Students who satisfy UC San Diego requirements for the freshman and sophomore years while studying at the three San Diego Community College campuses will be guaranteed admission to UCSD as juniors under a joint agreement announced Friday.
The agreement is only the second of its kind in the state, officials said. There is a similar link between Los Rios Community College District near Sacramento and UC Davis.
The agreement between UCSD and the community college district could ultimately mean several hundred students each year will automatically enter the prestigious university after completing a two year associate of arts degree (A.A.) that covers the same general education courses taken by UCSD lower-division students.
The agreement both clarifies and expands on the existing state Master Plan for Higher Education, which envisions many high school graduates enrolling at community colleges for their first two years and then transferring to one of the eight undergraduate UC campuses or one of the 19 California State University campuses.
"This is an attempt to ensure that the transfer function works," said UCSD Chancellor Richard Atkinson, who signed the agreement at a press conference with community college district board president Gene French.
"We are telling students that there is automatic admission if they take the required courses, achieve the necessary grade point average (2.4 out of a possible 4)," Atkinson said. "It will focus the attention of students (to the possibility of UCSD admittance) earlier . . . I don't think now that enough students are aware and plan for it. Here we are designing a specific set of courses that they can take to go directly into the third year."
Community college officials estimate that 300 students transfer to a UC campus each year from Mesa, San Diego City and Miramar colleges. But some do not have all of their course credits accepted and must spend extra time meeting UC general education requirements.
"The agreement gives (community college) students the opportunity to start right out on a (UC) track," French said. "It dissolves some major barriers . . . for some students, (such as) those who must work and go to school part-time at first, those who lack sufficient funds at the beginning and those who are not eligible right away for UCSD out of high school."
Atkinson emphasized the "second-chance" provision implicit in the agreement, noting that there are many students who have tremendous ability but, because they failed to put it to use during high school, cannot enter UCSD as freshmen.
"This also is an acknowledgement of the the quality of San Diego Community College programs," French said. "We long have felt that the quality of our instructors and programs is at the highest level and (the agreement) indicates the importance of our associate degrees."
At the press conference, Atkinson discounted implications that a UCSD-required general education course at the community college level, such as calculus, has less academic content than the same course at UCSD.
"A calculus course taught here (at the community college) is equivalent to a calculus course at UCSD," Atkinson said. "Perhaps such courses are more intense at UCSD but a student who does a good job at the community college can do a good job at UCSD.
"I'm not sure always what the difference is . . . maybe the community college course is more relaxed with a slower pace, is smaller. But there is no question that a student who does well here will do well at UCSD."
The agreement contemplates that faculties from both campuses will meet periodically to make sure that their respective general education courses mesh. Joseph Watson, UCSD vice president for academic affairs, said he expects considerable interaction between the two faculties, perhaps including professors cross-teaching courses.
Community College District Chancellor Garland Peed said that some students just out of high school, even if already eligible for a UC campus, are not yet mature enough to handle large classes or the highly competitive atmosphere at a four-year campus.
"I think the issue of maturity does come into play here," Peed said. "I think these students (signing the guarantee) will be very goal-oriented."
Watson said that UCSD expects soon to have similar agreements with the other community college districts in the county, mentioning the Palomar District, which includes Palomar and MiraCosta colleges. French said he would like to see the concept extended to agreements between the community colleges and San Diego State University, although no discussions have yet been held.