By Erik Machuca
East Los Angeles College students will soon have greater access to degrees and guaranteed admission into California State Universities due to progress by academic senates on the Associates Degree for Transfer program.
The Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act (SB 1440), signed in 2010, created a partnership between California community colleges and California State University schools to make it easier for students to transfer between the two systems of higher education.
SB 1440 restructured a number of associate degrees for eligibility to transfer with guaranteed admission into the CSU system with junior standing.
The Associate Degrees for Transfer were developed and divided into two categories: the Associate of Arts for Transfer (AA-T) and the Associate of Science for Transfer (AS-T).
About 600 updated associate degrees in the California Community College system fall under this bill.
East Los Angeles College currently offers associate degrees for transfer in art history, English, kinesiology and psychology.
Richard Cameron, Cerritos College curriculum chair said that California’s community colleges had a great imprint in defining the acceptable lower division courses for transfer.
“Even though the community colleges and CSUs worked together to create the degrees, control was in the hands of the community colleges, probably for the first time ever,” Cameron said.
ELAC Curriculum Chair Steve Wardinski was unavailable for comment.
In a press briefing in February, Erik Skinner, deputy chancellor of California Community Colleges and Ephraim Smith, executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer for CSU, said that both education systems have made substantial progress in advancing the transfer degree pathway for community college students.
“The goal by fall 2013 is to have each of our 112 community colleges have AA-T and AS-T degrees approved in 80 percent of the majors they offer. We want to have 100 percent by fall 2014,” Skinner said.
California community college students who complete an AA-T or AS-T degree will have the opportunity to achieve an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree with only 120 units.
“For those who do transfer, they can have some assurance that the lower division courses they took will not be disregarded by the university,” Cameron said.
Completion of an AA-T or AS-T degree prohibits CSU’s from requiring you to repeat courses similar to those taken at a community college as part of the Associate Degree for Transfer.
Currently there are 22 approved AA-T and AS-T pathways, with more degrees added each term. Engineering, biology, chemistry, and sociology are scheduled to be approved soon.
Smith said the program’s foremost objective is to continue to advance in efficiency and make a highly educated workforce in California a reality.
“Our respective academic senates are busy working together to create more pathways because they realize how important this Associate Degree for Transfer program is, not only to our students but to our state’s system of higher education,” Smith said.
ELAC Vice President of Academic Senate, Jeffrey Hernandez, said that he believes students with an AA-T or AS-T degree will be better off when trying to transfer to CSU’s with impacted majors.
“For spring quarter transfer admission, CSU only considered applicants with AA-T degrees,” Hernandez said.
According to CSU, prior to the Associates Degree for Transfer program, community college students transferred with an average of 80 semester units when only 60 semester units are required.
By reducing the need to take unnecessary courses, the rising number of AA-T and AS-T degrees now enables transfer students to save money and complete their bachelor degree in less time.
California Community Colleges and CSU estimate the program will produce approximately $160 million annually in cost savings, which will provide access to 40,000 additional community college students and nearly 14,000 CSU students each year.