Bridging the Gap


The plan consists of cutting general education requirements from 51 to 36 hours (the equivalent of about 76.5 and 54 UC quarter units, respectively), with an additional six GE hours left to be taken at the four-year university. The proposed plan hopes to improve transfer graduation rates and prevents transfer students from squandering undue sums of state funding.

Their plans to allow more GE requirements to cross over from community colleges to four year colleges will likely be successful in boosting transfer graduation rates.

Under current circumstances, 51.7 percent of CUNY transfer students in 2009 graduated within five years — a result of varying graduation requirements within the CUNY system.

Helping students make a smooth transition from community college to a four-year university is a challenge for all state university systems. According to October 2010 CUNY reports, transfer students spend approximately $72 million in tax dollars annually on courses that eventually lead them to far exceed the 120 units necessary for graduation.

California addressed this problem by instituting a Transfer Admission Guarantee between all California community colleges and California public universities. To transfer to UCSD, for instance, students must meet the required 3.5 GPA minimum and complete the required UC English and math courses by the spring of their transfer year. Most UC transfer students enter at the junior level after completing 60 semester units and GE requirements.

Though the general requirements for UC transfer students are straightforward, they don’t address the main issue for CUNY transfers — taking non-GE courses that will transfer and help them finish a degree in time. The California government helps students determine which classes to take through an interactive website found at, which allows students to check their community college courses to see if they are accepted for credit at each of the CSU and UC campuses. The website allows students to input their campus and major to help decide which classes to take — and, more importantly, what is transferable to other universities.

At UCSD, 71 percent of transfer students are able to take all of the classes they need to earn a degree in three years or less, according to the UCSD Spring 2010 Transfer Update.

Despite the apparent boon to efficiency, however, the CUNY proposal has been met with criticism. CUNY professors, such as Scott D. Dexter and Emily S. Tai, of the Computer Science and History departments, respectively, claim that because the faculty won’t have enough say in the required curriculum, the quality of education is likely to suffer. Some administrators also say that CUNY is running the risk of becoming a degree mill, with the goal of sparing state funding outweighing that of educating its students.

In response, the CUNY faculty senate proposed an alternate plan to allow for 30 credits of general education and an additional 16 credits from four-year universities, which will add nearly a semester to students’ general education requirements. This plan will address the faculty’s worry that community college classes will fail to adequately prepare students for university, which may lead to poor grades and a devalued degree. However, this alternate plan makes it difficult for students to focus on their major requirements — and almost impossible to double major.

But according to the UCSD Student Research and Information Office, 53.2 percent of the transfer students who graduated in 2010 had a GPA of 3.0 or higher. The fact that the majority of UC transfer students were able to handle the university course rigor and maintain a high GPA suggests that CUNY students may well be able to manage the same.

Transfer students and the state are currently overspending on classes that, in the end, are not recognized by their transfer universities. Clearly, it is essential for a clear dialogue to exist between community colleges and four-year universities.

It is the state’s responsibility to ensure efficiency in public higher education; there’s little point in a community college system that doesn’t adequately prepare students for the classes required of them at a four-year university.

Readers can contact Madeline Mann at [email protected].