Thousands of incoming California Community College students will receive a personal email from University of California President Janet Napolitano this week. Her message: Attending community college can open doors to a world-class UC education.

The letter was sent to 130,000 students in their first year of community college who had expressed interest on their entrance application in going on to complete a four-year degree.

The mailing is the first of its kind to reach such a broad cross-section of potential transfer students. It aims to get students thinking about and planning for transferring to UC while still in the early stages of their community college studies.

About 6,000 military veterans enrolled in California community colleges received a similar letter from Napolitano that contained specific information about the various support services available to military-affiliated students on UC campuses.

Simplifying the transfer process

The letters are part of Napolitano's initiative, launched in December 2013, to streamline the transfer process, and encourage students from a broader range of community colleges to apply.

About one-third of all entering UC undergraduates are transfers from a California community college, but most come from fewer than a quarter of the community colleges in the state. UC administrators hope to change that by making the transfer process easier to navigate, and by reaching out with additional information on financial aid and other resources to prospective transfer applicants at community colleges throughout California.

The goal is to help students zero in more quickly on which classes they need to be UC-eligible so they spend less time taking courses that don't offer credits toward transfer.  

The emails point students to resources such as UC’s Transfer Application Planner (UCTAP). Students can use UCTAP to track their progress in completing the courses needed to transfer to a UC campus in their desired major.

The financial picture

It also offers information about the extensive financial aid available.

“Many students don’t realize that an education from the best public university in the world can be a very affordable option,” Napolitano said.

In fact, 63 percent of transfer students pay no tuition, thanks to UC’s Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, which covers full tuition and fees for students whose families earn less than $80,000 a year. Three quarters of transfer students qualify for some form of financial aid to offset the price of tuition.

Of the roughly 16,000 community college transfers who come to UC campuses each year, 86 percent go on to earn a UC degree, a rate that not only matches but slightly exceeds that of students who enter as freshmen.

UC is unique among the nation's top research universities in enrolling and graduating so many community college students. Other selective institutions accept a smaller overall percentage of transfer students than UC does — and of those, many are coming from other four-year schools.

Nevertheless, officials are committed to doing more to support transfer students — including stepping up outreach efforts to let them know that going from community college to UC is an excellent option.

“Community college is a great way to prepare for a UC degree,” Napolitano tells students. “Just by attending a community college you’re opening the door to one of the best public research universities in the world.”