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The Transfer Maze: The High Cost of Students and the State of California

September 27, 2017

By Mai P. Tran, ECMC Foundation

California's economy is in for a shock. By 2030, the state is predicted to have a shortage of 1.1 million college graduates needed to fill jobs that require at least a bachelor's degree.


This is partially caused by what The Campaign for College Opportunity, an ECMC Foundation grantee, calls "the transfer maze." Their recent report, The Transfer Maze: The High Cost of Students and the State of California, describes how the "transfer maze" between the state's community colleges and its two public university systems — the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) —creates barriers to community college students who want to transfer to four-year institutions and earn a bachelor's degree.

The report identifies major causes that attribute to the transfer maze, including impacted, oversized classes that are required for transfer, a broken remedial education system that traps students in non-credit bearing courses, inaccessible information to students about the transfer process, the high ratio of community college counselors to students, among many other reasons.

Because of the barriers they encounter, students who begin their education at community colleges often take longer to earn a bachelor's degree and spend on average $36,000-$38,000 more than graduates who start at a 4-year university. In fact, only 4 percent of students transfer within two years and 38 percent within six years.

While transfer reforms have been instituted in the past several years, including the creation of the Associate Degrees for Transfer (ADT) pathway, which makes it easier to transfer into a CSU campus, the report argues that more needs to be done to untangle the maze.

The Campaign for College Opportunity provides three recommendations to achieve this goal:

  1. Increase public funding to the UC and CSU systems, in order to enroll more freshman applicants and better serve and support transfer students;
  2. Improve the ADT pathway to better align with transfer opportunities to both the CSU and UC systems and;
  3. Develop and scale pathway models at California community colleges.

"When 70 percent of college students in California attend a community college, a successful transfer path is key to producing the bachelor degrees the state needs and that the majority of students in community college hope to gain," said Michele Siqueiros, president of Campaign for College Opportunity.


Research for the report was made possible with support from ECMC Foundation, Kresge Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, among other philanthropic organizations and donors.

Transfer Maze

  Download The Transfer Maze: The High Cost of Students and the State of California >

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