In the second of a series of working meetings, University of California President Janet Napolitano met with 15 community college leaders on Monday (Nov. 24) to discuss ways to make the transfer process simpler and easier for students.

Napolitano is holding such conversations with representatives of community colleges across the state as part of her initiative to improve the transfer process.

Participants, representing community colleges from Sacramento, the Sierra Nevada and the state’s northern counties, said they welcomed the new partnership with UC. The meeting was hosted by Sacramento City College and its president, Kathryn Jefferey.

"In all my time in higher education, I’ve never had a meeting like this,” said Sierra College's William Duncan, a 17-year veteran of the California Community College system, reflecting on the collaborative atmosphere.

“We’re not competing with each other for more of the pie," Napolitano said. "Our view is that the pie is too small, and that the pieces together make a better whole."

In the past, said California Community College Chancellor Brice Harris, California’s three segments of higher education — UC, California Community Colleges and California State University — have, at times, tended to compete for state funds, in the belief that increased investment in one segment would come at the expense of the others.

“We don’t believe that to be the case,” Harris said. “We’re thinking differently about funding for higher education than generations of leaders did in the past.”

In 2013, 30 percent of new undergraduates entering UC were community college transfer students.

"It is a great, cost-effective option” for obtaining a world-class university education, said Rachel Rosenthal, president of Folsom Lake College.

But the complexity of the process and the differing prerequisites among campuses discourage many qualified students from applying, participants said.

And far too many qualified students don't realize that UC offers one of the strongest financial aid programs in the country.

In fact, 63 percent of current UC transfer students pay no systemwide tuition or fees because their costs are fully covered through UC’s Blue and Gold opportunity program and other financial aid. Another 12 percent receive some financial aid. Just one-quarter pay the full tuition price.

Participants discussed ways to engage students and families earlier in their academic career about the value of the transfer path, including providing them with information about financial aid.

“If you’ve got counselors in high school saying community college and UC together are a great path, that is really powerful,” Rosenthal said.

Napolitano pledged to explore a number of ideas put forth by participants, including one that would develop a program to provide ongoing academic advising and mentoring for high-achieving students all along the transfer path, from high school through community college.

Officials discussed strategies to increase UC’s presence on community college campuses, and to build more opportunities for community college students to visit UC and get a taste of campus life.

Napolitano said the university is looking for ways to make transfer requirements more consistent across campuses. It also is considering the expansion of transfer guarantee programs that ensure students a spot at a particular UC campus if they achieve certain academic goals.

She stressed that any of those efforts would be of limited impact unless UC has the capacity to enroll more students — and that depends on greater financial support from the state.

All three segments of public higher education in California need to work together to increase capacity across the state's public higher education landscape, Napolitano said.

Harris agreed. Additional funding to help community college students transfer “doesn’t make sense if other segments aren’t able to boost their capacity,” he said. “We’re going to have to convince the legislature to increase seats or we’re going to have some really unhappy students.”