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Budget proposal would include UCLA in transfer admission guarantee program

A laptop with the transfer admission guarantee webpage open is pictured. Gov. Gavin Newsom recently proposed in his California 2023-2024 budget that UCLA participate in the TAG program, which would guarantee transfers who meet certain GPA and credit requirements admission to UCLA. (Jeremy Chen/Assistant Photo editor)

By Matthew Royer

Jan. 24, 2023 11:57 p.m.

For three years in a row, Lewis Smith chose to persevere.

Smith, a fourth-year political science transfer student, was rejected by UCLA for two years straight. He earned guaranteed admission to UC Davis during his third admissions cycle, which left him just enough time to fill out a last-ditch application to UCLA, his dream school.

“I knew that I was not going to be able to get a guaranteed admission to UCLA anyways,” Smith said. “I just tried multiple times, you know. Just kind of like throwing things against a wall until it sticks.”

However, a shift in policy in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget, released in early January, could change the admissions system for Smith and the thousands of community college students who transfer to UCLA every year. The proposal requires that UCLA be included in the transfer admission guarantee as a condition for state funding. TAG currently secures admission for students at California community colleges to any University of California campus of their choice, except UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC San Diego.

The new policy would mean students like Lewis would be able to guarantee admission to UCLA instead of holding out for an acceptance letter. The budget will be up for a final vote this summer after revisions in May following economic analysis, according to the governor’s office.

The UC standardized TAG in its current iteration for California’s community college students between 2007-2010, said Ryan King, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President. Students who complete 45 quarter units and meet their desired campus’s GPA requirements before they transfer are eligible to select a campus to guarantee admission to from participating UC campuses, according to the TAG matrix, though some majors do not have equal access to each university’s programs.

Newsom’s move comes as the budget also encourages the UC to expand in-state admissions and disincentivize admitting increasing numbers of out-of-state students, according to CalMatters.

In an emailed statement, UCLA spokesperson Bill Kisliuk didn’t specify whether UCLA supports Newsom’s proposal but said UCLA looks forward to working with the UCOP, state lawmakers and the governor on budgetary matters affecting UCLA.

Kisliuk said the university currently meets and exceeds the guidelines for admitting transfer students set by UCOP, adding that UCLA is still determining how this will affect the growing student population. The proposed change in admissions policy may not significantly change UCLA’s number of enrolled transfer students, he added.

Currently, UCLA offers priority consideration to students who complete the UCLA Transfer Alliance Program, a slate of honors courses at community colleges that provides priority consideration for several UCLA majors, but there are no guarantees for admission, according to the TAP website.

The current program creates a false sense of equity and access for community college students, said Ozan Jaquette, an associate professor of higher education. The existing alliance program mainly incentivizes those who have the resources to take honors courses, he said.

While UCLA might face issues finding more housing for students admitted under the proposed guarantee, Jaquette said the shift in policy is an important one, adding that it could help increase the representation of underrepresented communities at UCLA.

“If not the flagship UC campus, the benefit will be to the state, to the communities where students that didn’t have access to UCLA now have access to UCLA,” Jaquette said. “For UCLA, we have a tremendous amount to gain from this population of students.”

Smith said attending UCLA had always been their dream since high school, but they weren’t able to participate in the TAP program because they were ineligible for their community college’s honors program.

“Knowing I can just use TAG and then go to the school that I want to go to – that would have been really great,” Smith said.

Although Smith was finally accepted, he said the road to admission at UCLA was difficult.

Janny Oh, a fourth-year human biology and society transfer student, transferred to UCLA after receiving acceptance letters from UC Irvine in high school and through TAG. Now, she said if she were given the choice to have guaranteed admission at UCLA, she would have instantly selected UCLA instead of waiting for an acceptance letter because of the programs the university offered in comparison to other campuses.

“I strongly advocate for any of the UCs and their programs,” Oh said. “But if you’re looking for something specific at UCLA, that (TAG) is a big game changer, especially for people in community college. They need something to look forward to.”

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Matthew Royer | City and crime editor
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