Community College Transfer Complicated

Why the Community College Transfer Process is So Complicated

UC Berkeley

More than 2.7 million people are in a community college in California. Plenty of these are students seeking just two-year degrees, but did you know only about 100,000 of those community college students transfer to a four-year school each year? That’s only 3.7% of all the students in community college!

It’s tough to estimate, but researchers’ best guess is that only 18-30 out of every 100 students that enter community college intending to transfer actually do transfer. That means for those 100,000 community college students that make the transfer each year, there are about 200,000 to 500,000 that wanted to but didn’t.

Those are the two main things I took away from this article in the Los Angeles Times:
Report calls for overhaul of California community colleges’ transfer process. Yup, if we did a whole blog post about an article in the NJ Star-Ledger, you know we had to write about something that showed up in the LA Times.

The article talks about a study from the CSU Sacramento Higher Education Leadership and Policy Institute that basically says California needs to make it easier for students to transfer and get bachelors degrees because, otherwise, in about 15 years California will have have about 1 million more bachelor’s-degree-requiring jobs than people with bachelor’s degrees (there’s a link to the study on the front page of the Institute here:

So why do so few students that want to transfer actually transfer?

  • Community colleges lack enough counselors
  • The  California community college system is not really a cohesive system, but 72 separate community college districts with their own individual governing boards and standards. The transfer process is thus based on campus-to-campus relationships versus state-wide standards and agreements.
  • The faculty at the four-year CSUs and UCs have strong control over the requirements at each of their schools, so what may be enough to get you into Sacramento State may be very different from what’s required to get you into UC Davis.

Solving the problem

The main recommendation by the authors of the study (and it’s a good one) involves creating associate degrees for community college students that would fulfill the basic requirements for all California colleges and guarantee transfer of credits (right now, the requirements for getting an associate degree and the requirements for transferring are completely separate).

What’s alarming is how serious the problem is, and the level of overhaul needed to solve it. They quote the president of Long Beach City College, who says: “We tinker around the edges, maybe increase transfers by 1% or 2% — that’s not going to get us where we need to be. We’ve got to scale up our efforts a hundredfold.”

Our message to you

If you’re at a community college and you want to transfer and you’re reading this (obviously), we hope you scale up your efforts a hundredfold too, so you’re not one of the 70-82% that want to transfer but don’t.

The benefits of getting a bachelor’s degree are well-documented, and in the vast majority of cases, well worth it (we’ll have a post on this soon).


Thoughts? How can the community college transfer process be streamlined?

(Photo: John Loo)



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