At Oakland’s Merritt College, only 20 percent of students transfer to a four-year college or university. Seventeen of 18 graduating students in Professor Claudio Duran’s transfer club are moving on to universities, reports the Oakland Tribune. Fourteen Altazor members will go to a selective University of California campus.
The club’s mascot is an animated Spanglish-speaking Chihuahua that says, “Yo quiero transfer.”
California’s community colleges have cut funding for advising, tutoring and other student support services.
Two years ago, Duran, who teaches U.S. history, English and Latin American studies, started the club. The Chilean-born composer and documentary filmmaker attended community college in Oakland before transferring to Berkeley and earning an advanced degree at Stanford. “The counselors do as much as they can,” Duran said, “but obviously it’s not enough.”
Altazor meets each Monday for pizza and college planning. Duran tells the students about transfer guarantee programs, reminds them of deadlines and encourages them to study hard limit, limit their paid work hours and apply to top universities. Students join honor societies and edit one another’s personal statements.
“I think doing it alone is the hardest thing,” said Eduardo Chaidez, who was also accepted to UC Berkeley. “You’re just completely lost.”
Statewide, only a quarter of community college students who say they want to transfer do so within four years. Until recently, each university campus set its own deadlines and requirements. Some California State University schools froze out spring transfers for several years.
Change is underway to make the move clearer, smoother and faster. The Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act, which took effect in 2011, requires California’s community colleges to develop transfer degrees that correspond with the most popular state university majors. Students who complete them will be guaranteed admission as a junior on a Cal State campus — without any extra course requirements on either end.
Low transfer rates predate the recession, said Colleen Moore, a researcher at Sacramento State’s Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy. “You’re essentially taking a group of students that is probably the least informed and the most likely to be the first in their families to go to college, and you’re putting them in institutions that have made this super complex for students to follow,” Moore said.