One way to restrain college costs and expand diversity is to build a sturdier bridge between community colleges and elite universities, writes Ronald Brownstein in The Atlantic.
The University of California is trying to do that, he writes. Last month, a task force urged the nine-campus system to “streamline and strengthen” the transfer process.
Overall, the report noted, 29 percent of the system’s entering students in 2012-13 arrived as community-college transfers.
. . . Just over half of the admitted transfer students, the study found, were first-generation students, slightly above the proportion in the freshman class. Perhaps most impressively, the study found that 86 percent of transfers graduated within four years after arriving, almost exactly equal to the 84 percent of freshman students who finish after six years.
However, transfers come disproportionately from seven community colleges in affluent areas such as Santa Monica, Cupertino, Pasadena, Santa Barbara, and San Diego.
Although African-Americans and Hispanic students make up nearly 46 percent of the state’s huge community-college student body, they represented only about 25 percent of those who transferred into UC. That was actually less than their share of the entering freshmen class for the UC system.
To encourage more demographic and geographic diversity, the report recommended that UC build partnerships with the community colleges that send few students into the transfer pipeline; increase its visibility on every two-year campus; broaden its own direct outreach to community-college students; expand the transition services it provides to transfer students; and, perhaps most important, establish more consistency in the course requirements that each UC campus sets for admission.
UC still lets each campus set its own transfer requirements, making it hard for students to navigate the system, said Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign for College Opportunity. The less selective California State system unified requirements under a 2010 state law. “The UC system should be able to align their requirements for the different majors within the system, and that would allow students to prepare.”
Fifteen California community colleges would be allowed to one bachelor’s degree each in an area of “critical workforce demand” under a bill that has passed the state Senate.