The Senate Source

May 2015

Senate Leading Initiative to "Streamline" Transfer

The Academic Senate is leading an initiative to clarify the transfer pathway to UC for California Community College (CCC) students who want to prepare for multiple UC campuses in the same major.

Campus representatives from ten of the most popular majors have been meeting in Oakland to identify a single set of lower division coursework for community college transfer students to follow as preparation for admission in each major at all nine campuses. Representatives from four life sciences majors met on April 7 and groups representing three natural sciences and three social sciences majors met on April 16 and 22 respectively.

The effort responds to a finding in the 2014 Transfer Action Team (TAT) report that many CCC students who prepare for transfer admission to a major at one UC campus need extra courses to prepare for the same major at another campus. The report recommends that UC campuses align their preparation requirements for specific majors to help students prepare simultaneously and be competitive for admission at multiple campuses. President Napolitano has asked UCOP and the Senate to make implementation of the recommendation a priority, to help transfer students and to respond to concerns from state officials.

Senate Chair Gilly says the Oakland meetings are allowing faculty to compare curricular requirements with their campus colleagues and also to review alignment with CSU’s Transfer Model Curriculum. She says the initiative will help transfer students, ensure that transfers arrive at UC better prepared, and demonstrate UC’s commitment to clear transfer pathways.

“The project is good for transfer students, good for UC, and good politically,” she said. “Faculty will lead the decision-making process, and no group will force a department to change its transfer expectations. Any conclusion reached at the meetings about recommended revisions will begin a conversation that will continue on the campuses.”

In February, President Napolitano attended a Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) meeting to emphasize the importance of the work and to ask for the faculty’s help and support. BOARS endorsed the process and its members helped gather information about the appropriate faculty, academic administrators, and/or staff responsible for determining the pre-major preparation expected of transfers students in 21 popular majors.

The President wants the University to establish agreements for ten pathways by fall 2015, with eleven more the following year. She has emphasized that state officials are following UC’s efforts to strengthen the transfer process. Officials are concerned about the difficulty prospective transfer students face to clearly identify and then complete multiple sets of campus-specific preparation requirements. Some have pointed out that UC lacks an “SB 1440” transfer degree guarantee.

California Senate Bill 1440, signed in 2010, guarantees holders of Associate Degrees for Transfer (ADT) admission to CSU (though not to a specific campus or major) and a bachelor’s degree upon completion of 60 upper division units.

On April 7, the Life Sciences groups agreed on a set of lower division pre-major courses that will represent UC’s best collective advice for CCC transfer students who want to prepare simultaneously and be competitive for admission into the four majors across all UC campuses. The Life Sciences pathway will work for at least four majors – Biochemistry, Biology, Cell Biology, and Molecular Biology – and campuses have the option of bringing other, similar majors under the umbrella of the pathway.  The April 16 and 22 meetings resulted in similar agreements for Chemistry, Physics, Math, Anthropology, Economics, and Sociology.

It is expected that completion of a given pathway will ensure a transfer applicant is competitive for admission and prepared to graduate from a UC two years after matriculation. Campuses may exercise discretion as to whether or not they require applicants to complete all courses in a given major pathway and may institute a minimum GPA for courses.

A systemwide mechanism to implement the goals of transfer streamlining is already embedded in Senate Regulation 477.   This regulation provides that when four or more campuses agree to accept a course or set of courses as transferable preparation for a major, they will be considered transferable for the same major on all campuses unless a department announces within a year that it will opt-out of the agreement.

Chair Gilly says she hopes the meetings will produce agreements on a set of courses that are appropriate preparation for the 21 majors—both to simplify the process for transfer students and to eliminate extra courses some are taking.  However, she says no one will force individual departments to adhere their major requirements to a systemwide standard.

“We understand that the CSU Transfer Model Curricula are a good starting point for some majors and that campuses will continue to require additional courses in others,” she said. “We hope that if a major on a particular campus requires a course that is not required on other campuses, they will consider changing the requirement or ask students they admit to complete the course after transfer. The intent is not to admit unprepared transfers, and we will not jeopardize transfer preparation for any campus’s major in order to achieve unanimity. Faculty at all campuses, even those from majors with substantial levels of consistency in their requirements, will benefit from a systemwide discussion about requirements.”

Chair Gilly emphasized that UC needs to act decisively to help transfers and to recognize all three segments of California public higher education have to work together to improve access to the transfer path.  

“The ADTs have become the path of choice for many CCC students,” she said. “If UC fails to recognize and accommodate them in some way, we could miss out on some of the best and brightest students, because CSU will be the easier and more obvious transfer path, particularly for first-generation college students who lack the family experience to guide them.”