Many high school students are advised to begin their college career at a community college for cost
or academic reasons. However, the transfer process
from a two-year college to a four-year university can be confusing at best, with conflicting requirements that may make a degree that much more elusive. The result is that many students never end up graduating
at all and some don't even make it into the hallowed ivy walls of a university in the first place.
California Higher Education Bill
The state of California is hoping to change all the confusion, thanks to legislation intended to make the transfer process much easier and more streamlined. A report at the Chronicle of Higher Education
explains the legislation, which is slated to go into effect during the fall of 2011. The bill was approved in the state senate this month, and it is expected that Governor Schwarzenegger will sign the bill into law.
The California bill requires community colleges to offer a redesigned associate's degree
. Students who complete the degree would be guaranteed admission into one of California State University campuses, where they could complete a bachelor's degree in 60 credit hours or less. The purpose of the bill is to increase the number of students who successfully transfer from a community college to a four-year university and come out of the process with a degree in hand.
Models to Follow
The California legislation is modeled after similar program in Florida and Texas, indicating a national movement toward standardizing the transfer process. Programs in both Florida and Texas have been reasonably successful, with the participation of numerous community colleges and state universities.
Texas Common Course Numbering System
The Texas Common Course Numbering System is a voluntary program that involves both community colleges and state universities, according to the program website
. The purpose of the program is to facilitate student transfers between institutions by providing a uniform, shared set of course descriptions. Courses previously taken at a community college can easily be cross-referenced with equivalent courses at other institutions to prevent duplication and ease the transfer process.
Florida's 2+2 Policy
Roadblocks to the Bill
While most agree that a California bill to streamline the college transfer process is a good idea, the legislation is not without its share of concerns. Michael W. Kirst, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, told the Chronicle of Higher Education that this bill is just the beginning of a much needed effort in updating the state's college transfer process.
"The whole system is antiquated," Kirst said. He explained that the online tool students use to check transfer requirements "hasn't been updated in 15 years. The bill is going to give some momentum, but there are a lot of complexities to work out." Kirst also voiced concern about students who do not choose to take the associate's degree.
Despite Kirst's concerns, he agrees that the new emphasis on two-year degrees is a major shift for the state. During the 2000-2001 academic year, only one in five community college students earned an associate's degree. The hope is that the new transfer process would increase that number significantly.
In order for this legislation to work, all three branches of California higher education must agree on a single set of transfer requirements, according to a report in the Sacramento Bee
. Nancy Shulock, a professor at Sacramento State's Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy told the publication, "We need a paradigm shift."
"The problems derive mainly from the structure of transfer," Shulock added, "It is not student-centered." The hope is that streamlining the transfer process would simplify it as well. Students would have a better idea of the requirements involved and would be better equipped to move forward with a transfer without the need to take a lot of extra classes.
If the legislation in California is signed into law as expected, this state will follow along the heels of other states that have made transferring from a community college to a state university much easier. With luck, the trend will continue across the nation, so high school students are presented with many more options for higher education after graduation.