UC needs to simplify student transfer rules

Royce Hall towers over the UCLA campus in Westwood.
Royce Hall towers over the UCLA campus in Westwood. Los Angeles Times

The University of California regents made a difficult decision last week to support increased tuition. We recognize the need for additional funding for the UC system and support increased support from the Legislature.

But we also believe there are measures that the UC system can and should implement immediately to keep UC costs down, make going to college in California more affordable and increase the likelihood that students will complete their studies on time and actually graduate.

At the meeting last week, Gov. Jerry Brown urged regents to consider several proposals, the most critical of which is improving transfers from the state’s community colleges to the UC system.

There are 110,000 routes that students can take from community colleges to UC campuses. It can be a daunting journey through the maze of conflicting requirements, rules and policies that differ among each UC and community college and among each major. That may be the reason why so few transfer students took a seat in a UC classroom this semester.

The gap between what is possible and what is realistically achievable is leading to widespread inequality in the state’s higher education system based on geography and most significantly, race and ethnicity.

The UC system’s transfer challenges are in contrast to the recently adopted system developed by the community college and California State University systems to streamline transfers through the development of the associate degree for transfer. That new system has reduced the jumble of routes to just 27 uniform pathways to the most popular majors. These new degrees guarantee admission with junior standing to the CSU, saving students time and money toward a bachelor’s degree.

A report prepared at the direction of UC President Janet Napolitano earlier this year detailed several of the factors contributing to low transfer rates, including insufficient outreach, academic preparation and the maze of prerequisites that differ among UC campus. While the report offered some partial solutions, such as creating a more welcoming environment for transfer students, a fundamental overhaul of the current transfer process was missing.

The biggest factor in making transfer easier to UC campuses is simplifying the pathways between the two systems and eliminating the confusion and unnecessary complexity of the varying requirements. This is fully within the UC system’s control. The UC can and should customize the CSU model to reflect UC’s more rigorous admission requirements.

The state’s future well-being depends upon our ability to successfully enroll and graduate both freshman and transfer students, and we believe it is possible to do so. Increased resources to meet enrollment demand by freshman and transfer students are absolutely necessary, but so are innovative approaches to improve on-time degree completion that could free up needed space to serve additional students.

The CSU system has already made transfers far easier for community college students. UC can and should do the same.

Michele Siqueiros is president of the Campaign for College Opportunity.