LDTP - Challenges and Opportunities

Executive Committee

The California State University (CSU) system has been working on implementation of the Lower Division Transfer Pattern (LDTP) project for two years. So where are they? And where are we? Since its inception, the project has been somewhat controversial. First, the CSU faculty were not delighted that legislation (including SB 1415, Brulte and SB 1785, Scott) mandated them to look at the major preparation courses for the top majors at all 23 campuses to align the lower division curriculum and devise course numbers for them. Second, the project was begun around the same time as the California Articulation Number (CAN) system was discontinued, much to the dismay of the intersegmental faculty and Community College System Office representatives who were working on redesigning it. CSU next had to implement the twopronged program, facing internal challenges such as faculty concern about local discipline autonomy, short timelines, and uncertainty about how to qualify and designate the courses that would be a part of the pattern for a given major. And finally, external issues of how LDTP would affect community colleges began to surface across the state: discipline faculty, articulation officers, counselors and transfer center directors began to contemplate the effects of LDTP on community colleges and here is where the challenges really expand.

What they said

LDTP was established in an effort to reduce the number of units transfer students take prior to transfer. A CSU Chancellor's Office study of transfer student transcripts in 2000 indicated that CCC transfer students accumulated 11 total units more than CSU "native" students. (CSU faculty, however, later reported the difference in units was only 3 units). According to an LDTP fact sheet (available at http://www.calstate.edu/acadaff/ldtp/) LDTP "presents potential transfer students with a set of `road maps' to follow that will ensure appropriate academic preparation for studies at CSU and decrease time to graduation once these students enter the CSU. The LDTP for each discipline has a statewide as well as campus-specific components." LDTP identifies 45 units that are acceptable statewide and 15 locally determined units for the lower division major preparation. Their website offers periodic updates and newsletters.

Early documents from CSU claimed that students who opt for LDTP are considered for "priority admission".

It is unclear whether it will serve students in the same way as Transfer Admissions Guarantees or Agreements (TAGs and TAAs), as the admissions details have not been established yet. CSU representatives have called it an "advising tool". It does not represent an admissions requirement; many CSUs that are not impacted will happily admit students without LDTP, nor is it a mandate that CCC faculty must suddenly change their courses in order to align them with the LDTP descriptors -unless they determine they want their courses to be considered for approval for the students who may attend a CSU in their major. The LDTP Update September 26, 2006 states "The LDTPs add another option to the transfer preparation process.for students who know exactly what major they wish to pursue and which CSU campus."

What we know

LDTP is being implemented, like it or not. CSU is committed to seeing it through. They have made progress, in that colleagues within a discipline and at different campuses have talked to one another and agreed upon some mutually acceptable courses/units for transfer students pursuing that major. Unlike community colleges, CSU does not generally have course outlines of record, so they have not needed to clarify common course content and objectives. In addition, since WASC is now demanding CSU to clarify learning outcomes, they have a new incentive to coordinate efforts.

While some CSU representatives have suggested that the "common" numbers CSU is assigning to approved courses, called Transfer CSU numbers (TCSU numbers) "replace" CAN numbers, this unilateral numbering system actually does not do that. At present, the faculty from community colleges, CSU, and UC have agreed to join together to consider developing an entirely new numbering system, called "Course Identification" or C-ID, which, unlike the CSU LDTP project, promises to involve faculty from all three segments and independent universities to meet the various needs each segment has for a numbering system, including those of LDTP and of UC Pathways or Streamlining project, as well as the multiple needs of community colleges to number hundreds of courses beyond major preparation courses.

What we do not know

While the CSU Update states, "LDTPs will not replace current major articulation with CSU campuses or current TAG or TAA admissions programs," there is some uncertainty whether this statement is in effect. Some campuses have indicated their desire to articulate only through LDTP, while other campuses have refused to create new TAGs or TAAs. The unintended consequences of implementing LDTP have ripple effects, surfacing across the state. If LDTP is indeed primarily an advising tool, why should it change long-standing articulation?

