UC president meets with college leaders in Merced

09/04/2014 2:17 PM

09/04/2014 7:20 PM

University of California President Janet Napolitano met with about 10 California community college leaders Thursday in Merced to discuss ways to increase the number of transfers from the colleges to schools in the UC system.

In May, Napolitano outlined a comprehensive strategy to make it easier for those students to make the move.

The report, titled “Preparing California for Its Future: Enhancing Community College Transfer to UC,” recommends that UC schools reach out more broadly to California’s community colleges, especially those located in underserved regions.

“Thirty percent of our undergraduates come from the community colleges. They are transfer students, and they do very, very well,” Napolitano said Thursday. “They graduate. They succeed academically. But we can do even more.”

Across the UC system, more than 40 percent of enrolled students are first-generation students, which means neither parent finished school at a four-year university. The number is higher at UC Merced, where 62 percent are first-generation college attendees, according to the most recent numbers from the university.

Napolitano said leaders discussed ways to better inform community college students on how to transfer to a UC, as well as how to get financial aid. Leaders also shared ways for instructors from both levels of California schools to collaborate on curriculum, she said, allowing for more classes to be transferable.

Napolitano said Merced was the site of the first meeting because the San Joaquin Valley could be a good place to increase transfers. The Valley also is home to an estimated 40,000 alumni who could help spread the message, she said.

“This is the first of similar-type meetings I plan to have around the state as we really work to link these systems together,” she said.

According to the report on community colleges, 166,143 underrepresented minorities were enrolled at a California community college in 2012-13, but fewer than 500 students fitting the same demographics transferred to a UC school that same year. African American, American Indian, and Chicano or Latino students made up 46 percent of the enrollment at community colleges in 2012-13, but 25.9 percent of the transfers from a community college to a UC school.

The demographics are shifting in the state, according to UC leaders. For the first time this year, the UC system welcomed a new class that was made up of more Latino students than white students.

Merced College President Ron Taylor said the upward mobility from a two-year college to the university level is especially important for “needy” students and families. Approximately 70 percent of Merced College students qualify for financial aid such as the Board of Governors Fee Waiver, which covers tuition costs.

Taylor said he believes community colleges and UC schools work well together and he expects the bond to improve. “It’s already good; it can only get better,” he said.

With an enrollment of more than 10,000, Merced College hands out hundreds of degrees each year. For the 2012-13 school year, 73 students transferred from Merced College to one of the 10 schools in the UC system, according to numbers from the UC system.

Young people in the Valley also have an opportunity in their backyard as UC Merced continues to see record growth. The school welcomed its 10th enrollment class last month.

UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland said students who transfer in from the community college level graduate at comparable or higher rates than those who came into UC Merced from high school.

“Our community colleges are doing a really good job in preparing students for the University of California,” she said. “What we’re focused on is getting that message out.”

The meeting coincided with “transfer day” at Merced College, when representatives from four-year universities are on campus to answer questions from prospective transfer students.

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