The number of community college students earning transferrable degrees to the Cal State system rapidly increased in the past year, yet some students are still confused about the transfer process, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
The number of associate degrees earned, which facilitate transfers between California community colleges and California State Universities, rose from 800 in 2011-12 to 12,000 in 2013-14, according to a recent report released by LAO.
This is a result from a piece of legislation in 2010 titled the Transfer Achievement Reform Act. The act requires community colleges to create Associate Degrees for Transfer, a two-year degree promising students admission into a non-specific CSU undergraduate program that can be completed within another two years.
“The goals of the transfer reform were to enable students to earn a bachelor’s degree and to create clearer pathways,” said Jason Constantouros, the fiscal and policy analyst for the LAO.
Under the act, LAO must provide two reports with updates. The most recent report states that California community colleges and CSU’s have improved in offering associate degrees for transfer and organizing courses and curriculum.
“Most colleges still have a few degrees left to develop and a few colleges are lagging far behind,” Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor said on the LAO report. “In some majors, every CSU campus offering a bachelor’s degree in the discipline recognized the [state-wide curricula] as similar, whereas in others, as many as one-third of CSU campuses deemed them not similar.”
Constantouros and the LAO report indicated that, despite the fact that marketing strategies have been implemented to educate students about transfer degrees, students still seem confused.
“Several community college counselors report that most incoming students who intend to transfer are unaware of [Associate Degrees for Transfer],” Taylor said in the LAO report. “Other students think they earned an [Associate Degree for Transfer] when in fact they earned a regular associate degree.”
Although the transfer reform guarantees students into the CSU system, it is unclear whether they will be admitted into the major of their choice.
“It’s possible for a student to apply for a program that is impacted, and instead be redirected into another program that is different but similar to their Associate Degree for Transfer program,” Constantouros said.
The Associate Degree for Transfer guarantees admission into a CSU campus, but it does not specify which campus a student will get into.
“It depends on whatever CSU campus is open for admission and accepting applications at that time,” said Stephanie Thara, a CSU Spokesperson for California State University, Long Beach. Transfer students are also given priority to their local CSU campus.
Community colleges have collectively created nearly 1,600 Associate Degrees for Transfer. These apply to majors such as business administration, computer science and chemistry.
Thara and Constantouros indicated that about 7,000 transfer students with Associate Degrees for Transfer have enrolled at a CSU campus, and of these, nearly 200 students have graduated with undergraduate degrees.
“That’s a small number, and we think at this time the results are too preliminary to see an impact,” Constantouros said.