Bill aims to ease student transfers

GLENDALE — Faculty associations and college superintendents are jostling to make last-minute additions to a bipartisan bill that's expected to pass the state Legislature and alter how students transfer from community colleges to universities, officials said.

The Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act would require college officials to establish uniform degree requirements that advocates say would make transferring from a community college to a four-year university much simpler.

California state universities would have to admit community college transfer students and grant them junior status, which would free them from taking duplicative courses or requirements for students with an adequate grade-point average who've fulfilled the prerequisite courses, advocates say.

"For students, it really streamlines the process for them," said Dawn Lindsay, president and superintendent of Glendale Community College. "I think overall it makes a lot of sense."

But the thrust of the bill is an infringement on academia, said Michael Scott, president of the college's Academic Senate, which represents faculty members in instructional affairs.

Changing requirements for an associate degree belongs in academic circles, he said.

"It will not take a big effort to develop transfer degrees, but the issue goes back to Sacramento shouldn't be legislating degrees," Scott said. "The expertise in education resides with faculty, not with lawmakers."

Provisions that would tie state funding to implementing the transfer track — and another that would strip colleges of their ability to create local graduation requirements — are infringements on local control, Scott said.

Caught in the middle are students like Janet Shamilian, the Glendale Community College student trustee, who said transferring is seamless for many students, but others fall through the cracks.

"I feel like there isn't that much consistency with the community college system and four-year universities," she said. "Just because an acquaintance of mine hasn't been to the school all four years doesn't mean he should be held back a year [at a four-year university]. It's a negative impact."

Community colleges are designed to serve anyone who wants an education, and there are students who enroll who have no intention of transferring to a four-year university. Those students could be inadvertently hurt by the bill, Scott said.

As written, the bill would require 18 units in a major, less than a third of the 60 units transfer students earn at community college. And it would do nothing to help community college students who take 80 or 90 units, he said.

"Some students declare their major as English and then halfway through they don't want to do English, and they decide they want to be an anthropologist, so they take more units to be able to transfer as an anthropology major," Scott said. "Students change their mind. That's what community colleges are for — to help them determine what their major will be, while at the same time giving them a well-rounded education."

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