”

But the demand for support isn’t being met with the funds to match it.

Isabel Oraha, a fourth-year history student and the transfer student representative in USAC, said that the TSC requested money from USAC’s $129,000 budget surplus for 2019-2020.

“We have $129,000, so what can I ask for that’s reasonable?” Oraha said. “I received $9,000 out of the $15,000 we asked for.”

The extra money can help with event programming in the meantime, but transfers are dependent on the long-term community support the TSC fosters.

Granted, the center is not immediately facing the most dire repercussions of this funding crisis, and it’s easy to point to other UCLA programs in need of additional funding. But securing a last-minute skeleton fund won’t provide the tailored experience transfers require to navigate UCLA in the long-term. And without this level of attention to their unique needs, their experiences at UCLA will likely be a lonely and confusing one.

UCLA’s reputation for working with and supporting transfer students is predicated upon its willingness to dedicate the resources necessary to address their specific challenges. But if UCLA has any desire to maintain that reputation, the TSC will need a less precarious source of funding.

Otherwise, transfers will end up wishing they had stayed at community college.

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