Cutting through the transfer maze
The failure of the community colleges and state four-year universities to agree on common transfer requirements creates tremendous waste and confusion. It has become one more factor discouraging students from pursuing a four-year degree.
To their credit, California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott and California State University Chancellor Charles Reed have worked out an agreement that, should the Legislature approve it, will provide an important fix.
SB 1440, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla, which the Senate Education Committee will take up on Wednesday, would guarantee an associate’s degree and admission to a CSU campus to any student who successfully completes a standard number of general education credits and courses in the student’s major.
This is monumental, because the transfer requirements to the 23 California State University campuses differ from school to school. The 110 community colleges have created individual articulation agreements with CSU campuses to which they feed the most students. Beyond that, it’s a maze to negotiate. Unsure where they’ll transfer to, community college students hedge their bets by taking more courses than they need. And once they’re admitted to a CSU school, community college grads learn they often have to take extra courses peculiar to that school’s requirements for a major.
According to the New America Foundation, which favors the bill, community college transfer students are graduating from CSUs with more than a full year of classes beyond what’s required for a BA degree. They’ve been taking half of these 40 extra semester credits at community colleges trying to anticipate different CSU requirements; they’ve been taking the other half at the CSUs, at an average cost of $20,000 to families and $160 million to the CSUs, when they discover some of their credits won’t match requirements for a major.
Under the bill, students with at least a 2.0 grade point average would be entitled to an associate’s degree and admission to a CSU (though not necessarily the campus of their choice) if they complete 60 transferable semester units that include the CSU general education requirements and 18 semester units in a major. There would be exceptions for intensive majors, such as engineering.
With tuitions rising and CSUs cutting back in enrollments, there’s no justification for extraneous demands. Reed is confident that CSC campuses will free up more space in classes and make room for more community college students by economizing course requirements.
If there is opposition to the bill – but not enough, I hope, to overcome the persuasive case for the bill’s passage – it will come from CSU faculty senates, which have the authority to set course requirements.