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Sierra College offers degree pathway with a guarantee

Program makes transferring between schools easier
By: Amber Marra,
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Even though he's a Sierra College student now, Jordan Fay is ready to move on to bigger things.

Fay, 25, has been pursing a degree in psychology off and on since 2007. Now, he's close to completing his associate degree and will head to Sonoma State University this spring thanks to the Associate Degree for Transfer pathway.

Without the new Psychology for Transfer pathway, he would have waited until the fall 2013 semester to start at Sonoma.

"I wanted to stay in school fulltime until I was done, so I really didn't want to wait until the fall," Fay said.

Fay is one of around 20 students who are pursuing an Associate Degree for Transfer at Sierra College. There are 10 majors that can be obtained through the new pathway, ranging from art history to geology, or mathematics to political science.

Brooke Oliver, lead counselor for career and transfer connections, said Sierra offers more options for the Associate Degree for Transfer pathway than most community colleges.

"For students and counselors it makes life so much easier, especially those students who have to go between these colleges," Oliver said.

The Associate Degree for Transfer program stems from the Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act, or Senate Bill 1440, that brought the California Community Colleges and California State University together to make transferring between community colleges and the CSU system more streamlined.

"The Legislature charged community colleges with designing a more universal transfer pattern for students going into the CSU system," Oliver said.

The result has been the "degree with a guarantee," as the Associate Degree for Transfer is referred to by California Community Colleges and CSU at the informational website www.adegreewithaguarantee.com.

The guarantee is that students who complete an associate of arts or sciences will have a seat within the CSU system.

Fay, who lives in Roseville, wanted to attend CSU in Sacramento, but settled for Sonoma State University as an alternative because it meant he could transfer in the spring, rather than wait for the fall.

In the past, schools in the CSU system did not allow students to transfer in the spring from community colleges. With the addition of the Associate Degree for Transfer pathway, eight schools opened up to spring transfers this year, Oliver said.

Students who choose a major offered through an associate degree for transfer will avoid taking any unnecessary courses and be able to enter the CSU system as a junior. That means they need another 60 units to complete a bachelor's degree.

"With appropriate planning, they could potentially get out with a total of 120 units for a bachelor's degree," Oliver said.

Students who take advantage of the Associate Degree for Transfer pathway will also get the benefit of a "GPA bump," according to Oliver.

"If they were going in with a 2.9 (GPA) and they have that AA-T, they can get a .1 GPA bump to make them a little more competitive and that depends on the school and the major," Oliver said. "They're trying to build in as many benefits to getting one of these degrees as they can."