Guaranteed Admission to the UC

ASCCC Secretary and member of UC Transfer Task Force

For years, the University of California has offered various different forms of guaranteed admission to transfer students. In some cases, the UC has guaranteed admission to specific campuses for community college students that complete a specified set of courses with a certain GPA. Unfortunately, these guarantees have never been available at every campus, and the most popular campuses may not offer any admissions guarantees.

The Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) is an agreement through which a student selects a specific UC campus and major, completes a set of specified courses with a specified GPA, and is then automatically admitted into his or her chosen program of study. The TAG agreements currently only exist at six of the nine UC undergraduate campuses—Riverside, Merced, Irvine, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and Davis—and students are limited to selecting a TAG agreement at a single campus. For example, a student might select UC Irvine and want to major in mechanical engineering. If the student completes the required courses and meets the grade and GPA requirements, the student is automatically admitted to the program. If that student decides that he or she wants to attend a different UC campus, whether that school has TAG agreements or not, the student will need to apply for transfer through the normal application process. These restrictions on TAG agreements—only six campuses and only being able to select an agreement with a single campus—have led many transfer students to set up a TAG as a “safety school” and apply to the campuses that they really want to attend, such as UCLA, Berkeley, or San Diego, causing many of the TAG agreements to go unused. Colleges that have honors programs are often part of the Transfer Alliance Program (TAP) with UCLA. Students completing their honors program at an approved community college are given priority admission to UCLA’s College of Letters and Sciences. While the TAP program is not a guarantee like the TAG agreements, the percentage of TAP students that are admitted to UCLA is considerably higher than that of the non-TAP applicants.

The passage of SB1440 (Padilla) in 2010 and the creation of the associate degree for transfer (ADT) established guaranteed admission for students into the entire CSU system. While the ADT process still has challenges, qualified students know that they will be able to transfer to some CSU campus. Since ADTs were created, many advocates have expressed a desire for the UC to offer similar guarantees to community college students, but the legislature lacks the authority to directly impose the requirement on the UC system.

Several years ago, representatives from the ASCCC began a conversation with representatives of the UC Academic Senate and the UC Office of the President about creating degrees with guaranteed admission in physics and chemistry. These discussions coincided with the release of the UC transfer pathways that outline a comprehensive set of major preparation courses for the top 21 transfer majors. While the UCtransfer pathways were not intended to guarantee admission for students, they were used to reach agreement on establishing a pilot for UC transfer degrees in physics and chemistry that would require students to complete the courses in the UC transfer pathway and a modified version of IGETC specifically designed for these two degrees to meet specific degree requirements. The two academic senates agreed on the parameters for the degree pilot in the early fall of 2017 with the hope that colleges would be able to develop these degrees in time for them to be included in their 2018-19 college catalogs. Unfortunately, the two system offices were not able to agree on all of the necessary requirements for these degrees, and the pilot program was put on hold.

Later in 2017, the UC Office of the President formed the UC Transfer Task Force, which included representatives from the UC Academic Senate, UC faculty, the UC Office of the President, CSU Faculty, the CSU Chancellor’s Office, and the ASCCC. The CCC Chancellor’s Office was invited to participate but did not send a representative. In the spring of 2018, the task force published recommendations on how to improve transfer between the community colleges and the UC system. The recommendations of the task force are as follows:

  1. Expand the Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) system-wide.
  2. Expand the UC Transfer Pathways beyond the top 21 transfer majors.
  3. Move forward with the associate of science degree pilot in physics and chemistry.
  4. Perform comprehensive research on UC transfer preparation, advising, and communications.
  5. Establish a UC Transfer Workgroup.

On April 11, 2018, UC President Janet Napolitano and CCC Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley signed a memorandum of understanding that outlined specific tasks for the two systems to streamline transfer to the UC. The agreements in the memo are as follows:

  1.  Request that the UC Academic Senate develop criteria to guarantee admission to CCC transfer students. The guarantee will be based on the UC transfer pathways and certain GPA requirements.
  2. 2. Where the ADT is equivalent or superior preparation to the UC transfer pathway, completion of an ADT with certain GPA requirements would guarantee admission. The evaluation of ADTs would be made by the UC Academic Senate in consultation with the ASCCC.
  3. The UC will continue to offer TAG agreements and explore whether students should be eligible for more than one TAG.
  4. The UC and CCC Academic Senates will continue to work on associate degrees aligned to the UC transfer pathways that adhere to 60 units per system where possible.

The work on guaranteed admission has continued, with the UC exploring a way to guarantee admission to students that complete one of the UC transfer pathways with a 3.5 GPA. While a 3.5 GPA may seem high, and it is higher than the GPA requirement for any of the existing TAGs, students with at least a 3.5 GPA make up about half of the transfer admissions to the UC each year. While the systems have not established when the guarantee would become effective or exactly how it would work, it may begin as soon as applications for Fall 2020 admission.

Although students will be guaranteed admission just for completing the UC transfer pathway, the pilot program in physics and chemistry has not been abandoned. Both academic senates would like to see the pilot move forward. Completing a degree has value for the student beyond simply completing the classes required for the transfer pathway, and degrees could have value for the colleges if they were designated as ADTs for the Student Centered Funding Formula. Representatives from the UC Academic Senate, the CCCCO, and the ASCCC met in fall 2018 to finalize an agreement to let the pilot proceed. As of the writing of this article, a list of requests for the CCCCO were initially agreed to by the representatives from the UC Academic Senate, and the CCCCO is currently working with the UCOP to put the final agreement in place. Once the agreement is finalized, the CCCCO will publish templates like those used for ADTs to assist colleges in developing these degrees.

Change is certainly on the horizon for community college students looking to transfer to the UC system. If the UC transfer degrees are successful, the next step may be requesting that the legislature modify the ADTs to the CSU in some disciplines to follow the model developed with the UC. If that happens, community college students may have a uniform set of major preparation to transfer to either the UC or the CSU.