Transfer: A Political Issue or A College Mission?

Vice President

In the past academic year, considerable attention of legislators, academics, and the larger community was devoted to the transfer mission of the California community colleges, one of two primary missions we have-though only one of six missions adopted by the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges.

Whether it was the infamous and generally reviled "low-transfer list" that awakened the general public; or the clamor of some students for common course numbering that they mistakenly believed would solve all their transfer dilemmas; or the legislative response in the ever-mutating AB 1603 Common Course Numbering bill; or the research on the success of IGETC (see below); or the implementation efforts on behalf of the Memorandums of Understandings (MOUs) crafted by our Chancellor and the system heads of University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU); or the Dual Admissions Proposal (DAP) of the UC, or the continued efforts of discipline faculty to align expected competencies as defined through the Intersegmental Major Preparation Articulated Curriculum (IMPAC) project; or the work of California Articulation Number (CAN) System or ASSIST or student friendly; or the "Transfer: The Next Generation" initiative of the California Education Roundtable, the word for the year seemed to be TRANSFER. Within the community colleges, we were told to increase articulation, get the numbers up, move those students on without, as one CSU administrator noted, "any unnecessary or noncredit academic work." All of these matters have been discussed and debated in Academic Senate publications, during Area meetings, and at our fall and spring plenary sessions.

Pressured by our own institutional goals, and by college administrators as well as legislators who wished to see measurable performance and accountability, too often we faculty felt as if we were being asked to turn to our students and "Round `em up, and head them out," as if they were cattle. Yet we must acknowledge the heroic work conducted, both by the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges and its representatives to statewide efforts, and especially by the thousands of local community college discipline and counseling faculty who resisted that approach and chose to see our students as human beings with vital potential and their progress not as numeric items in bureaucratic reports but as genuine scholarly efforts that deserved thoughtful consideration beyond mere tallying of credits in the name of transfer. For faculty, transfer remained a shared and complex effort.

As we commence a new academic year, it behooves us, then, to look at the current status of some of the more visible transfer efforts of last year to place them within the larger context that this coming year portends.

CAN: The California Articulation Number System (CAN) received a much-needed boost as a result of three separate actions:

  1. Our UC and CSU transfer partners extended the activities of CAN through their work in the IMPAC project, and by agreeing in the Intersegmental Committee of Academic Senates that the UC Council of Academic Senates would appoint faculty to sit on the CAN Board of Directors; in turn the CAN Board will reexamine its processes to address the concerns of UC faculty about the actual CANning of courses. These efforts seek to make UC a full partner in the work of CAN.
  2. The Chancellor of the California Community Colleges declared CAN to be the official third numbering system and directed colleges and districts to implement this project fully on their campuses. This action is not inconsonant with previous Academic Senate resolutions and papers (especially The California Articulation Number (CAN) System: Toward Increased Faculty Participation, adopted Spring 1998).
  3. The Legislature passed (though at the writing of this article Governor Davis has not signed) AB 1603, calling for 71027.5 to be added to the Education Code, to read:

The Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges, relying primarily upon the advice and judgment of the statewide Academic Senate, and using existing policies of shared governance, shall maintain the California Articulation Numbering System so that it serves as the common numbering system for California Community Colleges. so that it may be applied to all California Community College major preparation courses that are applicable courses for transfer to a four-year institution of higher education.

Under new leadership and a new director, the CAN organization has much to accomplish. The systemwide efforts to further implement and enhance CAN will occur, irrespective of AB 1603's potential enactment into law: such implementing actions are responsive to student concerns, enable students to make better academic plans and choices, and are just plain sensible. Despite the claims of some that this new law would represent an unfunded mandate, much of the work to achieve its aims can-and is-being done already as part of the CAN processes, the IMPAC project reviews, increased articulation efforts by all segments, and ongoing, daily work of senate faculty, articulation officers, and transfer center directors. A list of suggested responsibilities of campus entities-including administrators, faculty, local senates, and students themselves-is being prepared for distribution. We urge the local senates to consider the challenges and suggestions posited by that document.

DAP: At its Spring 2001 Plenary Session, the Academic Senate for Community Colleges endorsed the concepts of a dual admissions program proposed by the UC; a significant codicil appearing in the resolution underscored the need to identify the appropriate and significant resources prior to any implementation of the promising proposal. The UC Council of Academic Senates subsequently adopted a similar endorsement, carrying the same conditional request. The UC Board of Regents approved the proposal during this past summer; however, given the reduction of funding to all three higher education segments, the UC announced that this highly trumpeted proposal would be shelved for at least this coming year because of funding constraints.

IMPAC: The IMPAC project continues to sponsor faculty-to-faculty dialogues to identify competencies and academic experiences of students transferring into the major at UC or CSU. The agreements reached by discipline faculty seek to ease transfer for our students by reducing duplication of courses or course content while simultaneously ensuring that our students are capable of successful work in the major upon transfer. IMPAC sponsors discipline discussions this year in these 16 disciplines: biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, agriculture, computer science, earth sciences, foodsciences/nutrition, nursing, CIS, criminal justice, business, economics, and political science, geography, and engineering. Funded by a grant, this transfer initiative is not jeopardized by the funding cuts sustained by our public segments. See for more information.

IGETC: The ICAS-supported research evaluating the success of IGETC (The Use, Effectiveness, and Awareness of the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC): An Evaluation) was published and subsequently presented Fall 2000 Plenary Session. The report documented the overall student satisfaction with the IGETC option. This academic year, IMPAC faculty will consider the creation of an IGETC-like path for highunit science major. Now playfully dubbed SciGETC, this concept is only in its infancy but has received enthusiastic support in IMPAC discussions thus far.


CSU Dual Admissions: Presently Academic Senate representatives are participating with CSU faculty colleagues and system representatives to discuss the plausibility of a CSU Dual Admissions program. This plan will be discussed at a breakout at this fall's plenary session, November 1-3 in Cerritos. While the CSU dual admissions project appears to be on CSU's fast track, many implementation questions remain, and primary among them are issues of resources-human and fiscal.

While the faculty-shaped and faculty-driven efforts continue rather harmoniously, the discordant note is the economic plight experienced by our state and collaterally within our segments. While politicians last year plied extraordinary pressures on our systems to increase "transfer numbers," some among them seemed particularly insensitive to the costs associated with improving transfer rates: ASSIST, whose work is essential for transfer and for CAN itself, was denied a budget augmentation and its current budget is nearly one-half million dollars below what is needed simply to maintain its efforts; PFE funding was not increased; and, of course, while CSU and UC sustained budget reductions, the quality of education within the California community colleges was threatened by both the initial slashing of our base budget by $98 million and by the increasing injustice of FTES funding below the national average and far below that of our transfer partners.

Further, if history is any indication, periods of economic downturn generate additional need for displaced workers to build their skills or retrain for new employment. This would not appear the time to reduce our potential to serve our communities, rather the time to augment the efforts to fulfill our mission-ALL of our missions. Given, then, the limitations of our fiscal conditions-whether or not the subsequent bill for full budget restoration is signed-the Academic Senate must unite to withstand undue pressures, to be certain that the political interests in transfer do not overshadow the broader educational needs of the millions of other students who enter our doors.