CA Transfer Students Changes & Trends

With the high cost of a college education, I hear of students (in California) going the “community college transfer route”.  I hope to address some typical questions.  Specifically, students in California who go two years to a community college and then look to transfer to a four year college/university (“vertical” or “forward” transfers).  What is the process? How do they do it?  What is an AS-T or an AA-T?  What are the trends?

California Senate Bill 1440 – The Student Transfer Achievement Reform (STAR) Act was passed in September of 2010 (http://www.sb1440.org/).  It requires community colleges (California has 112) to grant an associate degree for transfer to a student who has met certain general education and major requirements for a degree.  After completing the associate degree (AA-T or AS-T), they are eligible to transfer with a junior standing into the California State University (CSU) system (http://www.calstate.edu/transfer/degrees/).  These students are given guaranteed admission and priority consideration when applying to a particular program similar to their associate degree major.  Further, the law prohibits CSU from requiring the transfer student to repeat courses similar to those taken at the community college.

In addition, there is a GPA “bump” for these transfer degree students of .2 that is given for selected “impacted” campuses and majors.  Examples of impacted campuses are Cal State Long Beach and San Diego State University.  Examples of impacted majors are communication, psychology, business, and film & television.    This has the added benefit of making the student more competitive in gaining admission to the campus of their choice within CSU.

ASSIST is a service funded by California tax dollars that shows all the agreements between the community colleges and both the Cal State and UC systems (http://www.assist.org/web-assist/welcome.html).  Note, the UC systems are not mandated to accept these transfer students, BUT the trend is that more and more UC and private schools (i.e. USC) are participating in this process.   ASSIST is a valuable tool to help a student know which classes at a community college are transferable and how those courses will be used to satisfy subject matter requirements for specific majors or general ed.  For example, a student who completes his/her AS-T (Associate in Science for Transfer) in biochemistry, can easily know that they have met the required course work to transfer to UCLA as a junior.  Another powerful tool is the CSU campus-specific major preparation requirements called roadmaps (http://www.calstate.edu/transfer/roadmaps/).

It is worth noting that other agreements exist as well, although the trend is moving away from these old agreements.  For instance, there are individual agreements between California Community Colleges and a particular school called TAG’s (Transfer Admission Guarantee).  UC-Irvine and all the community colleges has such an agreement (http://www.admissions.uci.edu/applicants/tag.html).  I found understanding these agreements are difficult and involve the IGETC (Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum).  The IGETC can be helpful for a student who attends one (or more) community colleges and has not decided upon a major.  This helps them to complete their general education requirements and know that they will not have to repeat them once accepted to a university (http://admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/transfer/requirements/additional-requirements/igetc/).

Essays questions for the transfer student are very general.  The student basically addresses – where was I, where I’ve been, and where I’m hoping to go.  This looks to answering the question – What have they done in the last two years to define themselves at the community college level?  Extracurricular activities during these two years becomes a defining factor as well.  Also, as a general rule, these transfer students apply to about half, or 5-6 schools.

I want to mention that offering transfer degrees is a nationwide effort for all community colleges.  In the past decade, numerous states have developed transfer degree programs (AZ, FL, LA, NC, NJ, OH, WA).  Streamlining this process benefits all parties (and stakeholders) and increases bachelor’s degree production.  The driver of this trend is the individual state’s legislation efforts.

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