California's Transfer 'Mismatch'

June 8, 2007

Latino students are more likely than others to start their college educations at community colleges. A new report from California documents the difficulties many of those students have moving on to four-year institutions and draws attention to the long-term impact low transfer rates could have on Latino degree achievement.

The report finds "an ongoing mismatch" between Latino students' goals (many of those who enroll at community colleges aspire to transfer) and what actually happens to these students. The report, "An Examination of Latina/o Transfer Students in California's Postsecondary Institutions," was prepared by the Chicano Studies Research Center at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Using data from various state agencies, the report notes that the overwhelming majority of Latino college students enroll in the state's community colleges. Of every 100 first-time Latino students, 75 enter community colleges, while 17 enter California State University campuses and 8 enter University of California campuses. Of the 75 at community colleges, only about 7 on average will transfer -- 6 to Cal State campuses and 1 to a University of California campus.

While many community college students don't necessarily want four-year degrees, the study found that the rates of transfer are significantly below what they should be, based on students' stated goals. At the point Latino students enter community colleges, 40 percent say that they aspire to transfer to a four-year institution, and another 28 percent say that they are undecided.

The low transfer rates are one explanation for the widening gap between the percentage of Latino students that the report found in different sectors of higher education. Those gaps are particularly important as Latino students are expected by next year to make up a majority of those in the state's elementary and secondary schools.

Latino Students' Share of California Enrollments

  1995 2000 2003
K-12 33% 43% 47%
Community colleges 25% 29% 31%
California State U. 20% 24% 25%
U. of California 14% 13% 14%

The report cites data to make the point that these gaps not only affect enrollments at the undergraduate level, but at the doctoral level as well. Between 1990 and 2000, the report found that 23 percent of Chicano doctoral recipients had started their educations at community colleges, a far larger percentage than was the case for other ethnic and racial groups, for which the figures were: Puerto Ricans at 6 percent, Native Americans at 19 percent, black students at 10 percent and white students at 11 percent.

The report urged state officials to insist on a "transfer culture" -- both at community colleges and at the four-year institutions that could enroll the two-year graduates.

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