CSU plans launch of new transfer program for community college students this fall

The California State University system is optimistic its new transfer program will help boost lagging numbers of community college students entering the 23-campus system.

This summer CSU is launching the Transfer Success Pathway program, which will allow community college students to enter a dual admission agreement with a specific CSU campus and grant them early advising and library access at that university.

The program guarantees admission to a specific CSU campus once students successfully complete the program’s general education or major-specific requirements at their community colleges.

On Tuesday, the CSU board of trustees heard details of the plan and, although a formal vote was not needed, they embraced it.

“I loved my experience at the community college, but it would’ve been great to not have taken my first semester; of course that didn’t transfer,” trustee Yammilette Rodriguez said, referring to the new program’s ability to guide students to transfer quicker. “This addresses affordability, it addresses access, and it supports the many of those who are considered marginalized.”

The nation’s largest public university system was required to create a dual admission program to begin this fall after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 132 in July 2021 in an effort to improve the transfer pipeline.

“The Transfer Success Pathway is the CSU’s promise and commitment to those who don’t take a direct route to a four-year degree, particularly those who face academic, geographic or financial barriers,” said April Grommo, CSU’s assistant vice chancellor of strategic enrollment management. “We want you to know that the CSU counts you in, not out.”

Currently, students transfer from community colleges to CSU by earning an associate degree or completing at least 60 transfer credits, general education requirements or any other major-specific requirements. Students who complete the Associate Degree for Transfer, or ADT, at the community colleges are given priority admission to CSU campuses.

However, there are currently only 40 ADT programs available. Some transfer advocates have argued that the ADT should be expanded to more majors, particularly those that are in science, technology, engineering and math. A statewide committee of faculty and students from CSU, University of California and the community colleges is currently exploring adding more STEM majors to the ADT program.

Enrollment concerns

About 20,000 fewer community college students applied for a transfer to the CSU system in 2020 than in 2019, a decline of about 14%. In 2020, CSU received more than 122,000 applications from community college students for transfer. Enrollment of transfer students was down this year, as well, with about 46,300 transfer students — the lowest number in seven years.

The new dual admission path is expected to give first-time freshmen at community colleges more opportunities early in their academic careers to access the resources of the four-year system. It’s also expected to increase the transfer rates among Black and Latino students.

To be eligible for the dual admission program, students must have graduated or left high school in 2023 or later. From that group, they must also be first-time community college freshmen who were not CSU eligible at the time of high school graduation or could not attend CSU due to personal or financial reasons. Students who were accepted to the CSU campus of their choice but were redirected to a different campus and chose not to enroll will also be eligible.

The dual admission agreement will require that students have the intent to transfer within three years by either successfully completing an ADT or an established course of study for CSU transfer. If the student chooses to attend a CSU campus that is facing overenrollment or capacity issues, then the agreement may include additional requirements, such as a minimum GPA for major-specific coursework.

Although all CSU campuses will participate in the dual admission program, some programs that have capacity issues that require limiting the number of seats available will be excluded from the agreements. For example, Cal State LA, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo or San Diego State could create additional requirements, such as a GPA minimum, for the agreement because all of their undergraduate programs see more qualified applicants than the number of available spaces to admit them.

In another benefit, students in the new program will have access to counseling, libraries and other services offered at the universities they intend to transfer to or at the CSU campus nearest their residence. Students will also receive financial aid information from the CSU campus.

Transfer planner

The CSU system is also debuting a new transfer planner to launch this August on mobile and online. The planner will allow students to research campuses, programs, determine their eligibility and enter into a dual admission agreement.

By the end of this year, the new planner will also allow community college students to enter their classwork and track how their progress aligns with CSU’s general education and major-specific requirements.

The next challenge will be advocating for more financial aid dollars for these transfer students, trustee Julia Lopez said, adding that total Cal Grant eligibility is four years, much of which might be spent at community colleges.

“If we’re going to get them and they use their Cal Grant eligibility in those three years in the community college, then we’re going to get them with only one year of Cal Grant,” she said. “As we get real ambitious and as we break down barriers, in some ways, it’s that financial need that ends up ultimately being the last hurdle that we have to figure out.”