Explaining the ASCCC Position on "Transfer Degrees"

Vice President

The question of "Transfer Degrees" is a hot topic for many people-especially those outside our colleges. Explaining the Academic Senate position is not simple, and a reductionist view ridiculously suggests that somehow we oppose transfer or oppose degrees. Because the Academic Senate has recently received several inquires, we were prompted to summarize the Senate's positions, which are based on several recent resolutions. Below is a summary that we have shared and which we will continue to pass along to help others understand the faculty perspective on this academic and professional matter: the content of our degrees. (For more background on the recent Title 5 changes, please see the May 2008 Rostrum article "As the Degree Turns-Notes to Minimize the Drama of Getting your Compliant Degrees Approved".)

The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges has held numerous discussions over the last several years about the meaning of our degrees and determined the following:

Earning a degree that is composed only of transfer requirements is really not what was intended by Title 5, which states that degrees must not be granted based on an accumulation of units such as those in the IGETC pattern or the CSU GE breadth requirements; but that instead there must be a concentrated focus in the form of a major or in an area of emphasis, which was the recent change in Title 5 (See Resolution 13.02 Fall 2006). The titles of degrees at some of our colleges have been misleading, suggesting to students that completion of a degree automatically qualifies a student for transfer-as is the case in some states. A degree entitled "Transfer" or "University Studies" does not come with any such guarantee. In actuality, transfer requirements are out of our control and frequently changed by the receiving institutions, so a degree which includes the word "transfer" is really a false promise to students, suggesting that by taking our programs, they will automatically be accepted at given institutions. Therefore we recommended that titles of degrees not include the word "transfer" (see Resolution 9.02 Fall 2006).

"Transfer" is something students do once they leave the colleges rather than something that happens when they are within our doors.

In fact, students may continue to do what they have always done: complete an associates degree and/or prepare for transfer and they can accomplish both if they plan appropriately-to take the courses required by their college to earn a degree with either a major or an area of emphasis, as well as complete the lower division requirements for the university to which they plan to transfer. The concept of an "area of emphasis" was recently added to permit colleges to develop an alternative to majors that is broader than traditional majors, allowing colleges to better meet the needs of their communities.

In general, the Academic Senate is committed to facilitating student transfer in a manner that is compliant with existing Title 5 language with respect to the degree (GE + major/area of emphasis), and also allowing for more local decisions regarding degrees.

The Academic Senate supports:

  1. Helping students to transfer by providing clear information about transfer and degree requirements and not misleading them with our degree titles.
  2. Providing degrees that are meaningful-that indicate an appropriate level of competency in English and mathematics, as well as a more in-depth knowledge in an area of study (what is commonly referred to as a "major", but which may be somewhat broader than what this concept generally implies with the new option of an "area of emphasis").
  3. Providing opportunities to recognize and transcript CSU GE or IGETC completion that does not lessen the meaning of a community college degree. (i.e., certificates could be provided for those students who do not opt to complete a "major"). This option was added as part of the recent Title 5 changes.
  4. Broadening the concept of what is permissible as a "major" such that degrees that are not explicitly designed to prepare a student for transfer may be offered (i.e., permitting degrees where the major component does not necessarily substantively meet the requirements of the lower division for a CSU or UC major, with the caveat that this is made explicit to students).

The Academic Senate opposes

  1. Compromising the meaning of an associate's degree by permitting the awarding of degrees that are merely a collection of general education courses without an additional organized pattern of study in a single discipline or related disciplines (i.e., major or area of emphasis) (see Resolution 13.02 Fall 2006).
  2. Calling a degree a "transfer" degree-because transfer cannot be guaranteed (see Resolution 9.02, Fall 2006).

Please note: All resolutions are available on the Academic Senate website at: http://www.asccc.org/Res/Search.aspx.

Eliminate the Word "Transfer" in the Degree - Resolution 9.02 F06

Whereas, The use of the word "transfer" in degree titles may lead students to believe the completion of the degree ensures transfer to a four-year institution; and

Whereas, Students may believe that all courses they successfully complete for a "transfer" degree are transferable;

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges work with local senates, local curriculum committees, and chief instructional officers (CIOs) to eliminate the use of the term "transfer" in program titles for the associate degree.