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New laws make it easier for community college students to transfer to 4-year universities

Gov. Gavin Newsom holds up some of the seven bills he signed.
Gov. Gavin Newsom holds up some of the seven bills he signed at Cal State Northridge that are part of a $47.1-billion higher education package.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

A number of new laws will significantly help community college students transfer into both Cal State and UC campuses, and boost financial aid and housing assistance as part of a $47.1-billion higher education package signed by Gov. Newsom on Wednesday at Cal State Northridge.

Two of the bills were designed to clarify and simplify degree requirements for transfer students. Assembly Bill 928 requires the California State and University of California systems to establish a general education transfer process for lower-division students that identifies and expands the specific required courses students need to gain acceptance.

The second, Assembly Bill 111, requires a common course numbering system across all community colleges — which was opposed by California Community Colleges Academic Senate — to ensure that a student doesn’t take excess units to transfer.

Courses that cover similar subject areas are often assigned different course numbers throughout California’s community colleges, complicating transfer efforts for students who don’t always know if they’ve fulfilled a four-year college’s unit requirement. CCAS opposed the bill, arguing that it was costly and would pose unnecessary difficulty for colleges.

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“When students discuss their experience with the transfer process, through community college, the four-year university, their message is loud and clear: Transfer is broken. It’s too complex, confusing and difficult to navigate. Instead of being a clear path, it’s a maze, and it’s costing students time and money that they can’t afford,” said the bills’ author, Assemblyman Marc Berman, during a press conference inside the university gym before a cheering crowd of faculty, staff, students and cheerleaders.

Cal State Chancellor Joseph Castro believes the legislation will dramatically increase the number of transfer students into the Cal State system by providing a clearer pathway “especially for our underrepresented students.”

Roughly 19% of community college students with the goal to transfer do so within four years, according to a 2020 report from the Public Policy Institute of California.

The legislation comes after community colleges throughout the state and the nation faced a significant drop in enrollment during the pandemic. Newsom believes that the funding will help bring some of those students back into the system through outreach efforts.

Newsom had previously announced a plan to invest $1.9 billion in college savings accounts for 3.7 million low-income students. Those accounts of up to $1,500 would start in first grade.

Other legislation signed by the governor Wednesday backed efforts to make financial aid more accessible.

Senate Bill 330 will allow Los Angeles Community College District to enter into leases for less than fair market value in order to create affordable housing for low-income students and staff, and Assembly Bill 469 will ensure that all high school seniors submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or California Dream Act application.

“We’re trying to reconcile the fact that we haven’t been investing in our system of higher education over the course of the last few decades,” Newsom said. “There is no equation to address the issue of income and wealth disparity unless we provide opportunities and create pathways to close those gaps.”


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