One solution to unemployment may lie in an easier transfer process for community college students.
A report published in August by Sacramento State’s Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy (IHELP) indicates that the transfer process between community colleges and universities must be streamlined. Doing so would help California fill the 1 million job gap between available jobs and college graduates projected for 2025.
“We need a more standardized system for students to follow that would leave more options for them and make the whole process easier to understand,” said Colleen Moore, research specialist and co-author of the IHELP report.
According to the study, the main challenge for transfer students stems from the different requirements for transferring and fulfilling majors for California schools.
“We want to make it student-centered and not institution-centered,” Moore said. “Right now each student has to figure out exactly which college and which major they want, and with [class size and space] being impacted, it is really very difficult for students to know whether or not they will get in.“
A major concern for students arises when the transfer requirements for four-year schools conflict with or do not correspond with those required for obtaining an associate degree at their existing college.
“I was worried about the classes I was taking because I was not sure if they were going to fulfill my transfer and major’s lower division requirement,” said Joanne Chu, senior psychology major and second- year transfer student.
Another problem transfer students face is taking too many or too few units before transferring to a university, a problem that arises from insufficient counseling, or indecisiveness regarding their major.
“My biggest concern was whether or not I was going to complete the required 60 units to transfer in the time that I had left,” said Michael R. Formosa, a junior economics major and first-year transfer student to UC Davis who spent five years at Skyline College in San Mateo. “Most of my automotive units did not count for the UC system so I was lacking in units.“
There have been some reform efforts in the past for a more standardized transfer process for California’s 110 community colleges, producing agreements between individual colleges and universities. ASSIST.org, a website designed to articulate those agreements, also aims to smooth the process.
For the most part, however, such agreements have been limited. California has yet to achieve the statewide implementation of transfer agreements that other states have.
In one of their recommendations for a more universal student transfer system, the authors of the report encourage the integration of an associate degree that could also satisfy the admission requirements of all four-year schools.
“The requirements for a transfer and associate degree can be very different,” said Moore. “Students often take classes for transfer and don’t get an associate degree on the way, and when they don’t get in, they’re stuck and both they and the state have already invested money into them. That’s why we want to implement the associate transfer degree so that they do already have that credential on the way.“
Moore feels that the cost of a more universal transfer student will not be an issue, stating that the money already spent on transfer counseling would be used for the IHELP’s recommendations. This could in turn lower the overall cost by streamlining the transfer process and reducing the unnecessary amount of units students take.
As the IHELP report states, improving the rate of successful student transfers is key in increasing the number of college graduates in California.
“Once [transfer students] get over that hurdle, they do fairly well at UC and CSU,” Moore said. “The problem really is in getting over that hurdle.“
ARNOLD LAU can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.