The long-term success or benefit of LDTP is an unknown. How many students will enroll and be accepted in the LDTP program? Will the advising aspect of LDTP help students in general see the pathways ahead of them and therefore select the most appropriate pathways for themselves? How many CCC courses will be submitted for TCSU consideration? How many students will complete their majors and graduate more quickly as a result of the LDTP when it is used as an advising tool or when coupled with the numbering mechanism? How many LDTP agreements will be written for impacted majors? Will CSU continue to unilaterally impose curricular changes such as they did with the economics course (requiring that CCC courses submitted for TCSU consideration include a prerequisite of intermediate algebra) or will there be a meeting of minds between CSU and CCC faculty, perhaps in intersegmental discipline dialog?

The long-term potential harm to non-LDTP community college students and course offerings is also unknown.

Will colleges need to restrict/reduce their offerings because CSU limits what it will accept toward the major? Will students actually have less exposure to the discipline (and potentially less chance to become enthusiastic about the major) because of reduced CCC offerings or prerequisites that would exclude them?

What are we doing?

There are three representatives of community colleges on the LDTP Advisory committee: an articulation officer, an ASCCC Executive committee member and a System Office representative. These representatives have regularly taken the issues and concerns to the LDTP advisory committee; sometimes changes/adaptation have been made, and sometimes not. One issue raised was that a course that has been accepted for LDTP and given a "TCSU number" would only benefit the students who take part in LDTP. CSU heard that concern and decided that any student who transfers with a course granted a TCSU number would be given credit at any CSU that offers the course.

Recently, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges protested the decision CSU made to bypass our time-honored policy that says all faculty appointed to committees (in this case LDTP discipline committees) should be appointed by the ASCCC.

The CSU Academic Senate recently agreed, and has vowed to honor our appointment practices. However, a long list of concerns that have been identified principally by articulation officers has yet to be addressed.

Besides providing feedback to CSU via their advisory committee, many including articulation officers have not been shy about voicing their concerns directly to CSU loudly and often. You can be assured that CCCs have provided and will continue to provide input.

What should we do next?

The Academic Senate has taken several positions, which inform our response to LDTP, but it has not taken a position with respect to how colleges should respond to the requirements being imposed by the CSU in order to have courses articulated for LDTP. Decisions need to be made locally; individual discipline faculty and articulation officers retain their autonomy to decide which courses they want to submit for LDTP/TCSU consideration. However, Articulation Officers have stated their positions in several regions of the state in their California Intersegmental Articulation Council (CIAC) meetings. They are concerned that specific admissions criteria have not been publicized; that existing articulation will be lost under LDTP, especially if submitted courses are denied a TCSU for failing to meet the new descriptor; that LDTP is not being implemented in a uniform way; that a sufficient number of students will not benefit, thus not warranting the workload to participate; and that CSU courses do not need to meet the same standards as CCC courses. Faculty representatives from the CCC and CSU hope to meet together more in the coming months to try to find remedies that are mutually acceptable.

If you have not already done so, faculty in your department should have a conversation about LDTP and involve your articulation officer.

You might begin by asking how many of your students transfer in your major to CSU. You might consider reviewing any relevant, posted descriptors for your comparable courses with your articulation officer, prior to submitting current (not outdated) course outlines for TCSU consideration. Should CSU faculty indicate that courses need to be changed to conform to their descriptors, your conversation will need to examine other features: changing your outline to conform to LDTP may result in losing other existing articulation agreements elsewhere.

Many questions about how LDTP will be implemented and about its long-term effects and benefits remain unanswered. It is clearly a work in progress. CSU faculty have indicated an interest and willingness to meet with CCC faculty in an effort to make the project as beneficial as possible for our students. Given that 60% of CCC students who transfer to a California university go to a CSU and that around 55% of CSU graduates begin at CCCs, it is in everyone's best interest to ensure that any project developed actually benefits and does not harm community college students. Isaac Asimov said, "The important thing to predict is not the automobile, but the parking problem, not the television but the soap opera..." The ripple effects of LDTP implementation were not foreseen. Now, one would hope that corrections can be made as we continue to work with our CSU colleagues.

Note: The program is described at http://www.calstate.edu/acadaff/ldtp/

Currently posted descriptors can be viewed at http://www.calstate.edu/acadaff/ldtp/ldtp-CrsDescription.shtml Consult the site frequently as descriptors are added, deleted or changed