Getting on the same path

Rio Hondo Community College President Dr. Ted Martinez Jr., left, CSULA President Dr. James Rosser, center, and El Monte Union High School District Superintendent Nick Salerno sign a pledge of cooperation at El Monte High School in June 2011.

Millions of students have studied at state community colleges eagerly looking forward to transferring to four-year universities.

By teaming up with local community colleges and high schools to better prepare students for college, Cal State L.A. is helping to smooth the transfer process.

“We’re trying to ensure that students leave high school more college-ready and thinking about college. We let them know that they can be successful through a community college and then have a smooth transition to the university,” said Anthony Ross, vice president of Student Affairs.

Earlier this year, the University entered into an agreement with Pasadena City College and the Pasadena Unified School District that will guarantee admission to PUSD students who fulfill general educational requirements to transfer. In June, a similar compact was made with Rio Hondo College and the El Monte Union High School District. These school districts were selected for the partnership because they are among the biggest “feeder” schools for Cal State L.A. outside of the Los Angeles Unified School District, Ross said.

In both accords, students will be admitted if they are deemed college eligible, have mastered college preparatory curriculum, and passed the Early Assessment Program test.

“We have a mission to recruit and educate our local citizens,” Ross said. “By doing so, we strengthen the California economy because when those students get into the workforce they’re typically going to stay in their local communities.”

The recent compacts are a result of the Student Transfer Agreement Reform Act (Senate Bill 1440), which was signed into law in September 2010. The law requires community colleges to grant an associate degree for transfer to a student once he or she has met specified general education requirements. Then, students are guaranteed admission at junior status into the California State University (CSU) system.

“This compact will help increase and enhance our ability to transfer students to Cal State L.A. And make it a choice for students from the very beginning,” Henry Gee, Vice President of Student Services for Rio Hondo College, said of the El Monte Union Pledge Compact.

The transfer assurance provides an incentive for students, Gee said, and promotes local institutions of higher education, debunking the myth that you have to travel outside the area to get a top-notch education.

“We have to do better to educate students in the community that we have hidden jewels right here,” he said.

Dr. Cynthia Olivo, associate dean of counseling and student success services at PCC, agreed that the Pasadena College Commitment will help motivate students and provide them a more defined pathway toward their educational goals.

“What we find here at Pasadena City College is most students start with an undecided, undeclared objective,” said Olivo. “They may be trying to explore interests, but the clock is ticking, and at the end of two years, they haven’t achieved an outcome.”

PCC’s program is set up so students take general education classes together to create a peer network and help build community to reinforce positive academic behavior and support.

Though some aspects are still in the early planning stages, CSULA’s Dean of Undergraduate Studies Alfredo Gonzalez said one of the desired outcomes of the partnerships is to better coordinate curriculum standards among the institutions.

“We will encourage our faculty to engage with their faculty in the various disciplines so we begin to have conversations and better align learning outcomes in various courses so that it becomes a more seamless transition from middle school to high school to college than what it is now,” said Gonzalez, who participates in a group overseeing the PUSD-PCC partnership.

Ross notes that these partnerships are works in progress and will evolve to meet the needs of those institutions involved. Efforts to identify other major “feeder” high schools and community colleges are also in the early planning stages.