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California community colleges now offer more transfer degrees, but still far to go

February 20, 2013 |  6:59 pm

California community colleges now offer more than 550 associate degrees that guarantee admission to California State University campuses but that number is still far short of the goal set by college leaders, officials said Wednesday.

About 557 degrees have been developed in 22 majors, such as anthropology, computer science, English, art history, geology and theater arts, with Spanish, engineering, biology, chemistry and sociology soon to be approved, officials said during a media briefing Wednesday.

The new transfer arrangement stems from legislation adopted in 2010. The Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act requires the two-year colleges to develop associate’s degrees that will guarantee students admission with junior standing into similar bachelor’s degree programs at the four-year Cal State schools.

Students with the new transfer degree would need only 60 more semester units to complete a bachelor's of arts or a bachelor's of science at Cal State.

The degrees approved so far represent about one-third of the 1,600 programs planned across California’s 112 community colleges. The system’s Board of Governors has set an ambitious goal of having degrees approved in 80% of majors by next fall and 100% by fall 2014.

“They are making a valiant effort to do as many degrees as they can by the end of the year,” said Barry Russell, vice chancellor for academic affairs for community colleges.

The issue is timely as college leaders, the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown look for ways to move community college students more quickly toward graduation and transfer to four-year schools.

Streamlining the process could save an estimated $160 million annually and free up access for an additional 40,000 community college students and 14,000 Cal State students, said community colleges Deputy Chancellor Erik Skinner.

Recent reports by the Campaign for College Opportunity, which sponsored the transfer degree legislation, and the state Legislative Analyst’s Office found significant progress but also uneven implementation, with some community colleges lagging in developing degrees and some Cal State campuses hesitant to accept them.

Officials are hoping that competition will accelerate the process, particularly in such urban areas as Los Angeles, where students have a choice of multiple colleges that are nearby.

Jake Counts, a psychology student at Bakersfield College, is hoping that the transfer degree’s promise of greater admission priority will help smooth his path to Cal State Bakersfield. Counts learned about the degree program from a counselor and is now expected to transfer in 2014.

“Before I had just been taking a lot of random classes,” said Counts, 21. “It would be awesome to go from Bakersfield College and say, now I’m shooting for my bachelor’s.”

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--Carla Rivera

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