Select Committee on the Master Plan for Higher Education in California Remarks - January 13, 2021

Remarks by Dr. Joseph I. Castro
Chancellor, The California State University
Select Committee on the Master Plan for Higher Education in California
The Transfer Process: A Conversation with California's Higher Education System Leaders
Remarks (as prepared)
January 13, 2021

Chair Berman and members of the select committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today – together with my esteemed colleagues and segment leaders – to discuss ways we can work collectively to improve and enhance the transfer process. Chair Berman, thank you also for hosting the October virtual conversation with students to learn more about their perspectives on this critical issue.

From the CSU’s perspective, transfer remains a high priority – and there is much about the transfer process that is working.

Transfer students comprise almost half of the CSU’s student body of more than 485,000 – and the vast majority of our transfer students come from California’s community colleges.

Transfer – especially via the Associate Degree for Transfer program – advances the CSU’s mission by providing an accessible and affordable pathway for California’s talented and diverse students to secure the lifelong benefits of a high-quality bachelor’s degree.

Offering students guaranteed admission to the CSU, the ADT program has quickly grown in popularity. In fall 2012, the first year we enrolled ADT students, the CSU had 402 students on the guaranteed pathway. This past fall, we enrolled more than 17,500.

Success measures for these students have been strong, as well. Thanks in large part to the CSU’s flagship Graduation Initiative 2025 – which has improved graduation rates for students from all backgrounds while narrowing equity gaps – more than 55 percent of students transferring into the CSU with an ADT graduate in two years… and almost 80 percent graduate by year three. And I’m pleased to note that, on several of our campuses, we have entirely eliminated equity gaps in graduation rates for transfer students who are Pell eligible or who are students of color.

The ADT program is strengthened by sustained collaboration between CSU and community college faculty. For example, a joint faculty committee has developed Transfer Model Curriculum plans to create seamless transitions from an ADT to 40 in-demand CSU majors such as business administration, marketing, accounting, criminal justice and psychology, to name just a few.

Virtual learning also facilitates transfer, providing students with opportunities to complete online courses across segments. And with the remarkable success of our pivot to virtual instruction over the past 10 months, the enormous potential for this technology to improve access and transfer outcomes has become readily apparent, and it will pay dividends long after the pandemic subsides.

Of course, we face challenges. As noted by students at the October event, advisement through the community colleges and to the CSU remains an issue. A lack of access to full-time advisors, or student mobility across multiple colleges – with different advisement at each – may leave students unsure of what courses to take… and in what order… to smooth the transfer process.

Some federal and state financial aid policies disadvantage transfer students, as well. Examples include the Pell Grant’s lifetime limit and the Cal Grant’s transfer criteria related to age and continuous enrollment.

But despite these challenges, solutions exist, and I am optimistic about the future of transfer in California.

Currently in development, the CSU Transfer Planner is an online platform that will help California community college students plan and track their progress toward transfer to one or several CSU campuses. The planner will notify students of ADT pathways and alert students who may be on an ADT pathway and not realize it. It shows great promise to help potential transfer students avoid loss of credit and reduce the time – and money – required to earn their degree. And it is a scalable system that will enhance the effectiveness of community college advisors who may be constrained by limited resources.

To that end, we support the provision of additional state resources for advising, especially at the community college level, where it may be most critical. Of course, we ask that the CSU and other segments be enlisted as partners on any​ legislative proposal so that all curricular specifics can be considered and unintended consequences avoided.

Regional partnerships to enhance collaboration among campuses can lead to increased higher education participation and completion among students who are committed to their hometowns, often because of work and family responsibilities, and for whom transfer outside of the region is not feasible. An example that I am personally familiar with is the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium, comprised of leaders of 28 colleges and universities in the Central Valley, and it shows potential to remove roadblocks to transfer and other barriers that impede the region’s students.

In closing, I want to emphasize that meaningful solutions at scale require continued communication and collaboration among the higher education segments and our partners in the legislature. I look forward to today’s discussion and to many others in the months and years to come as we collectively work to transform the lives of more Californians through higher education.

Thank you.