Which community college transfers more students to the University of California or the California State University system? Santa Monica College claims the title, but so do Pierce College and even Moorpark College. And they’re all correct, officials say. It just depends on how you crunch the numbers. “You can always pick out a specific data element that will make your particular college look good,” said Darroch “Rocky” Young, the Los Angeles Community College District chancellor widely credited with crafting Santa Monica College’s successful marketing strategy in the 1980s and 1990s. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals “How do you determine the denominator? `How come you haven’t included any of the private school transfers?’ `It should be calibrated by the size of the college.’ `No, what really matters is the percent change.”‘ It’s a complicated argument, but one with high stakes, as the district’s nine campuses try to reverse the declining enrollments that resulted from a series of fee hikes and state budget cuts. With the variety of course and the quality of professors, the likelihood of helping students transfer to a four-year university is being viewed as an increasingly important element in choosing a community college. “To a certain extent, transfer has been glorified not only at the colleges, but in many cases by the Legislature, as one of the golden outcomes,” said Patrick Perry, state vice chancellor of technology, research and information systems. “Transfer is a lot more sexy than, `How many automotive technicians did you graduate this year?”‘ Statewide, California’s 109 colleges sent 12,580 students to the UC system, and 48,317 to the CSUs in 2003-04, the most recent statistics available from the California Post-Secondary Education Commission. The 23,000-student Santa Monica College transferred 900 students to UC campuses, the most in the system; and 1,121 to the CSU, the fourth-highest rate, according to CPEC. The 25,000-student De Anza College, in the South Bay community of Cupertino, led the state in transfers to CSU schools with 1,327. But those figures don’t stop Moorpark College from claiming it is tops for transfers to the CSU system and second for UC transfers. And it’s true – among colleges with enrollments of 12,000 and 15,000 students. That range conveniently leaves out Santa Monica College – now with about 24,500 students – and Pierce College, with 18,000. But Jeanne Brown, public relations director for Moorpark College, said it really isn’t fair to compare the campus best known for its “teaching zoo” to Santa Monica College, which has the University of California, Los Angeles, “right in their backyard.” Santa Monica College transfers the most students statewide to the UC system, the most students for both systems combined, and the most underrepresented minorities to the UC system. But more troubling to other colleges is the urban legend that admission to UCLA is guaranteed if you attend Santa Monica College. The community college did have a unique relationship with UCLA in the 1980s, before transfer centers were common, but there’s no more of a guarantee with Santa Monica than with any other community college. Still, Santa Monica College spokesman Bruce Smith said that while the campus’ size, proximity and long relationship with UCLA are among the reasons for its success, it simply tends to attract more students who want to transfer to the four-year school. “We do tend to attract the better and the brightest,” Smith said. “We were one of the first to have an actual transfer center in the early ’80s, and that’s been our mantra for years and years and years.” West Los Angeles College, just eight miles from Santa Monica College, is trying to convince students that it, too, can get them to UCLA. Ed Pai, research analyst for the college, noted that although Santa Monica topped the state in African-American transfers to the UC system, with 31 in 2003-04, tiny West, with only 9,600 students, sent 20 African-American students to the UC system. Pierce College, meanwhile, likes to refer to a report that ranks campuses based on the differential between expected and actual transfer rates for specific student groups from 1993-99, 1994-2000 and 1995-2001. That report showed Pierce performed about 6 percent above its projections, the best rate in the state, said spokesman Mike Cornner. Valley College ranked fourth, with about 5 percent, and Mission College was seventh, with 4 percent. But the state Chancellor’s Office has determined there are numerous factors that affect a college’s transfer rates, many of them beyond the college’s control, Perry said. Geography plays a huge role in whether a college is a transfer powerhouse, particularly to students who are stuck in one location because of their jobs, said Murray J. Haberman, CPEC executive director. Community colleges near four-year universities also tend to have stronger ties as feeder schools to those colleges. Barstow College, with 3,200 students, 80 miles away from the nearest four-year public university, is less likely to have a high transfer rate than a college like Fullerton College, with 18,700 students and a mile away from California State University, Fullerton, Perry said. Barstow sent 2 students to the UC system and 45 to the CSU in 2003-04, compared to Fullerton’s 166 to the UCs and 1,078 to the CSUs. Colleges that serve lower-income populations or students who are less academically prepared also tend to have lower transfer rates. And some colleges are more focused on vocational training programs than preparing students to transfer to a four-year university. About 35 percent to 40 percent of community college students who intend to transfer to a four-year-university actually do, a percentage the colleges have sought to improve by strengthening matriculation agreements with other schools and beefing up campus transfer centers to help students through the complicated process. However, not everybody who attends community college has their heart set on a bachelor’s degree. Some only need an associate degree, or a professional certificate. Others are taking classes just for fun or personal growth. In the end, Perry said, the number of students who transfer is just one indicator of how well a college is doing, and doesn’t tell the whole story. “The success of any student is based primarily on the student,” Perry said. “Students who are diligent and work hard can be successful anywhere.” Lisa M. Sodders, (818) 713-3663 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. 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