Anna is studying to become an elementary school teacher at Valley River College. Her friend Evelyn wants to be a criminal analyst like on “CSI.” Both are Latinas, second-year students, and graduated from the local high school. Evelyn plans to earn her associates degree first so that she can start working immediately before potentially transferring to a four-year institution to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Anna wants to get her associates degree as well, but insists she will transfer to the local regional university to get her bachelor’s degree and credential to become a teacher. Anna came to Valley River College (VRC) because her older sister (by two years) attends. As our conversation unfolds, Anna shares, “I really haven’t thought about the whole transfer thing” or “how to get my bachelor’s.” Anna mentions that neither her sister nor her friends at VRC have transferred, yet. I follow up asking them if they know where to get transfer advice or support. Both mention the transfer center, but have not visited yet.
My conversation with Anna and Evelyn were held at one of the six green tables available in the inner-quad area of the Student Services Building. This area houses Admissions and Records, Counseling, Assessment Center, the Fiscal Office, Financial Aid, Career Center, Transfer Center, and Student Orientation. As we talk about educational goals and transfer pathways we are sitting 20 feet away from the transfer center’s doors. Inside the transfer center, there is a staff of three including a student worker, program assistant, and director. The walls of the center are filled with colorful posters, highlighting the colleges and universities across the country. Partly covering the walls are three bookshelves lined with brochures, fliers, and other information about transferring, applying, and getting financial aid. It is early November when I visit, only a few weeks away from the transfer application deadlines, and the staff are discussing upcoming workshops and classroom visits to remind students of the looming dates.
Walking out of the transfer center, the inner-quad area is busy with student traffic, as construction has temporarily closed down many of the paths to get through campus and limited the number of place places students can sit and eat. On this day there are over 40 students in the area, some waiting to be called into financial aid or the counseling center, a few eating lunch, and others like Anna and Evelyn just waiting until their next class starts . The stories of Anna and Evelyn are similar to the other students I spoke with at VRC. They are stories of students entering community college aspiring to attain their bachelor’s degree to become teachers, journalists, and mathematicians, but face numerous challenges to transfer out. These stories also run common with the 2.3 million students who are enrolled in community colleges throughout the state of California (CCCCO, 2014); a state where nearly three-fourths of all undergraduates are enrolled in community colleges and sixty percent aspire to obtain a degree or transfer, but less than twenty-five percent actualize that goal (IHELP, 2007; CPEC, 2014).
As I interview students, observe the transfer center, and develop a better sense of the campus, I reflect on my purpose for being there. Over the last year I have studied transfer reform policies that were enacted to ease the transfer process between the California Community College (CCC) and California State Universities (CSU) systems. My focus has been on examining the policy at the institutional level, looking at how practitioners (e. g., administrations, faculty, and staff) put the policy into practice. One of the priorities of the policy of interest, the Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act of 2010 (SB-1440), was creating an easier pathway to transfer for the top 25 majors. Early Childhood Education was one of those top majors which could benefit Anna who aspires to become an elementary school teacher and will need to transfer to a college that awards bachelor’s degrees and teaching credentials. Anna’s story is a reminder that although policies maybe well-intended, students cannot take advantage of a policy of which they are unaware.
Just the beginning of the writing process, but wanted to share. Let me know what you think.