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UC seeks to increase transfer students from community colleges

Report: Santa Monica College transferred 783 to UC last year; L.A. Southwest College just 4

UC officials on Wednesday proposed new efforts to make it easier for students to transfer to a UC campus from all community colleges -- not just from the small number of two-year schools that dominate transfer statistics.

The move is prompted in part by a UC report that shows eye-popping disparities among community colleges in successfully transferring graduates to UC. Santa Monica College sent 783 students to UC schools last year, the most by far in the state, while 50 other schools each transferred fewer then 100, and many below 50.

The transfers from community colleges are so lopsided that just 19 schools sent about half of all the transfer students to UC last year, with 93 other schools making up the other half of enrollments.

Los Angeles Southwest College, for example, transferred only four students to UC last year, the report said, although officials at that college emphasize that 113 transferred to Cal State universities that were seen as more convenient and accessible than UC.

UC hopes to improve counseling programs at community colleges across the state, make the transfer application process easier and remove some of the roadblocks students face in figuring which courses they must take for UC admission. Officials say they want to give special attention to 30 community colleges that traditionally have sent few students to a UC; they expect most of those colleges will be in the far northern parts of California, the Central Valley and the Inland Empire.

The report, which was unveiled at the UC regents meeting in Sacramento, said that “the transfer process can be challenging, sometimes preventing otherwise promising students from meeting their goal of earning a four-year degree.”

Gov. Jerry Brown, who is a UC regent, said at the meeting that he wanted the issue of community college transfers to be looked at more closely as a way to attract more low-income and minority students to UC and to possibly save the state money.  

The issue “deals with affordability, it deals with diversity, it deals with the university’s cost structure,” said Brown, who said he was a transfer student from a Jesuit seminary to UC Berkeley in 1960. He said he wanted UC to examine its numbers of freshman and upper-division transfer students and whether boosting transfers would lower costs at UC.

UC recently has seen declining numbers of transfer applications from California community college students, from 28,937 two years ago to 26,376 for this school year, data show. About 14,000 community college students newly enrolled last year at UC, down about 680 from the year before.

After Santa Monica College, the other top feeder schools to UC last year were De Anza College in Cupertino, 511; Pasadena City College, 498; Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, 483; Santa Barbara City College, 464.

In sharp contrast, seven community colleges transferred five or fewer students last year: College of the Siskiyous, in Weed, 5; Los Angeles Southwest College, 4; West Hills College Coalinga, 4; Barstow Community College, 3; Palo Verde College, in Blythe, 2; Lassen College, in Susanville, 2; and Feather River College, in Quincy, 1.

Some of those schools low on the list may be quite small or too far from a UC campus to make it easy for students to live at home. And some may not have the transfer agreements with UC that help pave the way for students in detailing the courses they need and providing counseling.

At Los Angeles Southwest College, interim President Yasmin Delahoussaye said it was unfair to focus just on UC transfer statistics; her school transferred 113 students to Cal State schools last year.

Seventy-eight of those Cal State transfers were African American, giving Southwest the second-best record in the state for transferring blacks, she added. 

She said both UC and her college need to do better at getting students familiar with UC and at encouraging transfers there. But the Cal States, besides charging lower tuition than UC, are appealing because they are more often closer to home. 

Students, many with family and work responsibilities “don’t see themselves as traveling to Berkeley or uprooting themselves to a different part of the state,” she said.

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