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Transfer Students Need a Clearly Defined Pathway

GUEST COMMENTARY: AB 928 builds on existing law and improves the pathway for community college students to transfer to California State University.

For California to continue as the world’s fifth-largest economy, we need more of our talented students to earn high-quality college degrees and take the next step toward success. 

The creation of a more clearly defined pathway that allows additional students to transfer from the California Community Colleges to the California State University can help to do this. That is why we emphatically support the historic change that would result from the signing of Assembly Bill 928, the Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act of 2021.

Joseph I. Castro is chancellor of the California State University system.

Over the past several years, through reinvestment by the state in public higher education and a university-wide effort to improve student success under Graduation Initiative 2025, the CSU has made leaps and bounds in improving student achievement for transfer and first-year students. It’s never been a better time to be a student transferring to the CSU, as both two- and four-year graduation rates have reached all-time highs and continue to climb. 

We are doing a better job of serving our students, and we’re committed to finding new solutions to enhance their achievement.

While student success is unprecedented and continues to be a main focus throughout the university, we still face the challenge of providing access to all students hoping to earn a college degree. 

Isaac Alferos is president of the California State Student Association and a senior majoring in business administration-finance at Cal State Fullerton.

It is true that the Associate Degree for Transfer has saved tens of thousands of students millions of dollars and countless hours by reducing unnecessary units taken at either institution and creating simplified pathways from the CCC to the CSU. For the fall 2020 term, nearly 60,000 students transferred to the CSU from a community college, the highest total ever.

In its February 2021 Recovery with Equity Report, the Governor’s Council for Post-Secondary Education highlighted the importance of streamlining pathways to degrees and creating “an integrated statewide system for admission and transfer to provide clear and easy-to-navigate pathways to degrees.”

AB 928, introduced by Assemblymember Marc Berman, a Democrat from Menlo Park, is legislation that would further improve transfer for the benefit of students. It builds on existing law and improves the transfer process to ensure that students get from one institution to the other – even to a UC – and ultimately graduate with a high-quality degree.

While the Associate Degree for Transfer has streamlined the process, there still exists many different ways to transfer from a community college to a CSU campus. It says something when students often use the terms “confusion” and “maze” when describing their experiences related to transfer. 

AB 928 reduces much of that confusion. It would lead to a new, single lower-division General Education (GE) pathway to the CSU or UC resulting in more efficient transfer. Of the aforementioned 60,000 new transfer students, fewer than half did so after earning an Associate Degree for Transfer which guarantees them admission to the CSU.

The streamlined GE pathway also ensures that there is capacity for additional preparation for students in their majors in high-unit degree programs, such as those in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. Currently, many transfer students are challenged to fit those courses into the 60-unit lower- and upper-division requirements established by the Associate Degree for Transfer.

For example, there are no engineering Associate Degree for Transfer pathways from the community colleges to the CSU, yet there are undoubtedly students who will transfer to the CSU and eventually earn a degree in that subject. AB 928 corrects that and will lead to additional graduates in other critical fields such as computer science, physics and business, with many coming students from traditionally underserved communities.

As with any large-scale change, collaboration is key. Another important element of the bill is that it ensures the dedicated and world-class faculty from all three institutions – who know the most about what critical elements should be included in the curriculum of any degree – will oversee the development of that single, consolidated General Education pathway. 

It is our hope that the governor exercises bold decision-making by signing AB 928 into law.

(This guest commentary by Joseph I. Castro and Isaac Alferos first appeared on CalMatters and is made available as part of the CalMatters Network.)

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