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Guaranteeing Transfer Admission to the University of California

College Students In Corridor

Improving transfer from community colleges to four-year universities is an important step in meeting the state’s future workforce needs. In April 2018, the California Community College Chancellor’s Office and the University of California (UC) entered an agreement to guarantee admission to community college students who meet certain qualifications. If sufficient funding and space exist, the guarantee could take effect in fall of 2019.

There are already several pathways for community college students to enroll in UC. For example, all but three campuses (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Diego) have a guaranteed admission program for students from certain community colleges. UC has also established academic road maps in 21 majors to help prepare students who plan to apply to transfer. However, completing an academic road map does not guarantee admission.

The new plan would guarantee admission for eligible community college students to a UC campus, but not necessarily to their preferred campus. Specifically, it creates a referral pool—a way to redirect students away from full campuses toward campuses with space. This transfer referral pool would be similar to UC’s referral pool for freshmen. At this time only one campus, UC Merced, accepts applicants from the freshman referral pool. In 2017, thousands of eligible students were redirected to UC Merced, but few actually enrolled.

How might a referral pool work for transfer students? Currently, three campuses—Santa Cruz, Riverside, and Merced—are having a particularly difficult time enrolling sufficient numbers of transfer students. These campuses would need to absorb redirected transfer students. However, it’s not certain that redirected students would enroll, even if offered admission. Right now, many transfer applicants decline their offer of admission to these campuses.

To improve transfer pathways for community college students, UC and the state should consider both expanding capacity at high-demand campuses and exploring ways to encourage students to attend other campuses.

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