By Harry Mok
Getting accepted at UC Berkeley was a dream come true for Tyrone Botelho, but when he started classes there, it seemed like a nightmare.
"My first semester I almost dropped out, it was so stressful," said Botelho, a senior at UC Berkeley who transferred from City College of San Francisco. "I had so many things going on in my life. It was really overwhelming."
Botelho, 25, who lived in 18 foster homes during high school, sought help from the Cal Independent Scholars Network, which is part of the UC Berkeley Transfer, Re-entry and Student Parent Center. The network provides support for former foster youth and is just one of many programs transfer students can use at the University of California's nine undergraduate campuses. After receiving counseling on time management, Botelho got his studies back on track.
"I got straight A's last semester," said the peace and conflict studies major.
Botelho is among an increasing number of community college transfers coming to UC, which is committed to expanding its capacity to enroll transfers, streamlining the pathway and supporting the students once they arrive on campus.
UC makes room for more transfers
UC has boosted its enrollment target for transfers by 1,000, while reducing freshman enrollment goals by 3,800, during the last two years. For fall 2010, a record 22,851 transfer students from California community colleges were admitted to a UC campus, 16.5 percent more than in 2009. Of those admitted, 15,718 indicated their intent to register this fall, nearly 2,000 more than the previous year.
UCLA typically enrolls nearly as many transfers as it does freshmen each year. For fall 2010, UCLA has an estimated 3,227 transfers and 4,454 freshmen. For fall 2010, UC San Diego set records for transfer admissions at 7,700 with 2,815 of them saying they would enroll. Next year, some of them could be living at the second phase of the Village at Torrey Pines, campus apartments dedicated to transfers, which are set to be completed in June 2011.
The final numbers for fall 2010 aren't in, but UC expects to meet or exceed its goal of enrolling 14,000 transfers.
Students, UC both benefit
"Attending community college and then transferring to UC is a cost-effective option both for students and for the state," said Shawn Brick, associate director for admissions, transfer policy, at the UC Office of the President.
For students, cost is one of the main benefits of taking the transfer path to UC. Many community college students live at home before transferring, which saves money on housing and food. Fees for classes are much lower at a community college compared to a four-year school. Taking 12 units a semester, considered full-time at a California community college, costs about $600 per year. A full-time UC undergraduate pays at least $10,302 per year in fees.
For the university, transfer students cost less to educate since they spend fewer years at UC obtaining a bachelor's degree. The shorter time spent to graduate frees up space for more students. They also help enrich the campus climate. California community college students are often from underrepresented and educationally disadvantaged groups, which potentially can help diversify UC's student body.
Making it easier to transfer
Efforts to streamline the pathway for transfers are under way and are among the priorities of the UC Commission on the Future. Those efforts include developing more consistent systemwide lower-division requirements and enhancing the ASSIST transfer-course information website.
UC's streamlining efforts are in line with bills Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed this year that highlight the importance of transfer students. Senate Bill 1440 guarantees admission to a California State University campus for community college students who obtain associates degrees. Assembly Bill 2302 calls on the UC system to study what it can do to simplify the transfer process.
California's Master Plan for Higher Education requires UC to give all eligible students from state community colleges priority transfer admissions. Currently seven UC campuses — Davis, Irvine, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz — offer guaranteed admission to California community college students who meet specific requirements. In the Transfer Admission Guarantee program, students receive early review of their academic records, early admission notification and guidance about major preparation and general education coursework.
Different programs for different needs
Money isn't the only reason students choose a transfer pathway. Some students go to a community college first because they want to explore different majors. For others, it's a second chance if they'd gone to a university and dropped out. Parents, who might have put their educational pursuits on hold when they had children, also often use the transfer route. Many military veterans begin their pursuit of an education at a community college.
For Heather McConnell, 28, the transfer route has entailed years of balancing parenting, school and, until recently, work.
"You just kind of focus on the end goal and the task at hand," said McConnell, who transferred to UC Davis this fall and is majoring in neurobiology, physiology and behavior with hopes of becoming a veterinarian. She's also a recipient of a 2010-11 Osher Reentry Scholarship. Her daughter, Casey, 9, keeps her motivated through the ups and downs.
"At the end of it all, I'll be better able to provide for her," said McConnell.
Transfers also tend to be older than incoming freshmen and, due to their varied backgrounds, they have needs that differ from four-year students. Because of this, UC campuses have a variety of outreach and support programs for transfers, tailored to re-entry students, students with families and veterans. These support programs provide academic advising, help with navigating the financial aid process, guidance in finding scholarship opportunities, peer counseling and networking.
"They're all in some kind of transition, but not all the same transitions. They're all moving in a different direction," said Shirley Sperry, an adviser at the UC Davis Transfer Reentry Veterans Center. "A research university is totally different than a community college, which is closer to high school in comparison. When they get here, it's just different."
Many re-entry transfer students work, must take care of children or have other responsibilities, which preclude them from spending as much time on campus as other students. So they come to class and then leave, said Alfred Herrera, assistant vice provost for academic partnerships and director of the Center for Community College Partnerships at UCLA.
"We have to create programs that are valuable to them and work around their schedules," such as providing services on Saturdays and evenings, Herrera said.
Peers reach out
UC campus outreach efforts to community college students include campus visits, student advising and peer mentoring, along with statewide academic preparation programs such as Math Engineering Science Achievement and the Puente program that help prepare transfers for a four-year institution.
Herrera said peer mentoring and advising from someone who's been through similar experiences recently is an effective way to help community college students.
"It just made (a UC education) seem obtainable, when before it just seemed out of reach," said Andy Castro of receiving peer counseling when he was a community college student.
He's now a senior anthropology major at UCLA and works as a peer mentor to Los Angeles area community college students.
"I'm not only one who's been through what I have," said Castro, who didn't realize the options he had while "floating around" and attending classes at several community colleges. "I let students who may be struggling know that they're not the only ones," he said.
UCLA has had peer-mentoring programs, where successful transfers work with community college students, for more than 10 years.
"It makes a huge difference when a recent transfer student talks about their community college experience and what they're doing now at UCLA," Herrera said. "It means more and makes more sense to (community college) students, since they see themselves in the peer mentors and realize they too can transfer to a four-year university."
Ambrosia Shapiro, 23, transferred to UC Santa Cruz from nearby Cabrillo College. She said she would have been lost, literally, without the help of students and counselors working in the Transfer Partnerships Program, which offers support for transfers.
"They took me on I don't how many bus rides around campus until I felt confident enough to navigate on my own," said Shapiro, who, like UC Berkeley's Botelho, also is a former foster youth.
The counselors also worked with her to make sure her lower-division requirements were in order prior to transferring, and she was surprised to discover she had enough credits.
"It helps to have a current student go over it with you," Shapiro said.
The assistance Botelho received from UC Berkeley's transfer center got him acclimated to campus life.
"I've really enjoyed myself at Cal," he said. "It just took time to adjust to the new workload."