TURLOCK — Two-stepping it to a college degree has become more popular for Central Valley students in a tight economy with even tighter higher-education budgets.
Application rates, especially transfer requests, have shot up at California State University, Stanislaus. Transfer applications have increased 26 percent in the past year as more and more students are opting to go to junior college first.
"It's tough to get into Stanislaus these days," said Modesto Junior College student Victor Ochoa, who plans to transfer to the Turlock university in the fall. "I have heard a lot of people were having trouble transferring because so many people want to get in."
Ochoa is among the fortunate, part of a guaranteed transfer program between MJC and CSUS.
Dave Tonelli, associate vice president for communications and public affairs at CSU, Stanislaus, said based on reports, there has been a 12 percent overall increase in applications from the past year. The vast majority are transfer students.
"This phenomenon is not uncommon. Almost all CSU campuses are experiencing an increase in applications," he said. "The boost has been attributed to enrollment limits driven by state funding reductions in recent years more students are in the admissions queue."
CSUS Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs Suzanne Espinoza said the enrollment restrictions on incoming freshmen have made transferring even more attractive. She said the university is doing its best to accommodate students who have gone the community college route first.
"We really want to give those students a chance, who have done what they can other places first," she said. "But we acknowledge it's not a perfect situation."
MJC Career Development and Transfer Center Coordinator Leticia Cavazos has seen a large increase in students wanting to transfer in the past three to four years. Last year, she said, about 1,000 MJC students went on to one of the California State University campuses, with about 70 percent of those going to Stanislaus.
"The economy changed the whole outlook," she said. "A lot of students not even thinking about it before are now considering it."
Because of the increased demand, she said it is more important than ever for students to be focused and on track. Also, deadlines to apply have moved up. Before, students could apply for transfer enrollment as late as April. Now the deadline is in November.
Cavazos said the best thing students can do is take advantage of guaranteed transfer agreements such as MJC has with CSU, Stanislaus. About 25 percent of students do so. For the Stanislaus program, students must fill out a contract a year in advance that shows they have finished 30 units, have a plan to complete the final required units that year and maintain a minimum 2.5 grade point average.
MJC has similar agreements with all the University of California campuses except UCLA and Berkeley.
James Moak, a second-year student at MJC, took advantage of the guaranteed transfer program. He said he wanted to finish his degree as fast as possible so he could start working.
"The reason I was so motivated to try to look for ways to get in is because last spring, we all saw things in the paper about admissions shutdown for spring transfers, so I started asking around," he said. "So many students are making college a five-year thing. But if I had to do this another three years, to struggle and work off savings, I couldn't do it. The (transfer program) made all the difference."