Freshmen and transfer students need adequate resources in order to succeed in their academic programs at the University of California. While there are certainly services devoted to both types of students, because only 20% of each entering class is composed of transfers, there are decidedly fewer programs for this particular group. In some cases, transfer students may be clumped with freshmen students for certain on-campus festivities, providing a less-than-ideal environment for acclimation.
Thankfully, the University of California, Merced is hoping to change the landscape for transfers. The newest UC campus recently received a $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, and the entirety of its funds will go towards a program that will benefit re-entry and transfer students. The program, entitled “Degree Attainment for Returning and Transfer Students,” will be housed in UC Merced’s Calvin E. Bright Center for Success, which provides student advising and tutoring services for its 5,800 undergraduates.
This program will be a positive step towards transfer student inclusion. As relayed to the Merced Sun-Star, UC Merced’s Bright Center Director, Elizabeth Boreth, noted that “transfer students can’t recognize each other as they pass in the hallways, they don’t form a community the way everyone else does. They’re going through a different transition.” In a campus where only about 100 students out of 1,700 new enrollees are transfers, the feeling of alienation is only magnified by a lack of resources to help with the transition.
One of the mail goals of the Degree Attainment for Returning and Transfer Students Program is to increase retention numbers and graduation rates for transfers. After I transferred to UC Davis from Skyline College, like many other transfers, I had a difficult time transitioning to the quarter system, workload, and courses, and I am grateful that my school had a program in place to support students like myself. At UC Merced, the grant will help achieve the program’s mission by creating three full-time staff positions, including a transfer counseling and career coach, in addition to part-time transfer student staff who will work directly with other transfers to offer peer-to-peer advice. If funds are allocated according to current plans, the new program will be able to sustain itself through 2018–ample time to begin fostering a strong community among the transfer and re-entry students.
The new program comes off the heels of timely news regarding transfers from the UC Board of Regents. University of California President Janet Napolitano expressed interest in increasing the number of students transferring to UC. During her tenure as UC President, Napolitano hopes to increase funding for transfer student programs, in addition to implementing tuition freezes through a new tuition policy.
Previously, there were no specific on-campus transfer success programs at UC Merced. However, the recent grant from the Department of Education clearly aligns with President Napolitano’s vision towards helping this group of students succeed. While the program is still in development and will take some time before it proves to be a success, transfer students now know that they will have a support system in place for when they begin their studies at UC Merced.