Transfers need a clearer path

The most recent meeting of the UC Regents addressed the issue of the asymmetry of the transfer process from a California community college to a UC campus. The regents specifically noted that the majority of transfers come from less than 20 percent of the 112 community colleges and indicated that the UC Transfer Action Team will work to increase transfer rates from underrepresented community colleges. While the ambition is admirable, the regents’ proposed solution mistakenly focuses on representation of campuses rather than streamlining the process.

Here at UC Berkeley, 3,800 transfer students are admitted every year, making up 20 percent of the undergraduates on campus. The regents indicated a goal of increasing transfers to 33 percent of the undergraduate population. While this is encouraging, it raises the question of what concessions will be made in order to make room for transfer students. A focus on transfers could betoken a decrease in funding for lower division courses. This change should not decrease the number of qualified freshmen who are admitted or  interfere with the inclusion of international students. Speaking to the Board of Regents, Gov. Jerry Brown suggested that an increase in transfer admission could help lower the cost structure of college in the state while increasing diversity at the UC level. While this is likely correct, there is also intrinsic value in freshman admission and the four-year experience of university life. There are many different kinds of students in the UC system; no one path to admission should be weighted as more important for reasons of cost.

The regents are correct in their assessment of the California community college transfer system, with respect to the opportunity to simplify the UC admissions path. The process is byzantine and wildly variable from one two-year school to another. There is no unified app or website that explains or help facilitate the process, and more community college students transfer to a CSU campus for reasons of cost and attainability. Websites such as assist.org or mycsumentor.edu attempt to automate the process, but they do not go far enough for UC-bound transfers. The regents’ suggestion for campus representation is admirable, but the weak point of the process is in advising, not awareness.

The best way to facilitate transfer to the UC system is to provide correct, clear guidelines and well-informed support for the process when questions arise. Though variation between community colleges is to be expected, the process itself and access from each should be equal and congruent across the state. Transfer students are getting the attention they deserve, but action must be taken to see that this enthusiasm is expressed efficiently and produces measurable results.