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Transfer students vocalize support for recently passed California bills

One of the bills Gov. Gavin Newsom recently passed intends to change the transfer process by creating one set of general education requirements for California State University and University of California campuses. (Ashley Kenney/Photo editor)

By Lindsay Turpin

Oct. 20, 2021 11:11 p.m.

University of California students voiced support for two recently passed California bills that will reform the transfer process from community colleges to public universities.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 928 and AB 111 on Oct. 6, both of which aim to consolidate transfer student course requirements between different institutions in California. The UC Student Association co-sponsored the bill with Assemblyman Marc Berman, who represents District 24.

According to a report by the Public Policy Institute of California, 19% of community college students who intend to transfer to a university do so within four years. The low percentage of completed transfers shows how challenging the system is to navigate, said Herman Luis Chavez, transfer student representative for the Undergraduate Students Association Council.

AB 928 will require the California State University and UC to standardize their general education course requirements by May 2023 for prospective transfer students.

Under AB 928, community colleges are required to place students who declare their intention to transfer in the Associated Degree for Transfers program at their respective community college, unless students choose to opt out.

In addition, AB 928 establishes the ADT Intersegmental Implementation Committee to oversee the ADT program and recommend improvements to the state legislature.

The ADT program allows students to earn an associate degree in two years and guarantees transfer admission to a CSU campus if they meet the program’s minimum eligibility requirements.

AB 111 will create a common course numbering system across all California community colleges by July 2024 to help students understand which classes are transferable to universities.

Joshua Hagen, senior manager of Policy and Student Success Initiatives at Campaign for College Opportunity, said AB 928 addresses three main student concerns – coordination between the CSU and UC, GE requirements and placement in the ADT program.

Unlike many other states, California does not have standardized course requirements between its public higher education institutions, which can make transferring difficult, Hagen said.

As a result of the individualized university transfer requirements, students often end up needing to take excess courses to fulfill the expectations of all colleges they wish to apply to, Chavez said.

Clear transfer GE requirements save money for the state of California because students will end up taking less units and save time when earning their degrees, Hagen said.

Chavez said the complexities of transfer student requirements are especially difficult for students who are the first in their families to attend college and rely solely on information from their counselors.

In addition, counselors frequently give students at community colleges conflicting or inaccurate information about the transfer process, said Kayla Long, a fourth-year history transfer student.

California previously established the A-G pathway in high schools for preparation for university admission, which eliminated variance in course offerings between different high schools, said Tariq Azim, vice chair of government relations at UCSA.

He added that the state can restructure transfer student courses in community colleges in a similar way to A-G by requiring certain types of classes but giving several options within each requirement.

With automatic ADT enrollment, students are given the power to direct their own education rather than leave it to counselors to determine who is capable enough to transfer, Hagen said.

However, Rafael Chavez, a California Community Colleges spokesperson, said in an emailed statement that AB 928’s automatic placement in the ADT program does not give students enough options for four-year institutions because the UC and private universities do not participate in ADT. The ADT program also does not consider students’ preferences to remain in a certain region, Rafael Chavez said.

Community colleges are essential for upward mobility for students, so it is essential to make their educational experience more accessible, Herman Luis Chavez said. He added that many community college students are low income, first in their family to attend college or taking care of children.

UCSA President Esmeralda Quintero-Cubillan said formulating clearer course requirements will make the process easier for Native American and Indigenous students from poorer communities with fewer educational opportunities.

She added that many Native American and Indigenous students rely on community colleges and the transfer process to pursue higher education, but its complexities can be harmful for aspiring transfer students.

Long said more community colleges should establish honors programs and partnerships with universities to make the transfer process more accessible.

Those in opposition to AB 928 have argued there is not enough space in the CSU and UC to accommodate more transfer students, Azim said. He said this concern does not warrant maintaining an inequitable system.

“Community colleges are not a waiting room,” Azim said. “I think that the argument that we need to keep transfer complicated because we don’t have seats at the UC is kind of absurd.”

Ryan King, a UC Office of the President spokesperson, said in a written statement that the UC is pleased to see improvements to the student transfer experience by the California Legislature. He added that UCOP is currently assessing the impact the bills will have on UC.

In order to implement the changes from AB 928 and AB 111, California community colleges will have to give professional development training to faculty, improve counseling and create new course catalogs and information systems, Rafael Chavez said.

“Overall, we see a lot of workload being placed on community colleges, we are the system that educates the most students and receives the least amount of funding,” Rafael Chavez said.

Herman Luis Chavez said he envisions several more improvements to the transfer system in the future, including higher admissions rates, extension of the Transfer Admission Guarantee to all UC schools and more support for transfers in more specialized or creative majors.

“If we don’t take steps now to transform this process, that is going to risk leaving historically marginalized communities behind,” Hagen said.

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