Bill Would Ease Path of Community College Transfers

Bill Would Ease Path of Community College Transfers

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Last year, Rein Millburn needed to one class, statistics, to complete the requirements to tranfer from Sacramento City College to one of California's four year colleges or universities. She attempted to take the class in Fall 2008, but enrollment was full. She tried again in Spring 2009, but still couldn’t get in.

So,Millburn, a 34-year-old US Air Force Veteran, had no choice but to delay transferring to a four-year college until the Fall of 2010.

Millburn’s situation isn’t unusual among the throng of California community college students who find themselves set back by increased fees, limited class availability, and variance in transfer requirements. A new bill, SB 1440, intends to streamline and standardized the transfer process making the transition a little bit easier for community college students in California.

“Complexities of the current transfer process between the two systems are causing a bottleneck. This initiative will help break the cycle and increase graduation rates,” said State Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), who authored SB 1440.

If passed, the bill would require California community colleges and the state's colleges and universities to standardized a core set of transfer requirements that, if completed, would grant students an associate’s degree and guaranteed admission with junior status to a California State University campus.

More than forty California education groups have pledged support of the bil, including the Board of Governors of California's Community Colleges, the California State University system, and the state's largest teachers union, the California Teachers Association.

“This piece of legislation is long overdue,” said Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign for College Opportunity. “A vast majority of students who start at community colleges don’t end up transferring because they are often caught up in the confusing transfer process. This bill is putting student interest first and making a huge impact in closing the education gap here in California.”

“Guaranteed admission” means students who complete the required sixty units to transfer will receive a guaranteed spot at one or more of California's state colleges.

“SB 1440 will save money for students and the state. If we allow students to move more quickly through the community college and CSU system, this will leave more room for additional students to pursue a bachelor’s degree,” said CSU Chancellor Charles Reed.

Students and college administrators alike say the current transfer process is complicated for students to navigate. Each California community college sets its own requirements for students to receive an associate’s degree. More than half of California colleges require students to complete additional units for an associate’s degree, like a physical education course or art history class. Community college students don’t want to spend the time and money to complete these additional requirements forgo completing them and transfer directly to a four-year college without an associate's degree.

“If for some reason students who transfer can’t complete their four-year degree requirements, they’re left with nothing to show for years of hard work in community college,” said Milburn, president of the Student Senate for California Community Colleges.

According to a report from the California Legislative Analyst’s office, community college students who transfer to a California State University graduate with an average of 162 units, forty-two more units than the required 120 units. Transfer students accumulate extra units because they’re often forced to retake classes.

Millburn’s says her two roommates, for example, both took basic English in community college. However, because Sacramento State University wouldn’t accredit the class, they were forced to retake English after transferring.

Millburn was accepting to Sacramento State University and UC Davis for Fall 2010. With only a year and half of GI bill funds left, Millburn lacks the funds to commute or relocate to UC Davis, so she's leaning towards accepting Sacramento State.

SB 1440 is modeled on the college transfer system in Florida. For many years, Florida has maintained a so-called 2+2 policy for postsecondary education: students begin their college education in a community college before transferring to a four-year institutions

The legislation that created the community college system, in 1957, also mandated that there be strong articulation between the two- and four-year institutions. Many of the four-year institutions began as upper-division campuses, though all now offer four-year programs.

“I came to California from Florida 13 years ago,” said Reed. “One of my goals when I came here was to make the process of transfer from community colleges to the universities as simple as it was in Florida.”

Florida community college students who complete the standardized 60 transfer units receive an associate’s degree, guaranteed admission to at lest one state college. It's also guaranteed that all 60 community college units will be accredited at any private or public college in Florida. According to Reed and other proponents, the 2+2 transfer system resulted in transfer students completing their bachelor’s degree with only 138 units, two dozen fewer than the current rate in California.

SB 1440 moved through the California Senate Education Committee on April 21 with unanimous approval and will be reviewed next by the Senate Appropriations Committee. It has not yet met with any organized opposition.