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Your Most Committed Relationship May Soon Be With Cal State University

Students with backpacks walk through a plaza in front of the LACC Student Center, a low-rise building with an annex attached.
Students with backpacks walk in front of the LACC Student Center.
(Jackie Orchard
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Starting this summer, the entire 23-campus California State University system begins a dual admissions program.

The “Transfer Success Pathway” program will help students get another chance if they either didn’t get into a CSU campus or couldn't afford to go.

Students would agree to complete their general education requirements at a community college within three years, but then would be guaranteed a pathway toward finishing their degree with a chosen CSU school.

Higher education enrollment took a big hit during the pandemic, and Cal State schools rely on transfer enrollment from the California Community Colleges specifically. The university system's enrollment has fallen over the past two years, by tens of thousands of students since the pandemic started. CSU leadership has told its schools to shore up enrollment by fall 2024 or face funding cuts.

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Who is eligible for CSU's Transfer Pathway program?
  • Students who left or graduated high school in 2023 or later are eligible if they also meet one of three additional criteria: 

    • First-time freshman that were not CSU eligible at the time of high school graduation; or 
    • First-time freshman who did not attend a CSU due to personal or financial reasons; or
    • CSU redirected freshman who opted not to enroll at a CSU campus.

The Transfer Pathway program is CSU's answer to a different mandate, however. In February 2021, a state task force made several recommendations about how to improve higher education in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and longer-standing issues the pandemic made more apparent.

The Transfer Success Pathway program is a result of the California Governor’s Council's Recovery with Equity report and a July 2021 state law. The legislation requires the CSUs to offer a dual admission program by fall 2023.

The fine print

The Cal State System says it’s striving to accomplish several things, including increasing access for those who struggled in high school, reducing student costs, improving the transfer pathway, and making it easier to predict enrollment.

Students will also have more predictability in knowing what school they can transfer to upon community college graduation. In a meeting this week, CSU trustees were told that the Transfer Success Pathway program "will not preclude students from pursuing other educational pathways" while enrolled at a community college, but "will provide students and families with the assurance of a guaranteed pathway to a specific CSU."

Just exactly how big this program's impact will be depends on how deep into the weeds you want to get. Students will save money by attending community college for general education and other courses their first two to three years, but that has always been the case.

Students will still have to meet the CSU entry requirements. And there are exceptions to the guarantee based on "highly impacted" majors and campuses (that is to say, the popular ones).

And changes may need to be made in the Cal Grant system to afford more Transfer Entitlement Awards so that a substantial amount of financial aid is left for students when they transfer from less-expensive community colleges into CSU.

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The new transfer pathway starts with this summer’s graduating high school classes. Students can then enroll in community college and begin reaching out to their CSU campus of choice to find the requirements for admission and transfer. CSU is also rolling out a dashboard so students can track the courses they need before they can transfer.

What questions do you have about local community colleges?
Community colleges act as a gateway for first-generation students and adults seeking a second start. LAist reporter Jackie Orchard wants students — and those who support them — to have the information they need to thrive in the California Community College system.

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