Prioritize Pathways

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For almost 150 years, the UC system has tried to provide a college education to students, and California’s Master Plan for Higher Education has given it direction for more than 50 years. It took until 2016 for the state to realize the UC is failing California students by prioritizing out-of-state students over in-state ones.

Tuition is rising across the country, and university education is becoming less accessible for students. Many students are turning to alternative paths like community college to obtain higher education but aren’t being supported. While the UC is making strides in creating opportunities for prospective transfers, the lack of focus on in-state students combined with diminished resources at community colleges are making the road to a university degree tough to navigate.

Illustration by Kaileen Smith
Illustration by Kaileen Smith

The California state auditor recently found that the UC wasn’t prioritizing in-state students over out-of-state students — only 12.4 percent of the California graduating class was accepted UC-wide, .1 percent less of what is required from the Master Plan. And of course, out-of-state and international students bring in more money when they have to pay $24,708 more than resident student to go to a UC.

Amidst the mandate by the UC to enroll 10,000 more students, Californians are left wondering how many it will take for the UC to start prioritizing where it’s necessary. Rather than treating the university like a corporation, the UC should be working toward providing education to students in its own state — especially low income students, transfers and historically underrepresented students.

The UC is taking steps to accommodate more transfers, and it announced its plan to offer support to transfer students across community colleges with the expansion of its Transfer Pathways program. An 11 additional Transfer Pathways were finalized this month, for a total of 21 pathways developed for the most popular majors for transfer students, covering two-thirds of all transfer admissions applications the UC receives.

The program is setting up a multitude of community college courses that apply to common majors within the UCs. It also aims to diversify the applicant pool of students who want to transfer into the UC system.

While this program serves to benefit transfers, these students are substantially under-resourced at the community colleges where the program will be implemented.

Before starting at four-year universities, transfer students face a multitude of obstacles that can derail the transition. Credits sometimes don’t transfer to a four-year university, and many community colleges face a severe lack of resources and routinely find themselves subject to budget cuts. With budget cuts come program cuts like reduced advising hours and staff, less academic resources, fewer classes offered and majors being cut altogether. Similarly, classes are usually much smaller, accommodating maybe 50 students maximum, whereas many classes at the UC can take place in 100-400 person lecture halls.

There are resources like assist.org which make it easier for students to find the requirements to transfer, but if majors are so impacted that it’s impossible to get into classes, what good are these services and programs like the Transfer Admission Guarantee or Transfer Pathways?

While the pathways program does provide resources for transfer students, getting acclimated to the speed and expectations of a four year university can also be challenging. If the UC says community college transfers are a priority, they need to extend resources to bridge that gap.
Of the 10,000 incoming students, one-third are anticipated to be transfers, which is important for California’s demographics. But these students will be entering a university system where they will have to compete for bed space, seats in class and general accommodations across campus.

While it’s important that the UC has implemented programs that try to increase in-state admission, the UC still makes a staggering $728 million from the nonresident tuition fee that out-of-state and international students pay.

Furthermore, the report by the state auditor found the UC had lowered its standards to admit 16,000 students with lower test scores and GPAs than the system-wide median scores. The UC should continue to provide quality education, particularly to those who have not historically had access to it, not lower its standards to make a larger profit.

The state audit points to an obvious problem that should have been fixed a long time ago. The UC cannot pride itself on inclusivity when it’s excluding students based on their profitability.