Trial and Error: California Students Make the Best of an Improving Yet Complex Transfer Process

November 2016

Student transfer processes from the California Community Colleges (CCC) to the California State University (CSU) have been simplified somewhat over the past few years, but they remain complex and confusing for most transfer students, according to students, administrators, and staff at several community colleges and CSU campuses. Transfer processes—from planning and course-taking at a community college to applying to and enrolling at a CSU campus— remain burdensome for students, despite the services provided by institutions and the implementation of the new associate degree for transfer (AD-T). Many transfer students, to make it through, employ strategies that were described to us as trial and error. College administrators, staff, and students said that students need more help interpreting transfer requirements.

These findings are based on research by the Education Insights Center (EdInsights) examining policies and practices in California that support student transfer from the community colleges to the CSU. Previous research has documented the complexity of transfer processes in California. In 2010, the state enacted the Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act to streamline transfer from the community colleges to the CSU by creating a new degree, the AD-T. This research examined how students experience policies and practices related to transfer from community colleges to CSU in the context of the AD-T, which was implemented in 2012. Findings are drawn from interviews with 26 administrators and staff at six community colleges and four CSU campuses, and from focus groups at the four CSU campuses with 64 students who had successfully transferred from a community college.

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