How One University Partnered with Community Colleges to Increase Their Enrollments

TalkingEDU_Logo-576877-editedDeclining high school student populations and increased tuition costs are just a couple of the challenges that college and university admissions officers face when it comes to recruiting students. If challenges really are opportunities, how can both private and public institutions increase enrollments? One way is to reach out to community colleges students and help them earn a four year degree. For the University of California campuses, this transfer strategy is working.

As Scott Jaschik, staff writer for Inside Higher Ed notes in his recent post “Transfers Up at University of California Campuses” UC is expecting 28,750 transfer students out of a total of 137,000 new freshmen. This is the largest class of transfers in UC’s history. This milestone includes 23,000 California community college residents which “far exceeds that at most colleges with highly competitive admissions.” * Not only is UC successful in reaching transfer students, it is also meeting its goal of attracting a wider, more diverse student population. How did UC achieve these goals and what can other schools learn from their success?

Start with a Commitment

“Transfer students are an important part of UC’s strength, as well as an engine of social mobility for our state. Put simply, if we are serving transfers well, then we are serving the state well.”— President Napolitano

UC efforts began in 2013 with UC President Janet Napolitano bringing together students, staff, faculty and outside constituencies including the California Community Colleges and California State University. Napolitano presented a series of recommendations to streamline and strengthen the transfer process and broaden the range of students who transfer to UC.

The recommendations consist of a five point strategy:

  1. Enhance UC’s message to prospective transfer students that they can afford and thrive at UC and create resources that invite and help prepare them for transfer, especially underserved students.
  2. Increase UC’s presence at every California Community College (“CCC”) campus.
  3. Streamline and strengthen the UC transfer preparation process.
  4. Create a “Transfer Success Kit” by conducting an inventory of campus transfer services, identifying areas of need and developing a systematic approach to help welcome students to UC.
  5. Commit UC to working with CCC and California State University (“CSU”) to jointly engage in statewide strategic planning to improve the transfer pathway, present a united voice for higher education in Sacramento and with the California public, and increase the capacity of the segments to accommodate students.

The Transfer Action Team

While UC already boasts some impressive transfer student statistics - almost a third of UC undergraduates have transferred from a CCC and roughly 15,000 such students transferring to UC every year**  - the newly formed Transfer Action team’s goal was nothing less than strengthening the transfer process, making it “easier and more transparent.” The result of detailed analysis and brainstorming was the 57 page, 2014 report “Preparing California For Its Future -  Enhancing Community College Student Transfer to UC ” created by the President’s Transfer Action Team.

Part of the “Master Plan”

Napolitano and the California university system’s unique approach derives from the California Master Plan for Higher Education. While the plan outlines a number of initiatives and goals, the target for transfer enrollments is aggressive with 1 new transfer for every 2 new freshman.  Working from a series of questions intended to guide the Transfer Action Team’s reassessment of the various components of the transfer process, the team identified four areas for further exploration:

  1. Outreach and Preparation - How to improve the process of preparing and assisting CCC students for transfer to UC
  2. Transfer Admission, Diversity and Articulation - How to make the transfer process easier to navigate and attract a “greater numbers of underrepresented students” ***
  3. Student Transitions and Orientation - Making the services available for transfer students including housing options and student affairs assistance comparable to those services provided for new freshman
  4. Enrollment Growth and Impact - Exploring next steps for the university’s enrollment management strategy including continued commitment to the Master Plan, further discussion of the standards for enrollment overall and UC’s responsibility for out of state transfers

UC’s plans for enrolling more transfer students from California’s community colleges are driven by a number of anticipated process outcomes:

  • first to simplify the transfer process “building on structures already in place.”
  • secondly to make the transfer process more transparent by, providing “clearly defined and articulated pathways that delineate a road map for student transfer and completion of the baccalaureate degree.”
  • thirdly, “whatever solutions are adopted to achieve the goals articulated…should be sustainable, not one-time activities that may not help prospective transfer students over the long term.”
  • further, two specific student outcomes were identified: greater diversity and “improved academic completion and success.”

It has often been said, “as California goes, so goes the nation.” The strong commitment and coordination by UC and CCC has resulted in a clear pathway for in-state students. Community College addresses remedial concerns and other needed preparation such as identifying a major giving transfers as strong a start as new freshman when they begin attending one of UC’s many campuses. UC is leading the way to increased enrollments, a more diverse student population and higher completion rates with these bold, aggressive and well-coordinated efforts.                                                                                                                                                                                           



*Transfers Up at University of California Campuses - Insider Higher Ed

**Enhancing Community College Transfer"

*** This and all further quotes taken from Preparing California For Its Future -  Enhancing Community College Student Transfer to UC

Looking for more? Check out our library of resources.

Get Started