Friday, May 14, 2004

Guaranteed Transfer Option

The University of California and California State University systems have started "rejecting" candidates that meet their minimum qualifications for admission. The "rejections" are coming as a direct result of the governor's budget for 2004-2005 which stipulates that the UC and CSU systems should reduce their freshman enrollment by 10% (page 3 of the Higher Education budget summary PDF). This is a significant change for the systems, since the Master Plan for Higher Education in California specifies that every student who meets the minimum qualifications for admission should be admitted, and this has been the recent policy of both the UCs and CSUs.

However, the UCs and CSUs are not completely rejecting the students who meet their minimum qualifications. Instead they're sending letters to the "rejected" students stating that if the students attend a community college and take certain courses they will be guaranteed admission to the UC or CSU campus that "rejected" them. The UC system is calling this the Guaranteed Transfer Option (GTO) and the CSU system has a similar program (termed by some the CSU 45/15 transfer program; link is a PDF).

The Governor's proposed budget includes $1.6 million for the UC system to "to provide counseling services to otherwise UC-qualified freshmen who may enroll in a CCC as a result of the proposed 10 percent reduction in new freshmen" (page 6 of the Higher Education budget summary PDF) and $1.9 million to the CSU system for similar counseling. However, no additional funding has been allocated to the California Community College system specifically to handle these students. The community colleges are getting a 3% growth allocation, but as I've written before, since many colleges have shrunk due to recent budget cuts they're ineligible for growth funds in the current year (or at least I'm told that my campus is).

It seems to be implied that the 3% growth funding is intended to more than cover the anticipated CSU and UC student influx. However, the Faculty Association of Community Colleges estimates that 175,000 students were "deprived of a community college education" in 2003-2004 (PDF of the enrollment report); that's 10% of the state community college enrollment of about 1.6 million students. Thus, in theory, we'd need a 10% growth increase just to cover the students we're already not serving, and even more to serve the additional CSU and UC students.

At my campus things are looking especially grim. Unless we were to add more sections of classes, we simply don't have room for thousands more students. Last fall after the first week of classes our math division was 106% enrolled and the science division was approximately 95% enrolled; this spring our classes were similarly fully enrolled.

At a recent meeting I heard estimates that a local UC was diverting ~2,500 students to community colleges, and a local CSU was diverting ~1,500 students. Not all of those students will come to my campus, but a good fraction of them probably will. If 20% of those students come to my campus (number pulled from thin air), and if 15% of those students are biology majors (estimate based on UC admissions), we could have 120 additional students attempting to take introductory biology for majors this fall. Considering that the total enrollment of that course is only 190 currently, that it always fills during the first week of registration, and that we are not offering any additional lab sections in the fall due to lack of a budget, we have no idea where these students will go if they come to our campus.

To add to the mess that all of this is quickly becoming, none of this is official state law yet. The state budget for the next fiscal year hasn't been approved yet, and won't be for some time. Assembly Bill 2833 (amended text of bill; analysis of bill) and Senate Bill 1785 (amended text of bill; analysis of bill) are attempts to codify the UC and CSU transfer option programs into law, but neither bill has gotten out of committees yet. AB 2833 has just been re-referred to the committee on higher education (bill history), and SB 1785 is currently in the senate appropriations committee (bill history). There's some debate regarding whether these bills are required for the universities to start the programs, as evidenced by the UC and CSU systems both implementing the plans already.

It should be an interesting fall.

Note: I'm not sure how permanent the links to the above bill information are. If they fail, try the California State Assembly or the California State Senate search pages.

No comments: