Bills of 2023: Bill will ease college transfers — for some

A community college advertisement at a bus stop in San Francisco on July 27, 2023. Photo by Semantha Norris, CalMatters
A community college advertisement at a bus stop in San Francisco on July 27, 2023. Photo by Semantha Norris, CalMatters
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Editor’s note: As 2023 draws to a close, The Signal is presenting CalMatters’ wrap-up stories on some of the key bills that reached the governor’s desk at the close of the 2023 legislative session. Here’s the CalMatters summary of Assembly Bill 1291, which would make it easier for some students to transfer from a community college to the state university systems. 

By Mikhail Zinshteyn  

CalMatters Writer  

It was much less than what students wanted. Assembly Bill 1291 by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, a Democrat from Sacramento, would move California closer to a higher-education holy grail: Guaranteeing community college students admission into the University of California or the California State University system by earning the same type of associate degree.  

This measure doesn’t go that far. It instead focuses on the UC’s most selective campus — UCLA — to identify several majors that are aligned with the associate degree for transfer that already leads to guaranteed admission to the Cal State system (but not necessarily to a student’s campus of choice).  

The pilot program won’t result in guaranteed admission for transferring students, but would give them priority admissions by 2026-27 if they attend yet-to-be determined community colleges. Eventually five more UC campuses will identify similar degrees that are aligned with the associate degree for transfer by 2028-29.   

Who Supports It 

Other than lawmakers, no one. McCarty calls the bill a “game changer for higher education access and for expanding enrollment through the community college transfer process.” In an interview, however, he acknowledged the bill isn’t perfect and contains necessary compromises. 

Who Is Opposed 

Officially, the systemwide student organizations representing the UC and community colleges. They’re incensed that McCarty didn’t confer with them about the bill — even after they supported a more robust version of this bill that did guarantee admissions to the UC. A Senate committee killed it Sept. 1.  

The two student groups asked Gov. Gavin Newsom to veto this bill, in large part because it doesn’t achieve the goal of having one guaranteed admissions pathway for both the UC and Cal State.  

But, his office helped negotiate the bill’s passage in the Legislature and end UC’s opposition.  

The California Community College system’s chancellor’s office isn’t taking a position on the bill, but its head of government relations told CalMatters the system is “concerned” that McCarty didn’t include the chancellor’s office or students in the bill-writing process.   

Why It Matters 

Transferring into a UC or CSU is complicated, in large part because the two systems have varying admissions requirements for community college students, including different minimum GPAs and courses.  

The associate degree for transfer solved one half of that so-called transfer maze by guaranteeing students admission to Cal State as juniors, which would mean the students could earn a bachelor’s in two years after completing their community college studies.   

So far, there’s no system-wide guaranteed admissions pathway into the UC for transfer students. While this bill still won’t create that sought-after guarantee, it at least tells the UC to begin viewing the associate degree for transfer as a preferred admissions roadmap for community college students.    

Governor’s Call 

Newsom announced Oct. 10 he signed the bill.   

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