Diminished Access to the Baccalaureate for Low-income and Minority Students in California: The Impact of Budget and Capacity Constraints on the Transfer Function

May 2005

California’s 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education promised all students a chance to pursue a baccalaureate degree by guaranteeing a place at one of the public 4-year institutions for all students who successfully fulfill a minimum set of requirements at a community college. However, capacity constraints in the state’s public colleges and universities are calling into question this promise of access to the baccalaureate. Dramatic cuts to higher education budgets combined with significant enrollment pressures and fee increases are reducing access for students who are lower income and underrepresented minority whose primary gate to the baccalaureate is through the community college transfer process. This article draws on data analysis and interviews with system and campus administrators to document the mechanisms by which access for these students is being restricted. The article discusses policy implications for California, and outlines lessons for other states experiencing similar social, demographic, and fiscal trends.

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