Newsom signs bill creating new transfer pilot program between UC and community colleges

Court of Sciences at UCLA. (Courtesy UCLA)

In a bid to make it easier for California’s community college students to transfer to the University of California, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Tuesday to create a new transfer pathway between the two systems.

The transfer pathway created by Assembly Bill 1291 will start as a pilot program at UCLA, with students getting priority admission if they complete an associate degree for transfer in select majors beginning in the 2026-27 academic year. The specific majors haven’t yet been determined, but UCLA will have to identify at least eight and another four by 2028-29. At least four of the majors will be in a science, technology, engineering, or math field.

The new pathway would expand to at least four additional UC campuses, also in limited majors, by 2028-29.

The bill doesn’t, however, guarantee students admission to their chosen campus. If a student is not admitted to their preferred campus, the student will be redirected and admitted to another campus.

Supporters of the legislation say it would help to streamline the state’s complex transfer system since students can already earn an associate degree to get a guaranteed spot in the California State University system.

“By working together, California’s three world-leading higher education systems are ensuring more students have the freedom to thrive, learn, and succeed,” Newsom said in a statement. “With this new law, the Golden State is streamlining the transfer process, making a four-year degree more affordable for transfer students, and helping students obtain high-paying and fulfilling careers.”

Newsom signed the bill despite opposition from the statewide student associations representing UC and community college students. In a statement last month urging Newsom to veto the legislation, they said they were dissatisfied because it doesn’t give students a guaranteed spot at the campus of their choice.

The bill’s author, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, said in a statement that it will help to “tackle a long-standing goal in California: to simplify and streamline the transfer paths” for community college students. “This bill gets UC into the game with universal transfer pathways and will increase economic opportunity and prosperity for all Californians to help our state economy thrive,” he added.

Currently, UC lacks a systemwide transfer guarantee for community college students. There are separate transfer admission guarantees at six of the system’s nine undergraduate campuses — each of them except UCLA, Berkeley and San Diego.

But those separate guarantees each have different requirements for admission. And students who are also interested in transferring to Cal State have to simultaneously deal with that system’s own distinct requirements.

Earlier this year, McCarty authored another bill, Assembly Bill 1749, that would have gone further than the more recent legislation by requiring UC to admit all eligible students who complete any associate degree for transfer, like the California State University system already does.

UC opposed that bill, arguing that it would be a disservice to students in certain STEM majors because they would enter UC underprepared for some upper-division courses. UC officials then negotiated the details of AB 1291 with the governor’s office, McCarty and other key lawmakers.

“I am proud that 27 percent of University of California undergraduates begin their educational journey at a California Community College and go on to thrive on our campuses,” Michael Drake, UC’s systemwide president, said in a statement. “The University is committed to attracting and supporting transfer students, and we look forward to continuing to partner with transfer advocates such as Governor Newsom, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, and others in the state legislature on streamlining the transfer process.”

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