To encourage more demographic and geographic diversity, the report recommended that UC build partnerships with the community colleges that send few students into the transfer pipeline; increase its visibility on every two-year campus; broaden its own direct outreach to community-college students; expand the transition services it provides to transfer students; and, perhaps most important, establish more consistency in the course requirements that each UC campus sets for admission.
Santa Monica College's success at guiding students toward four-year institutions captures the opportunity that might be available if more community colleges, in California and elsewhere, stressed a culture of transfer. SMC's former president, Richard Moore, established transfer as a priority in the 1980s, and the school has now developed a thick array of services to encourage it among its 30,000 credit-taking students.
The school's class schedule gives students many chances to obtain the courses that four-year institutions require. With 45 full-time and 70 part-time counselors, it provides extensive guidance on the transfer process, scheduling not only general workshops and regular visits from "admission evaluators" at nearby four-year colleges, but also sessions on the specific requirements of each system. Near the application deadline in the fall, it staffs "panic rooms" for students completing their applications. "We sit with them, we hold their hands, we read their essay," said Brenda Benson, the college's dean of counseling and retention.
Yet, Nannini argues, no matter how many services either community colleges or receiving schools provide, the complicated lives of many community-college students, who are often balancing complex work and family demands, make it difficult to establish a reliable assembly line of transfer-ready applicants. An orientation session on campus this week for students who were transferring in the fall to Loyola Marymount University, a local private school, showed that almost all of them took circuitous routes that required overcoming dead ends and wrong turns before completing their two year degree, usually after many years of perseverance.
Adonis Burrell, for instance, started at Santa Monica College in 2006, but struggled with his classes and dropped out. After several years in the work force, though, he returned ("I realized I needed to get more education" to get ahead, he says) and after navigating work and school for three years, he is finishing a degree in communications in June. Sarah Yoseph entered Santa Monica College directly from high school in 2010 and is finishing her degree now after changing her major three times and balancing multiple part-time jobs.
Several of those at the Loyola session, which may be a self-selected group, said they found the UC transfer requirements unduly daunting. Burrell, for instance, said if he tried to take all of the varying courses that UC Berkeley and UCLA required to even consider him for admission, "I thought, there is no way I am going to get out of here [at Santa Monica College] on time."