Senate Bill 1440: The Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act

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Erik Skinner serves as Executive Vice Chancellor of Programs in the Chancellor’s Office of the California Community Colleges (COCCC). His responsibilities include oversight of office’s divisions including: Academic Affairs; Student Services and Special Programs; Economic Development and Workforce Preparation; College Finance and Facilities Planning; Technology, Research, and Information Services; and Governmental Relations. Previously, Mr. Skinner served as Vice Chancellor for College Finance and Facility Planning in the same office. Prior to coming to the Chancellor’s Office, Mr. Skinner served as Assistant Secretary for Fiscal Policy, advising the Secretary of Education on matters related to the state education budget, higher education and school finance, and Proposition 98. Previously he served in the Office of the Legislative Analyst, specializing in school finance, Proposition 98, and higher education funding. Before working in education finance and state government, Mr. Skinner served for several years as a job developer and employment counselor in welfare-to-work programs in Los Angeles County. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Grinnell College in Iowa and a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

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Erik Skinner, Executive Vice Chancellor, Programs, Chancellor’s Office,CA CCC

The Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act (Senate Bill 1440, Padilla), which became law on January 1, 2011, is intended to simplify the transfer process between the California Community Colleges and California State University systems. This article contains an overview of the transfer reform legislation, an update on the implementation status, and a review of next steps necessary to fully operationalize this important education initiative.


In these challenging times for California public education, it is good to have something wholly positive to celebrate and implement. The Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act (Senate Bill 1440, Padilla), which became law on January 1, 2011, will simplify the transfer process between the California Community Colleges (CCC) and California State University (CSU) systems. For the first time in California history, community college students who complete an associate degree designated for transfer will have a clear and guaranteed pathway for admission to the CSU system at junior status. By streamlining the transfer process, this initiative promises to fundamentally improve California higher education by making it more student-friendly and increasing institutional efficiency.

The problem. The transfer process in California has long been criticized as a maze for students, lacking transparency and replete with local rules and changing requirements. These deficiencies were recently documented in a report from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office that found that community college students transferring to a CSU graduated with an average of 162 units when the minimum requirement is 120 units. One reason for this is that community college students transfer with an average of 80 semester units when only 60 semester units are required. In addition, students arriving at the CSU are often forced to retake units to make up for courses that did not transfer from their community college.

The solution. At its core, SB 1440 is a simple proposition: provide CCC students with a clear, statewide roadmap to transfer and then guarantee them CSU admission if they follow it. Below is a description of some of the specific features of the legislation as well as a listing of benefits to students:

Key Elements of SB 1440

§  Creates an associate degree for transfer that guarantees admission with junior standing to the CSU system.


§  Defines this degree as having sixty transferrable units that include the IGETC or CSU GE Breadth pattern and 18 units in a major or area of emphasis.


§  Provides these students with priority admission to their local CSU campus and to a program or major that is similar to their major or area of emphasis at the community college.


§  Prohibits the CSU from requiring students to repeat courses that are similar to courses completed as part of the associate degree for transfer at the community college.


§  Prohibits the CSU from requiring students to take more than 60 units to complete a 120-unit baccalaureate degree.

Benefits for students and the colleges

§  Recognizes the associate degree as the measure of preparation and readiness for transfer to upper-division course work at the CSU, thus shifting the authority for defining lower division major preparation to the community colleges.


§  Reduces the need for students to take unnecessary courses, thereby shortening their time to degree completion and reducing costs for students, community colleges and the CSU.


§  Eliminates confusion caused by different and shifting major preparation requirements for each CSU campus.


§  In the words of CCC Chancellor Jack Scott, “SB 1440 puts the needs of California’s community college students first. This law is going to make a real difference for students. The current process is too complicated. It’s easy for students to get frustrated, confused and waste time when the requirements change.” Streamlining the transfer process will promote student success and expedite student progress.


§  By curtailing the problem of excess units, we estimate that instructional capacity will be freed up to serve roughly 40,000 additional community college students and nearly 14,000 CSU students each year. Serving these students by funding additional slots would cost the state approximately $160 million annually.

Implementation Status: Much Accomplished, Much Work Ahead

In the five months since SB 1440 became law, much progress has been made towards implementing this significant new transfer opportunity.  As a result of collaborative efforts between the two segments’ Chancellor’s Offices and Statewide Academic Senates, and with the help of numerous faculty and staff volunteers from our colleges and universities, a curriculum strategy for these new degrees is well under way. That said there is no question that SB 1440 implementation is still a work in progress.

Implementation and Oversight Committee. The CSU and the CCC have established a joint task force charged with the implementation of SB 1440. The joint task force is working to ensure coordination between the CSU system and California community colleges for a smooth implementation process, and may also make recommendations for further legislation, regulatory changes or other policy changes. The group includes representatives from the CCC and CSU systems including students, student services administrators, faculty, academic administrators, and campus presidents. (A complete listing of the committee members can be found at the website provided at the end of this article.)

Transfer Model Curriculum. At the heart of SB 1440 implementation is the development of statewide templates known as Transfer Model Curricula (TMCs), which were built and vetted by discipline faculty in both segments. The TMCs are intended to guide and simplify the development and approval of associate degrees that provide strong transfer preparation, are consistent with SB 1440 requirements, and facilitate the mapping of these degrees to similar CSU baccalaureate degrees. At this time, TMCs for four majors (Sociology, Psychology, Communication Studies, and Mathematics) have been developed by intersegmental discipline faculty groups. In addition, TMCs in Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Business, Geology, History, Physics, Theater and more are being planned during the spring and fall. Additional detail on the TMCs can be accessed at

Degree Approvals. Now that several TMCs have been constructed, community colleges are developing and submitting for approval new degrees based on the TMCs. The rate of submission has been rapidly increasing in recent weeks and we expect to see a sharp rise in the number of approved degrees in the near future.

Next Steps

§  Developing additional TMCs. As noted above, the Statewide Academic Senates continue their work in developing degree templates in other disciplines. It is our goal to have TMCs for the top 20 transfer major completed by the fall of 2012.


§  The CSU Chancellor’s Office will soon announce their process for giving priority to an out-of-area student to a campus under impaction. It will give SB 1440 transfer students a GPA “bump” and specify that supplemental admission requirements will be limited to GPA only (not additional coursework).


§  The CSU Chancellor’s Office will soon announce a process for giving priority registration to admitted students holding a SB 1440 associate degree for transfer.


§  Now that several degrees are developed, it will be important to develop counseling and advising materials for college personnel. While some additional guidance will be forthcoming in the near future, we expect that more complete advising and admissions guidelines will be developed for next fall.


§  Once more SB 1440 degrees are approved and necessary policies and guidance are in place, a public outreach campaign will be needed to inform students and their families about this significant new educational opportunity.


While there is still much work ahead, there is no question that we are well into the implementation of an historic reform that will fundamentally improve the functioning of California public higher education. Only five months after SB 1440 became law, we can say with confidence that SB 1440 associate degrees for transfer will be in place on community college campuses this coming fall and we are poised to rapidly increase the number and types of degrees offered over the course of the next year. These degrees are an important step forward in helping our students to more effectively achieve their educational objectives. As we proceed, I encourage your interest, involvement, and support.

The SB 1440 Implementation and Oversight Committee continues to meet monthly with responsibility for the implementation of this new law. To follow the policy discussions and decisions of the committee, visit our website at: