Like many community college students, Pierce College sophomore Gregory Truempy is concerned about where he will transfer to finish his education.
"I want a degree that will look good on a resume," he said. "I think that a UCLA degree will look just fantastic."
The chances are better than ever for Truempy and other community college students who want to earn a degree from UCLA, thanks to a pilot UCLA program that guarantees priority admission to transfer students from designated community colleges.
In fact, transfer applicants from these community colleges may have a better chance of being admitted to UCLA than their counterparts from other University of California campuses or the California State University system, according to some educators.
The most recent entry to the program is Long Beach City College, which has been participating since November. It joined 10 other community colleges in UCLA's Transfer Alliance Program in which qualified students are guaranteed a spot as juniors in UCLA's College of Letters and Sciences, said Gayle Byock, director of the program.
The College of Letters and Sciences, which includes the humanities, social, physical and life sciences, accommodates 19,500 undergraduates and is the largest of UCLA's colleges, said Juan Lara, dean of the department of interinstitutional programs. Admission cannot be guaranteed for the smaller School of Engineering, which has room for only 1,600 undergraduates, or for the School of Fine Arts, which is limited to 1,350, Lara said.
So far, about 550 students are enrolled in the UCLA program, Byock said. Long Beach Community College has about 50 students participating.
Students in the transfer alliance program must complete a group of courses that are more in-depth than the community college's regular course offerings, and they must maintain a 3.0 grade-point average.
Because a 1960 higher education master plan requires that the university's undergraduate population be composed of 40% freshmen and sophomores and 60% upperclassmen, the university is filled at the freshmen level, Byock said. But spaces are usually available in its junior class, she said.
Said Lara: "One of the ideals of the master plan was that students can come to community colleges and then transfer to four-year institutions." But, he said, that goal has eroded over time.
Transfers to UCLA from Long Beach Community College, for example, went from 30 in 1974 to 20 in 1984.
Based on the master plan, "our desired goal is to have 1,600 community college transfers," Lara said. Yet during the 1984-1985 academic year, only 886 transfers were from community colleges. "It's pitiful," Lara said.
Because of UCLA's guaranteed priority admission program and its emphasis on community college transfers, some educators believe that it might be better for students who want to transfer to UCLA to take their lower-division courses at a community college rather than at another University of California or state university campus.
Several community colleges have stressed this advantage in order to attract students and help reverse enrollment declines in recent years.
"It undoubtedly will be a good selling point," said Arlyss Burkett, public information officer at Long Beach Community College. "It is very attractive to the student who aspires to a bachelor's degree."
College of the Canyons in Valencia tells prospective students that by attending a community college they will not only be able to pay less tuition and stay closer to home for the first two years of their post-secondary education, they will also enjoy priority admission to UCLA, said Prof. Bradley Reynolds, coordinator for Canyons' High Intensity Transfer Education program.
Reynolds said a policy favoring community college transfers makes sense. "Students from UC and state universities have already been admitted to a four-year institution," Reynolds said. "Community college students . . . should have priority."
Gene Asher, special assistant to the president of California State University, Long Beach, said he saw no problem in granting community college students special priority in admission to UCLA. "One, I think, tries to have good relations with their feeder colleges," he said. "I would seriously doubt that it has any massive effect on the ability of our students to transfer."
But Robert Williams, director of community college relations for California State University, Northridge, took a different position. He said the policy is not fair to state university students who did not get into their first choice of schools.
Nevertheless, Williams said, "I would advise the students within our own system to go to a community college if a campus of the University of California system is giving a priority to community college transfers."
Mission Wants to Participate
Community colleges not included on UCLA's list are trying hard to get into the program.