The newly instituted 1440 degrees are both a positive and negative for community college students.
The result of the Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act (SB 1440), which was signed into law in 2010, was the creation of specialized Associate of Arts degrees and Associate of Science degrees. Once a student completes one these degrees, they are guaranteed admission to California State University system.
In addition to admission, students will receive priority consideration for entry into their major program.
While these changes are undoubtedly good for students who seek transfer, it represents a trend in California’s education system towards narrowing the focus of community colleges.
Community college was once a place where, in addition to working towards transfer, students could take classes at their own pace for no other reason than their own personal development.
Junior colleges were meant to enrich and improve the communities that surround them.
Along with this change, California schools have cutting course offerings to emphasize transfer eligible classes, the limiting of course repeatability and limiting fee waivers and financial aid grants.
All the changes signal a fundamental change in the purpose and mission of California’s junior colleges.
Where once they were places of higher learning where a person, regardless of income or standing in society, could come and have the time needed to learn and grow at their own pace— they now run the risk of becoming little more than transfer factories.
Understandably, times are tight in California— especially in its educational system. School budgets have been slashed across the board. Teachers and staff are being laid off regularly.
As the economy improves, which it eventually will, much of what has been cut from budgets should be restored. Teachers and administrators should be rehired. There should be large-scale rollbacks to restore full access to as many students as possible.
When more funds are available, community colleges in California can once again become what they have always been and should always be— bastions to that great American idea that anyone with the will to work and improve their standing in life always has a chance to do so.