New California law aims to ease community college transfers to UC, Cal State

California
Students study on the UCLA campus in this undated photo. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Students study on the UCLA campus in this undated photo. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

California hopes to make it easier for students in community colleges to transfer into the state’s public universities under a bill signed Wednesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom that streamlines a process students have described as a maze and a barrier to transferring.

By smoothing the path to the University of California’s campuses and those of California State University, the state hopes to increase the numbers of students who transfer from community college to four-year colleges and close equity gaps, officials said.

Assemblyman Mark Berman, a Democrat from Los Altos who authored the bill, said that students trying to navigate the transfer process have sent a clear message that the system needed an overhaul.

“It’s too complex, confusing and difficult to navigate. Instead of being a clear path it’s a maze, and costing students time and money they can’t afford,” he said at the signing alongside Newsom, who signed two dozen bills related to higher education Wednesday.

Among other things, the Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act of 2021 simplifies the Associate Degree for Transfer program, which guarantees priority admission to Cal State schools.

It requires community colleges to place all would-be transfer students — even if they want to attend a UC campus or another college — into the existing “guaranteed transfer path” to get into a Cal State school, unless they opt out.

It also requires the UC and CSU systems to agree on a common set of courses by the 2025-26 academic year, which community college students need to take to get into either system.

The University of California opposed the legislation, saying it took a “one-size-fits-all approach” for students to transfer into two very different university systems.

“Though there are many similarities between the UC and CSU undergraduate programs, there are also important differences” in curriculum and other areas, the UC said, agreeing the transfer system needed improvement but still contending the bill would “completely upend” its approach.

A separate bill signed Wednesday requires community college classes to have the same course numbers as the comparable courses in four-year colleges, to reduce confusion that can be another transfer barrier, said Berman.

A 2020 report by the Public Policy Institute of California found that a large gap exists between the number of students who hope to transfer and those who do, and that equity gaps were a big concern. While Latinos represent 51% of students who declare a transfer goal, they account for 35% who follow through with a transfer within four years.

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