New law aids CSU transfer

Ariel Messman-Rucker

Next fall community college students will have an easier time getting accepted in to the California State University system thanks to a new bill signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger late last month.

The new bill, signed by Schwarzenegger on Sept. 29, requires all California community colleges to offer “associate degrees for transfer”  starting in fall 2011 which will guarantee students who complete the requisite units a spot at a CSU.

Created by Senate Bill 1440, the law is meant to establish a smoother transition from community colleges to the CSU system in hopes that students will no longer be forced to waste time taking unnecessary units.

Once SB 1440 is implemented, community college students who earn one of the new 60-unit transfer degrees in a defined major and graduate with at least a 2.0 grade point average will be guaranteed admission to a local CSU with junior status in a major that it similar to their CC major.

Because each CSU has different requirements, currently many students end up taking unnecessary units and often spend more than two years at a community college, said Susan Opp, associate vice president for academic programs and graduate studies at Cal State East Bay in Hayward.

“SB 1440 has the potential to make things much clearer for students transferring from a community college so that they don’t take unnecessary courses,” Opp said.

Many of the details still have to be ironed out at the state level before the 112 community colleges in California can begin to do the work necessary to make these new degrees available to students.

Ted Wieden, interim senior dean of curriculum and instruction, is hopeful that DVC will be able to meet the fall 2010 deadline outlined by SB 1440.

“As long as the state has done its work that we need in order to begin to implement, we will do whatever we have to do,” Wieden said.

While supporters of the new law believe it will keep students from taking unnecessary units, some administrators at DVC disagree.

“One of the intentions of the bill was to somehow streamline the process so that students would not take extra units, but in the way it’s been written that may not happen and it may be opposite,” said Nicola Place, senior academic and student services manager.

Place said students often decide to forgo getting an Associate’s degree because they can take fewer units by just completing transfer requirements, but in order to take advantage of SB 1440, students will have to get a degree, which could mean taking two to three extra courses.

“I think there were a bunch of well-intentioned legislators who were somewhat ill informed, but have possibly made it harder for DVC students to transfer,” said Terry Armstrong, dean of counseling and students support services.

Both Place and Armstrong have reservations about SB 1440, but said they are now going to focus on doing whatever it takes to implement the new law.

Tim Leong, director of communication and community relations at the Contra Costa Community College district, said that while the district hasn’t begun working on implementing SB 1440, there is a state-wide task force at the state chancellor’s office working toward this goal.  

He said the task force includes people from community colleges, CSUs, Faculty Senate members and student representatives.

So far Place has not had any DVC students inquiring about the new law although she believes this will change as knowledge of SB 1440 becomes more widespread.

First-semester student Fernando Fernandez hadn’t heard of the law, but said that he may try to take advantage of it so he could focus on accomplishing his goals at DVC faster.

Business culinary major Gillian Espinosa who was also unaware of the new law said, “I guess I will use it if it guarantees me a spot.”

Place said she is worried that students will not be able to get the information they need by fall 2011 when the law must be instituted.

“The implementation timeline is extraordinarily accelerated, that’s one of my biggest concerns – how am I going to get the information to students at a time when we have less advisement time for students?” she said.


Contact Ariel Messman-Rucker at [email protected]