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Local School a Major Pipeline to UC

Moorpark College boasts the leading transfer rate to the University of California system for a campus of its size.

September 29, 2004|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

Even as they struggle with budget cuts, higher tuition and declining enrollment, Moorpark College officials are reveling in one bit of good news that they hope will attract more students.

Last school year, 269 graduates of Moorpark had enrolled at one of the 10 University of California campuses, making it the leading community college of its size in UC transfers, officials said. It also ranks among the top three of similar size colleges in the state to transfer students to the California State University system.

"These numbers really reflect our students' motivation, skills, work and the help they've received from faculty and staff," said Eva Conrad, president of the 14,200-student Moorpark College. "This is truly a community effort, but the primary effort is from the students."

In addition to the UC transfers, a total of 721 Moorpark College students enrolled in one of the 23 Cal State campuses, including 142 at Cal State Channel Islands in Camarillo. Only Butte College north of Sacramento and Bakersfield College placed more students in the Cal State system.

Also measured among colleges with 12,000 to 15,000 students, Ventura College had 151 UC transfers and 524 to Cal State schools last year. Much smaller Oxnard College, with an enrollment of 6,600, helped 47 students make it to UC schools and 200 transfer to the Cal State system.

"We're very proud of the transfer rates at all of our colleges," said Cheryl Heitmann, president of the Ventura County Community College District's Board of Trustees. "When we get these types of statistics, it just confirms the educational values we can offer our communities."

The news is especially welcomed because enrollment is down 1.7% at Moorpark, down 5.4% at Ventura (which has 12,000 students), and down 8.8% at Oxnard. Officials have blamed part of the decline on state budget cuts and increases in student fees.

But Candace Peyton, coordinator of the Moorpark College transfer center, said the campus has seen a gradual increase in its students going on to four-year universities. At the end of the 1999-2000 academic year, 175 students transferred to a UC campus, and 624 transferred to a Cal State school.

"The goal is to catch a student in their first semester to make sure they're on track with their general education requirements," Peyton said.

Each year more than 1,000 students transfer from Moorpark to four-year universities. Along with public universities, students have been accepted to USC, Loyola Marymount, Columbia, Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Peyton said old stigmas about attending one of the state's 109 community colleges have given way to more students enrolling to save money and ease entry into a four-year program.

She said USC, for example, announced last week that its incoming freshman class had an average 4.7 grade point average. But transfer students, she said, were still accepted with a 3.4 GPA.

Moorpark, along with Ventura and Oxnard colleges, have automatic transfer arrangements with several universities -- including the UC campuses in Santa Barbara, Irvine, Riverside and Davis, and the Cal Sate campuses in Northridge, San Bernardino, Sonoma and at Channel Islands. Admission is guaranteed to graduates who maintain a specified GPA, usually 2.8 or higher, and have completed 60 units of required classes.

Even with a fee hike this year to $26 per credit hour, community colleges are still a bargain. Rather than paying nearly $3,500 for in-state tuition and fees at a Cal State school, or $6,100 at a UC school, a community college student in Ventura County pays about $1,000 a year, not including books.

Aseneth Cota, director of Ventura College's transfer center, said students there were more likely to be minorities with less high school preparation for college and lower family incomes. When such factors were considered by the state chancellor's office, Cota said, the anticipated transfer rate was no more than 35%, but Ventura actually transferred 42%.

"We feel good about that, but we're constantly trying to improve the number of students who declare the goal of transferring," Cota said.

The mission is equally challenging at Oxnard College, said Olivia Menchaca, director of its transfer center.

"We serve a community with a high level of farm-working families and they will be the first in their family to enter college," Menchaca said. "We'd like to reach out to more students who don't know they could come in and take their first two years of studies at a community college."

Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura colleges will stage transfer days Oct. 11, 12 and 14, respectively, when students and the public can meet dozens of representatives from public and private universities.

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