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Guest Opinion | Elizabeth Moreno: The California Community

College Dream is Too Rare – We Need to Change That

Published on Wednesday, August 18, 2021 | 3:00 pm

[UPDATED] I am the poster child for the California community college dream. I am a proud first-generation Latina college student who spent two years at a community college, then transferred to a university. I’m currently on track to earn my bachelor’s degree.

But for the majority of students who hope to transfer, the odds are not in their favor. Only 2.5% of students who want to transfer manage to do so in two years. Even after six years, less than half of students will make it to a university.

I am in that 2.5% because I was lucky enough to meet an incredible counselor at Pasadena City College who introduced me to the Associate Degree for Transfer pathway.

This pathway put me on the fast track to earn my associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. On the Associate Degree for Transfer pathway, students earn an associate degree and are guaranteed admission to a California State University (CSU) with junior standing after taking 60 units at the community college. After completing 60 units at the CSU, students graduate with their bachelor’s.

Even after changing my major while in community college, the Associate Degree for Transfer kept me on track. My seamless transfer experience should be the norm.
Unfortunately, not every student knows about the Associate Degree for Transfer pathway when they start college. Depending on a student’s major and the universities they hope to apply to, there are literally hundreds of pathways to transfer.

Navigating those pathways is incredibly intimidating. Sometimes the required coursework listed on a university’s website is different from the coursework listed on ASSIST, the official online database for helping students transfer. And when using the online database, students have to understand what phrases like “articulation agreements” mean. Sometimes students find out too late that classes they’ve taken are not transferable. For many students, attempting to transfer is a crapshoot. With one bad roll of the dice, they end up taking more courses than required that costs more money and time. The confusing and complex transfer path leads students further away from a degree.

There is a better way for students, and I was lucky to have experienced this better way.

Through Assembly Bill 928, authored by Assemblymember Marc Berman, more students can have that community college dream experience. AB 928 would place students on an Associate Degree for Transfer Pathway when they start college, so they are set up to transfer successfully. The bill would also consolidate the multitude of general education pathways for students to transfer to a University of California (UC) or CSU campus, and it will create a committee to simplify transfer with representation from the UC, CSU, and California Community Colleges.

The policy changes brought about from AB 928 are particularly needed for Black and Latinx students, as the majority of Black and Latinx start their higher education journey at a community college. College success doesn’t just affect students; it uplifts our families and our communities. For socio-economic growth in our communities more students must have the opportunity to earn their degrees.

Every student deserves the experience that I had at Pasadena City College. My story shouldn’t be an outlier. Students work hard in class and during their studies, and that is how their success should be measured. Not by luck in meeting the right counselor or by figuring out an intricate system of agreements between colleges and universities. I hope our state legislature and college leaders embrace AB 928 and ensure more transfer students can succeed.

Elizabeth Moreno is currently attending Cal Poly Pomona.

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