UC president wants to offer guaranteed admission to qualified community college students

FILE PHOTO: Members of the 2017 graduating class march in to begin the College of the Canyons commencement ceremony held in the Honor Grove at College of the Canyons in Valencia on June 2. Dan Watson/For the Signal

Earlier this month, University of California President Janet Napolitano announced she’d like the UC system to implement new policies that would guarantee admission to all qualified community college transfer students throughout the state.

“This would be a major leap for the University of California — one that must be implemented carefully to achieve its desired effect,” Napolitano said at the Commonwealth Club of California March 7. “I am committed to working closely with leaders at the California Community Colleges, at our own Academic Senate, and other stakeholders to make sure we get this right.”

The policy change would be in addition to the Transfer Alliance Program (TAP) and Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) programs currently in place for community college students. Through TAP Los Angeles area students are able to transfer to UCLA and through TAG community college students can transfer to six UC campuses if they meet specific requirements.

Napolitano’s desire to admit all qualified community college students to a UC campus, along with the UC’s desire to streamline its degree pipeline and increase its four-year graduation rates, would help the system of higher education enroll an additional 32,000 undergraduates by 2030, or the equivalent of adding another UC campus.

The potential policy change is a welcomed one for leaders at College of the Canyons, who say the adjustment would benefit COC students who generally outperform other community college students throughout the state.

“College of the Canyons is probably better positioned to take advantage of this opportunity than probably the top 10 percent of colleges in the state. We have very high-performing students,” said Jerry Buckley, COC’s assistant superintendent and vice president of instruction. “We’re the No. 2 college in California in terms of completion rates and we’re the No. 1 transfer college in the L.A. area.”

Buckley noted that the Napolitano may be making these adjustments to meet Gov. Jerry Brown’s request that the UC system enrolls more California residents and transfer students.

“I remember sitting in a meeting with a number of CEOs in West LA with Mrs. Napolitano asking this very question (about guaranteed admission for qualified community college students),” Buckley said. “She was very evasive at the time… It’s nice to see this fall into place that takes advantage of something the governor is pushing for.”

The change would also help COC meet its new requirement from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office to increase its transfer rates to public and private universities by 20 percent.

“How do we do that if the CSUs and UCs open their doors a little wider?” Buckley said. “The UCs are now being challenged to increase their graduation rates. The only way they’re going to do that is by letting more of our students in.”

This is because, Buckley argues, community college transfer students perform at or above native college students, or those students who begin their higher education at one institution as freshmen.

Through planning with the Academic Senate and community college officials, Napolitano hopes to develop student eligibility standards like a 3.0 GPA or higher and required courses and grades.

“We will not diminish UC’s academic quality or our students’ ability to succeed by forcing a one-size-fits-all educational model,” Napolitano said.

Currently, the goal is to have the new policies in place as early as fall 2019.

“They have to decide how this is going to work,” Buckley said. “We’re not asking them to lower their standards, if anything our students are performing at a higher standard. They just have to accept more of them.”

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