Growing program improves CSU transfer process

Students transferring from community colleges to CSU’s have always been required to go down a long, winding, very expensive, very frustrating road. Bureaucratic red tape, unfair requirements and forced repeat of community college classes has become the norm for California transfer students.

But that is all changing, thanks to a new community college program called Associate Degree for Transfer that guarantees participating students admission as juniors to their local CSU campus.

The Associate Degree for Transfer is defined as 60 transferrable units that include a minimum of 18 units in a major or area of emphasis and an approved general education curriculum. It provides students with priority admission to a CSU and to a program or major that is similar to the one they studied at community college.

California community colleges now offer more than 550 approved associate degrees, with more on the way, officials said at a media briefing Wednesday. The Cal State Board of Governors aims to have degrees approved in 80 percent of majors by next fall and 100 percent by fall 2014.

The transfer-minded program also aims to prevent one the most infuriating problems that many of California’s 50,000 annual transfer students face: being forced to repeat classes they’ve already spent time and money on. The Degree prohibits CSU’s from requiring enrollment in courses that are similar to ones students have previously taken and from obligating students to take more than 60 units to complete a 120-unit baccalaureate degree.

The program launched in fall of 2011 and its popularity has only increased since then. Last spring, 120 students enrolled and this spring 2,000 enrolled.

Erik Skinner, executive vice chancellor for the California Community College system, told the Chronicle:

“I’m the first to admit this is a small number given the size of our system – but it’s just the beginning. We’ve made tremendous progress.”

The Associate Degree for Transfer program is a fresh breath of air for the California state education system, from which 60 percent of students drop out due to overcrowding, inability to get the classes they need and overwhelming debt.

Skinner believes that the program could save the state an estimated $160 million annually and open up room for an additional 40,000 community college students and 14,000 Cal State students.