Cal State launches online tool to simplify transfer process for community college students

Vanessa Rivera encountered a maze of challenges transferring from a community college to California State University, Northridge. Now, a graduate intern at the Los Angeles Pierce College transfer center, Rivera assists fellow students navigating the path to the CSU system.

“I was a lost college student, and I was really intimidated to seek help,” Rivera shared. “This led me to a career path in counseling, (for the) ability to benefit lost college students like I once was.”

The CSU system inaugurated its innovative online CSU Transfer Planner in January to aid California community college students in streamlining the transfer process.

“A large gap exists between the number of students who intend to transfer, and those who do,” highlighted April Grommo, assistant vice chancellor of strategic enrollment management at the CSU Chancellor’s Office.

An obstacle to smooth transfers has been the lack of uniformity across systems. For instance, the University of California lacks a systemwide transfer guarantee for community college students, while those eyeing a move to Cal State face distinct and varied requirements.

As per an August 2023 report from the Public Policy Institute of California, only 19% of community college students who aimed to transfer did so within four years, with a mere 10% achieving it within two years. Grommo expressed optimism that the new transfer portal will narrow this divide.

“The CSU Transfer Planner was designed to create a more efficient and accessible pathway for students to transfer to the CSU,” remarked Grommo.

The planner empowers students to chart their coursework and general education requirements, input test scores, explore articulation agreements, delve into program offerings, and verify if their GPA aligns with their target campuses’ criteria.

Grommo emphasized that the tool is personalized to assist students in outlining their paths to avoid unnecessary course redundancy.

“With the CSU Transfer Planner, community college students can directly connect to their future CSU campus of choice early in their educational journey, and ultimately minimize credit-loss and maximize time-to-degree completion,” added Grommo.

By the end of February, over 9,500 students had registered Transfer Planner accounts, signifying a strong initial uptake, according to Grommo.

Although the planner presents a valuable resource for students, its adoption remains limited due to its recent launch, noted Sunday Salter, transfer center director at Pierce College and a member of the CSU Transfer Planner implementation committee.

“We want students to have some certainty,” Salter underscored. “A lot of students feel unsure in the transfer process. Our hope is that this tool will help them feel really confident in what is expected of them.”

Samantha Watanabe, a third-year liberal studies major who transferred from Cuesta College to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, lamented the lack of such a program during her transition period.

“My last semester, I had to take seven classes just to get into Cal Poly because I wasn’t paying attention and didn’t really know that there were other requirements for Cal Poly. So I think a program like (the transfer planner) would have definitely aided me,” reflected Watanabe.

Navigating through transfer requisites poses a challenge for students nationwide. In Virginia, a novel dual-admission program is tackling this issue and could potentially serve as a blueprint for California’s university systems.

The CSU and UC systems have also rolled out dual-admission programs. Freshmen starting at a community college can apply for the CSU Transfer Success Pathway program through the transfer portal.

Ashley Brackett, a transfer center counselor at Allan Hancock College, expressed enthusiasm for the planner, emphasizing its vast potential for students.

“I’m stoked that they finally have created something similar to what the UC has already had for a really long time,” Brackett shared.

The University of California system offers a comparable online planner for community college students to monitor their progress and admission requirements to a UC.

The UC Transfer Admission Planner is seamlessly integrated with the UC application, providing students with a centralized platform to monitor their progress and apply to their desired school, as per the UC admissions page.

The CSU planner is slated to link to the CSU application akin to the UC planner’s connection with its application, as outlined by Grommo.

Salter anticipated hosting events at the Pierce transfer center to introduce the planner to students applying for the upcoming CSU admission cycle in October.

“I’m really excited that the Cal States have done this,” Salter expressed. “It centralizes communication between the universities and the students, and I’m looking forward to watching it expand.”

Ashley Bolter is a fourth-year journalism student minoring in French and ethnic studies at Cal Poly. Delilah Brumer is a sophomore at Los Angeles Pierce College majoring in journalism and political science. Both are members of EdSource’s California Student Journalism Corps.

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