Just 2.5% of California community college students successfully transfer to a university within two years. Fully implementing a 2021 law aiming to reform the transfer system and clean up its convoluted processes could help students shorten their timeline and avoid unnecessary costs.
As an immigrant student and eldest sibling, navigating the higher education system felt like stumbling alone in the dark with nobody to guide me. Facing the numerous hurdles in an inexplicably murky transfer process was no easy feat.
Thankfully, with hard work and some luck, I made it through. Last year, my dreams came true when I graduated from UC Davis with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Yet, the transfer path for so many of my friends and peers is defeating, with only 2.5% of us transferring within two years and 23% within four.
I experienced firsthand how current transfer processes fail to center students. After high school, I began taking classes at Mission College and De Anza Community College in order to save money. I graduated from Mission with an associate degree for transfer, or ADT, in psychology and another in liberal arts with an emphasis in natural sciences and mathematics.
When I began researching transfer requirements to schools within the University of California and California State University systems, I quickly discovered that it’s confusing and difficult to understand what courses count for different schools, especially when attending multiple community colleges. It’s hard to find accurate transfer information. And while individual colleges have requirements specific to major, general education and number of units, information about each is found in different places.
Ultimately, mapping out the transfer credit process – as a student – was overwhelming, unclear and stressful.
Despite meeting with advisors in person, many students end up taking longer to earn a degree and transfer because even their advisors are unclear or confused about the requirements they needed. As I was exploring which four-year university I wanted to attend, I found myself having to complete separate major requirements for each school I was applying to, on top of the different general education requirements for UC and CSU schools. This packed my schedule and needlessly increased costs.
Even with all the additional work, time and money – when it came time to apply and get admitted to universities – I didn’t meet the requirements for every school.
A more streamlined process with a clear set of courses that shared the same numerals across campuses would have helped me avoid taking extra classes or applying to universities that couldn’t accept me. And the students who received incorrect advice wouldn’t have had to take additional semesters to complete unnecessary courses.
We all could have applied to every school we were interested in, instead of being limited because of a convoluted transfer maze.
The stressors of my transfer experience motivated me to become involved in transfer student advocacy after I was accepted to UC Davis. Through the Office of the Transfer Student Representative, I learned about other students’ difficulties and discovered that many of their experiences were worse than mine.
As new higher education leaders are named and others continue to work on this issue, it is important they understand the challenges faced by transfer students and work to improve transfer. That could begin by fully implementing Assembly Bill 928, the Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act of 2021. This law, authored by Assemblyman Marc Berman, creates a streamlined transfer pathway that supports students from the moment we enroll at college and helping provide the curriculum, resources and tools needed to succeed.
Learn more about legislators mentioned in this story
State Assembly, District 23 (Palo Alto)
State Assembly, District 23 (Palo Alto)
Time in office
Councilmember / Education Advocate
Asm. Marc Berman has taken at least $892,000 from the Labor sector since he was elected to the legislature. That represents 22% of his total campaign contributions.
Transfer students know firsthand why change is needed and why a clearer pathway will help millions of young people entering California’s higher education system. There are many forms of pressure placed on college students, and getting students to where they want to be – or where they deserve to be – shouldn’t be one of them.