Senate Bill 440 passed the legislature on Tuesday. The legislation is authored by Senator, and Secretary of State candidate, Alex Padilla. It hopes to improve the avenues for which community college students can move their way up to four-year universities, by expanding the availability of transfer degrees.
SB 440 builds off of previous legislation, also authored by Sen. Padilla. SB 1440 in the 2010 legislative session established transfer specific degrees that would give students priority status for admission to California State University (CSU) campuses.
The Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) stated that SB 1440 fell short of achieving its goals, the reason for the follow up legislation just passed by both chambers. The new bill will require community colleges to create transfer degrees for nearly every field of study. Students will then not only have priority for transfer admissions, but will also be guaranteed admission to their specific field of study.
In a press release following the passage of SB 440, Sen. Padilla commented:
“While both the California Community Colleges and the California State University have made progress in implementing the STAR Act, they have fallen short. SB 440 establishes specific goals and timetables for full implementation.” “Community college students deserve a clear and certain pathway to transfer. I want to make sure that students at every community college campus have the opportunity to earn a transfer degree that guarantees admission to a California State University with junior standing.” “For California to meet the growing demand for skilled workers, we must dramatically improve the rate at which students transfer from community colleges and graduate from four-year universities”
There are other avenues of transfer available to students, such as IGETC where students agree to take a certain course path and maintain a certain grade point average to receive priority admission. However, it does not require attainment of a two-year degree in a specific field of study.
Sen. Padilla makes the point that only 25 percent of community college students who intend to transfer actually follow through. The legislation does not affect class availability, one of the key issues for students. Not being able to enroll in required courses due to class size limitations sets back many students. More than 80 percent of students were on at least one course waiting list in the Fall 2012 term.
Another bill, AB 955 authored by Assemblymember Das Williams, would increase class availability by creating more course offerings during Summer and Winter sessions.
Academic degrees are increasingly important in a competitive job market and making new paths to universities is conducive to fostering economic prosperity. However, the admissions process may also become more competitive if SB 440 creates a larger pool of students seeking transfer admission.