Santa Monica and West Los Angeles community colleges this fall are part of a Scholars Program that will provide qualified students with "guaranteed priority admission" to five universities including UCLA.
Guaranteed priority admission means that students who complete the program with at least a 3.0 (B) average will be assured admission to any one of the five universities, all in Southern California.
The pilot program, which involves 550 students from nine Los Angeles-area community colleges, is "starting out small" because universities cannot guarantee an unlimited number of admissions, said Gayle Byock, director of academic program development at UCLA.
About 400 students are planning to go to UCLA, she said.
Scholars Program participants from Santa Monica and West Los Angeles colleges also can designate as their school of choice California State University, Northridge; Pepperdine University; Loyola-Marymount University, and USC.
The program is designed to increase the number of community college students who transfer to four-year schools, officials said.
Last year, only 5,300 of about 1.1 million students in community colleges statewide transferred to the University of California.
In the past 10 years, the number of transfers to UCLA from Los Angeles County community colleges has dropped about 50%, according to Byock. While 1,224 students transferred from local community colleges to UCLA in fall, 1974, only 602 transferred in fall, 1984, she said.
Santa Monica College's transfer rate to four-year schools is better than those of other community colleges, according to statistics compiled by James Heinselman, president of Los Angeles Harbor College.
One reason is that Santa Monica has a high proportion of academic students while other community colleges have more vocational students, officials said.
Of 2,704 sophomores enrolled at Santa Monica College in fall, 1983, 651 (24%) transferred to the University of California or the California State University systems in fall, 1984, Heinselman said. Overall, Santa Monica has about 1,000 students a year transferring to four-year schools, added Darroch Young, administrative dean of instruction.
By contrast, 162 (10.7%) of 1,519 sophomores at West Los Angeles College in fall, 1983, transferred to the University of California or the California State University systems in fall, 1984, he said.
Santa Monica College has 125 students participating in the Scholars Program, and West Los Angeles has 57, according to school officials.
To qualify, students must have at least a 3.0 average in high school, attend community college full time and complete a core curriculum including courses in English composition, literature, biology, physical science, history and psychology.
Byock said courses at the community colleges are designed to provide a "continuity of curriculum" so that students do not suffer from what she called "transfer shock" when they go to UCLA.
Students will be more comfortable if they know the courses they have taken are comparable to UCLA's and that their teachers are working with the UCLA faculty, she said.
The Scholars Program includes guest lectures, seminars and other services designed to introduce students to participating universities, Young said.
"We have always had a very successful transfer program, and this will not replace it but will serve as a sort of adjunct to it," he said.
The idea of the Scholars Program originated with Santa Monica College and UCLA, then expanded to the other schools, Young said. Planning has lasted for a year, with the first students entering the program this semester, he said.
The other participating community colleges are Los Angeles City College, Los Angeles Harbor College, Los Angeles Valley College, Pierce College, Pasadena City College, El Camino College and College of the Canyons.