Courtesy of Beyond My Ken via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 4.0

In California’s latest budget proposal, Governor Gavin Newsom called for UCLA to join the University of California Transfer Admission Guarantee, TAG, program or risk losing $20 million in ongoing state funding. TAG currently guarantees admission to six UC campuses for California community college transfer students if they meet specific academic requirements. However, the most competitive UC institutions—UCLA, UC Berkeley, and UC San Diego—are not a part of the program. Governor Newsom says the plan would “simplify the transfer process” and increase slots for California students, creating a more direct California community college transfer stream to the UCs. The UC system should adopt TAG systemwide and increase equity for California students to access higher education in UC’s most competitive universities.

The transfer process is complex as community college students must choose between an Associate Degree for Transfer, ADT, at the California State Universities or TAG at the UC campuses. UC leadership also noted that singling UCLA out is unfair as the campus could face severe financial repercussions for failing to meet requirements not imposed on other UC campuses. 

Because of the complex and convoluted nature of the current transfer process, TAG should be implemented at all UC institutions. By clarifying the academic requirements of necessary lower-division courses, earning a minimum GPA, and major qualifications, TAG simplifies the process for both UC campuses and students. Like CSU’s systemwide ADT — a guaranteed transfer plan for all CSU campuses — TAG establishes a single, clear, and understandable transfer system for community college students while increasing equality and access to UC’s most competitive campuses. 

UCLA does have a good track record of enrolling transfer students. In 2022-23, UCLA reported it enrolled 3,300 transfer students and 74% of transfers graduated within three years—which is comparatively better than the 63% systemwide. However, with nearly half of admitted transfer students coming from wealthy community colleges such as Pasadena City College and Santa Monica College, the UCs are not equitably serving all California transfer students. 

According to California Community Colleges reports, 46% of students are Latino, 35% are first-generation, and 64% are low-income, particularly in the Central Valley and Inland Empire. Many underrepresented and underserved students choose a community college path to higher education due to greater financial accessibility. By implementing TAG, under-resourced transfer students who take an alternative path could have an equal opportunity to attend any UC campus. 

Concerns about the issue of overcrowding UCLA’s campus — a relatively congested area in Westwood—are also being raised by opponents. However, employing TAG at UCLA would not change the number of enrolled applicants but rather widen the community college applicant pool. Transfer requirements and qualifications to UCLA would remain highly competitive with admitted students possessing a 3.9 median GPA for acceptance. Moreover, UCLA recently purchased $80 million worth of new property, allowing them to expand their student body. 

In the past, UC has generally guarded its academic and administrative freedom—even against the legislature—to ensure politics doesn’t interfere with its mission. Still, California residents pay tax dollars to fund UC campuses, and the state legislature and Governor allocate public funds towards the system. In return, the University of California educates California students. 

With fewer California students being admitted to UC campuses and an unnecessarily overly complex transfer application process, UC is not equitably serving all California students. TAG would guarantee an alternative and straightforward pathway to higher education at UC campuses while increasing equity and fairness in the application process for all California transfer students.