UC draws criticism after extending its transfer application deadline

Mihai Gherghina sacrificed sleep, study time and Thanksgiving holiday fun to make the application deadline for a long-cherished goal: transfer to a UC campus.

When he clicked the "submit" button Nov. 29, a day before the deadline, the Orange Coast College student said he felt huge relief.

But that emotion turned to frustration when UC officials announced three days later that they would extend the deadline to Jan. 4 for those who missed it — but not those who made it, like Gherghina. The 26-year-old student said he could have used the extra time.

"They didn't tell anyone about this extension until after the deadline," Gherghina said. "It's unfair how some lazy people were given another chance."

The deadline extension, the first in years, has created major buzz — and decidedly mixed reactions — up and down the state. UC officials said they extended the deadline to expand the pool of high-quality transfer applicants needed to help fill the 5,000 additional seats being earmarked for California students next year and 5,000 more over the following two years. The expansion was approved last month by the UC Board of Regents, which has come under political pressure to allot more seats to Californians after years of increasing spaces for out-of-state and international students who pay full tuition.

Under the state's master plan for higher education, UC is aiming to enroll one transfer student for every two freshmen. But the number of transfer applicants to UC campuses declined slightly to 29,389 this fall from 29,740 two years ago. UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein said officials wanted more time to "get the word out" about the added seats for California students, especially to those in areas such as Eureka that have not produced as many transfer applicants as, say, Santa Monica.

The move to expand California seats and extend the transfer deadline has won widespread praise. But the decision not to allow those who applied by the deadline more time to rework their applications has drawn criticism from those who fear an unfair advantage for late filers in the competition for a coveted UC seat.

"Students were incredulous that UC would give extra time to people who couldn't get their acts together enough to meet the original deadline," said Teresa Scarbrough, Orange Coast College's academic honors coordinator. "To them, it feels like a slap in the face. UC has told us it pays to slack off."

Klein said students who applied on time will not get priority consideration, nor will they be allowed to edit their original applications. She said UC has been accepting transfer applications for next fall since Aug. 1, giving students months to work on their submissions. The decision to extend the deadline came quickly and recently, triggered by the UC Regents' approval of the extra California seats at last month's board meeting, she said.

"It's how it worked out," Klein said. "It wasn't a nefarious plan."

One student who will benefit from the extension is Alexandra Becker, a Santa Monica College student with a 3.8 GPA and interests in psychology and computer science. The 21-year-old student had planned to apply to UCLA for spring quarter of 2017 — only to find out the Westwood campus doesn't accept spring applications and she would have to apply for fall of that year, setting her back six months. Then her counselor told her about the extension.

"I was freaking out; I pretty much thought I was screwed," Becker said. "Then my counselor told me it was my lucky day and I could still apply for next fall. It has literally saved me another year of community college."

Dan Nannini, transfer faculty leader at Santa Monica College, said the deadline extension would not necessarily disadvantage those who have already applied, who are probably the most motivated and high-performing students. His 33,000-student college is the state's biggest feeder to UC campuses; about half of its 2,000 applicants to four-year institutions enroll at one of the system's nine undergraduate campuses. He also said it's probably better for students to get the applications out of the way before winter break.

"The grass is always greener on the other side of the deadline," he said.

Jodi Balma, president of the Honors Transfer Council of California, said members at community colleges around the state are concerned that setting a precedent of deadline extensions could cause students next year to slack off.

"Can we get our students to take us seriously next year when we say no extensions and exceptions?" said Balma, honors coordinator at Fullerton College.

For now, students who made the original deadline are just hoping for the best. Midori Harase, an Orange Coast College sophomore, completed her UC application on time while juggling a 30-hour-a-week job and four classes in calculus, accounting, business law and Japanese history. The 19-year-old Huntington Beach High graduate, who has a 3.81 GPA, hopes to pursue economics and Japanese at UCLA.

"All in all, I think it's a really good initiative to increase transfer students, which will allow for greater financial diversity on UC campuses," she said. "I just wish the deadline extension had been inclusive of all students."

teresa.watanabe@latimes.com

Twitter: @teresawatanabe

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on December 14, 2015, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "New deadline is unfair, UC applicants say - Students who applied to transfer before the due date was extended won't get more time." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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