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New bill eases transfer process for community college students

Posted: October 4, 2010 3:20 p.m.
Updated: October 4, 2010 3:20 p.m.

Last week, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law SB 1440, the Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act, in an effort to simplify and streamline the transfer process for California community college students hoping to transfer to schools within the California State University (CSU) system.

The bill, authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) and co-sponsored by the California Community Colleges, will require the state's community college districts to establish associate degree programs in transfer studies, while also guaranteeing that students who complete an associate degree program designated for transfer will be granted admission into the CSU system, with junior status.

Since the adoption of the 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, preparing students to transfer to a four-year university has been a core function of the CCC system. In fact 73 percent of college students attend community colleges. However, only 25 percent of those who intend to transfer to four-year universities actually do.

SB 1440 also establishes unit limits on most academic majors, thereby reducing the chance that students will spend extra time, money and taxpayer resources, to complete unnecessary, or excessive coursework that might not transfer to some four-year universities because of a school's particular entrance requirements.

"SB 1440 puts the needs of California's community college students first," said California Community College Chancellor, Jack Scott in a statement. "This law is going to make a real difference for students. The current process is too complicated. It's easy for students to get frustrated, confused and waste time when the requirements change."

According to a recent study by the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office, roughly 50,000 community college students transfer to the CSU system each year. Yet they do so with an average of 80 semester units, when only 60 are required to transfer.

Upon transferring to a CSU campus many students take excess units to make up for courses that did not transfer from their community college.

"The California Community College system does a great job preparing students to transfer to CSUs and UCs," said College of the Canyons Chancellor, Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook. "Historically, students who are admitted to these colleges as transfer students from community colleges perform as well as, or better than, students who began their college careers at four-year institutions.

"Nevertheless, receiving institutions within the CSU system often have different lower division requirements for the same majors and fields of study," added Dr. Van Hook. "This has added another barrier for our students, and causes many of them to have to repeat or take additional lower division courses, depending on which campus they were admitted to, and when they were admitted."

It is estimated that SB1440 and its soon-to-be implemented transfer agreements will generate approximately $160 million in annual cost savings and help provide access to education for roughly 40,000 additional community college students and 14,000 CSU students each year.

The new legislation will also help strengthen California's economy by providing more students with the skills and education needed to enter the workforce.

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) projects the state will face a workforce shortage of a million bachelor's degree holders by the year 2025.

However, it is also predicting that gradually increasing CSU attendance/graduation rates, combined with a 20 percent increase of the current community college transfer rate should dramatically close that gap over the next 15 years.

"California's community colleges serve nearly 3 million students each year, approximately six times the combined amount of students that annually attend CSU and UC campuses," Dr. Van Hook said. "Community colleges are the gateway to degree acquisition and gainful employment for a large majority of the state's high school graduates.

"Making access to education and state-of-the-art training readily available to all students is critical to the state's economic revival and the future growth of California's businesses and industry," added Dr. Van Hook.

In addition to the influx of recent high school graduates, displaced workers, adult reentry students and returning military veterans that have flocked to community college campuses in recent months, College of the Canyons officials are also expecting enrollment demand to surge as a result of SB 1440.

But while the state's higher education system annually funds more than $11,000 for each full time CSU student and more than $20,000 for each full time UC student, the state only contributes approximately $5,000 for each full time community college student.

"As the most affordable part of the state's public higher education system, and the one that is the most economical to fund, California's community colleges are an under-appreciated resource that is critical to the development of our student population," said Dr. Van Hook. "Our students have earned the right to be supported through the removal of barriers to educational access. SB 1440 is a step in the right direction."



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