While Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called the legislation "a monumental step forward for California's higher education system," and a spokesman for Foothill College said the bills were overdue, one local education official said the new rules may be met with resistance from faculty.
The governor signed the bills on Sept. 29. Both were written to help streamline transfers from state community colleges to schools in the CSU system by requiring more uniformity in the process.
"It's been a long time coming," said Kurt Hueg, a spokesman for Foothill College. "It's exciting to see that Paul Fong and Alex Padilla were able to get this accomplished this year."
Sen. Padilla, D-Van Nuys, is the author of SB1440; Assemblyman Fong, D-Cupertino, is a former trustee of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District and the author of AB2302.
The Senate bill will require community colleges to offer associate degrees that are composed entirely of transferable courses, said Bernie Day, an articulation officer for Foothill College who works on agreements between her school and other CSUs stipulating which credits are transferable.
As it now stands, Day said, students who earn an associate degree are not guaranteed that all the units they take in their two-year programs will make them a junior if they transfer to a four-year CSU. Conversely, she said, students who focus on taking only the required units for transfer to a four-year program may not earn an associate degree at the community college level; if they don't graduate from the CSU after transferring, they will be left without a degree of any kind, despite all their work.
The Assembly bill calls on the University of California to adopt a similar system, and asks all three organizations — the CSU, the UC and the community colleges — to work collaboratively to create common core curricula and uniform transfer agreements.
Day said the new legislation presents some "inherent challenges."
Those challenges are due, in part, to scope: there are nine UCs, 23 CSUs and 112 community colleges. That accounts for about 3.5 million students in all.
Beyond that, Day said that faculty at all the institutions take pride in crafting courses that reflect their individual expertise.
"I think there is some concern about making degrees too homogeneous," she said.
Still, Hueg said, the current transfer system presents its own set of challenges that need to be addressed.
Right now, according to Hueg, articulation agreements — agreements regarding which community college units are transferable — are conducted on a college-by-college basis.
"The fact that there is no statewide architecture, or overall plan — that's a challenge," Hueg said. "Students can't assume that their courses are going to line up with whatever colleges they are trying to transfer to."
Day said she doesn't think the new legislation is necessarily a bad idea. "I think anything that serves students and makes it easier for them is good," she said. "How it plays out still remains to be seen."