Thursday, March 08, 2012

My Monday Class

On Monday after my 11am class, I will be happy to speak to UCLA students about my views on undergraduate transfer students.    Here, I would like to preview my main points.  I will also be happy to answer any student questions.

In my six years at UCLA,  I have taught thousands of students and many of them have been transfer students.  Many of these students have excelled in my classes and I hope to attract excellent transfer students in the future.

A few days ago, I posted a quickly written blog post.  After re-reading my blog post, I realized that it was inappropriate and I wasn't proud of this entry.  In the past, I have re-written major parts of blog posts as my thinking has changed over time and as I have learned about a subject.   I revised my post and included an apology and posted it here.

If I could turn back time,  here is what I would say;

1.  I want UCLA to become an even stronger university which excels at teaching and research.

2.  Transfer students deserve to be at UCLA and are important members of the UCLA Community.

3.  If UCLA could raise more endowment money for financial aid, then I would want the transfer students to transfer in after 1 year at another institution so that they could have at least 3 years at UCLA.

The main point of my post was the importance of having our students be at UCLA longer (as close as possible to 4 years).

Here are two points that I believe but I recognize that these points could be false for some students at some colleges and in some fields of study.

p      Claim #1     The more time you spend at UCLA, the more connected you are to other students and faculty at  UCLA.

     Claim #2;        UCLA offers a better first two year education than Community Colleges.  I teach first year students.  We have excellent TAs in this class.  I take my teaching in the College very seriously.  I had assumed that UCLA offers an excellent education in the first two years that is better than nearby  Community Colleges.   If this point is false, then UCLA must work harder on improving its first two years of education.  If I am right, then we owe it to our transfer students to help them to transfer in as soon as possible to improve their undergraduate educational experience.  

I must add that I met with Dean Judi Smith today.  She taught me several things.  I now understand that there are several very strong community colleges in the LA area that specialize in teaching small classes and staff the classes with Professors who hold Ph.Ds from UCLA and that several of these have special tracks that students take to prepare to transfer to the UC.  This is great and I didn't know this.    That said, for the tuition we charge undergraduates, UCLA better offer an even better undergraduate experience.  So, note that this is a relative statement not an absolute statement about the quality of nearby community colleges.

Based on these two claims, I believe that UCLA's long run financial future would be strengthened by encouraging more of our transfer students to transfer in earlier and ideally to be 4 year students or at least 3 year full time students at UCLA.    

Regular readers of this blog know that I have blogged about my views on how to make UCLA a stronger university that has the financial resources to remain excellent.   To recap, my thinking;

1.  The Undergraduate population would be 60% California and 40% out of state students.  The out of state students would pay a tuition that is 20% below the Ivy League rate.   Under this formula, roughly tens of millions of extra revenue dollars would be collected and undergraduate financial aid could be greatly expanded.

2.  The UCLA in-state tuition would be set by the campus and wouldn't have to be the same rate as charged by other campuses such as UC Davis.  Similar to Harvard's financial aid formula, the tuition could be based on household income.

3. Major gifts such as the Luskin donation should be used for hiring faculty and improving Ph.D. financial packages so that we can improve undergraduate education.

4.  UCLA should have the same transfer student percentage as UC Berkeley.


Vince said...

The few posts of yours I have come across leave me wondering how you managed to become at professor here at UCLA. I guess being an economic professor you never had to learn to think critically. Your ignorance, most recently regarding transfer students and California Community Colleges, absolutely stupefies me. I'd advise you to know what you're talking about before you open your mouth about something again.

Vince said...

I would not trade my two years at a community college for two more years at UCLA. Furthermore, community colleges provide UCLA with an incredibly diverse and talented pool of students; to eliminate or reduce this would be ludicrous.

Vince said...

"3. If UCLA could raise more endowment money for financial aid, then I would want the transfer students to transfer in after 1 year at another institution so that they could have at least 3 years at UCLA."

This seems to be completely inefficient. The whole point of attending community college before transferring to a UC is to complete GE requirements. This cannot realistically be done in one year, it is generally completed in two or three. The idea is to transfer and start taking upper division classes right away, already having decided what you are going to major in. If I transfer after one year (which cannot even be done, 60 semester units/90 quarter units) are necessary), I am going to have some GE classes done at CCC and have others left here. How are the requirements going to be fulfilled and reconciled? IGETC and UCLA GE requirements are different and have different structures. Why mess with the system of fulfilling GE requirements before transferring? The system seems pretty efficient as it is and I can tell you for a fact that it works just fine.

And no, I don't have any less school loyalty and am not any less of a Bruin. Shame on you for writing so ignorantly. said...

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Carlos Sandoval Jr. said...

Thanks for the apology, Professor Kahn, but it's difficult to remove the idea that you think poorly of transfer students. I now wonder if all professors at UCLA share this sentiment, that transfers are lesser students.

In case you have not yet gotten the message, transfer students are a very proud group. We pride ourselves on hard work and overcoming adversity, on average, because we tend to face more adverse circumstances than native students. (Again, on average.) We have adjusted to our life circumstances and we take great pride knowing that we've come to one of the greatest universities in the world. We're grateful of the opportunity. If we wanted to just "come in and earn our degrees then leave" we would have gone to Cal State or UC Riverside, not UCLA.

Asad Ramzanali said...

As an alumnus, I think the points you bring up are valid. They deserve to be discussed and not turned down just because feelings may be hurt. It's clear you're trying to make UCLA better and as such the idea should be taken seriously.

Dan Maxey #1325 said...

Dr. Kahn -
My area of expertise is not community college transer. However, prior to beginning doctoral study at the University of Southern California, I spent three years working as an academic advisor to hundreds of undergraduates at Arizona State University. ASU has forged partnerships with community colleges to streamline the transfer process and ensure that students take the right courses and are prepared to begin their work at the university level. I cannot speak for all transfer students, but in a conversation with a senior administrator from the Maricopa Community College District yesterday, I remarked (honestly) that many of my MCCD students were better prepared than some of my students who had started at the university as freshmen.

Also, many of those students started at the community colleges with the intention of transferring. Thus, they were often just as committed to the university as any other student once they became a part of the community. I question whether these issues of commitment and loyalty, as you raise them, are really what is important.

Sure, we need endowments and contributions, but our mission is to educate students; producing well-informed scholars is the goal, not indoctrinating the next generation of donors. If we honor our commitment of educating students, fostering inquiry, and preparing them for graduate study or careers, we will attract their contributions in the years that follow. Spending two years at the university can be just as good as four (or five or six), so time spent at the university seems irrelevant in a way. If universities can facilitate ease of transfer, remove any mystery about credit hours (in Arizona, it's very clear -, place transfer advisors in the CCs and give CC students access to university-level academic advisors, and provide orientation programming to welcome them when they arrive, we can produce graduates with an appreciation not only for the university's role in their lives, but for the hard work we have done to facilitate the pursuit of their goals and aspirations. It seems to me that is worth just as much - if not more.

A final note: We do not do our students - any of them - any favors by perpetuating myths about preparedness or the value of one path to education over another. It sounds nice to know (or think) that one route is better than another, but many of those discussions (and even more of our rankings systems) are counterproductive. Many students are not prepared for college. Singling any one group out as a problem gives our students the impression that it is ok to think less of individuals who, often by necessity, find alternate pathways to a college degree and creates one more "us versus them" scenario, of which there are far too many in our society today.

It's not clear to me that you understand yet. I will not claim I know it all either. Hearing that your mother-in-law transferred to a California university after having been enrolled at a community college and that she had a few things to say to you about the matter, I feel somewhat certain you have "paid" some price for your comments. The fact that you are clearly engaging and continue to learn is all the more reason for me -and us - to accept your apology. I hope this is an earnest attempt to learn rather than an exercise of "going through the motions".

Please think twice before you say something like this again - for your sake and for all our students. These debates are a distraction from our work, even when they are able - as in this case - to raise awareness about misconceptions and stigma. Let's get back to work and try to do the best job we can do for our students - all of them.

Daniel Maxey

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Prof Holian said...

A couple years ago I co-authored a chapter for the book Doing More With Less: Making Colleges Work Better. Some of what we wrote speaks to this issue; on page 16 we write:

"...universities already outsource teaching, as their acceptance of transfer credit allows students to have part of their education produced by a different institution. ...Undergraduate institutions will typically accept the first two years of education from another institution, either another four-year institution, a community college, and sometimes foreign institutions. Whereas certain groups on campus protest loudly against outsourcing of seemingly mundane functions, such as janitorial services, on the grounds that the university will lose oversight, universities are willing to give up oversight of half of their students’ instruction—and instruction is a core function of colleges and universities."

Our point here was that people who have problems with universities outsourcing janitorial or food preparation services should be shocked that universities like UCLA are willing to outsourcing up to half of their teaching.

Stella said...

I know you already apologized, but I am disgusted by your remarks about transfer students. I am a UCLA alumna who transferred from a community college.

I want you and Asad Ramzanali to know that , while I attended UCLA full time I also worked full time and graduated with a 3.45 GPA. Further, I also earned one of my two Masters Degrees at UCLA.

Asad, your comment indicates someone who is ignorant and ill-informed about what it means to be a transfer student. That you could write such a fallacious and uninformed statement clearly indicates a lack of intellect. You may have attended UCLA, but you clearly did not gain an education.

As Vince wrote, I restate the following to Prof Holian and Asad: "Your ignorance, most recently regarding transfer students and California Community Colleges, absolutely stupefies me. I'd advise you to know what you're talking about before you open your mouth about something again."