With one in three UCLA students transferring to campus from community colleges, a 90 percent transfer student graduation rate and a robust collection of services aimed at supporting current and aspiring UCLA transfer students, it’s no wonder that UCLA caught the attention of the American Talent Initiative.
ATI, a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative led by the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and Ithika S+R, was launched in December 2016. Its goal was for top performing colleges and universities to attract, retain and graduate an additional 50,000 students from low- and moderate-income backgrounds by 2025.
“You serve transfer students and you serve them at scale,” said Tania LaViolet, senior program manager at the Aspen Institute, where she co-leads the management of the American Talent Initiative, during a meeting with UCLA leaders. “It’s a scale that’s not seen at other flagship public institutions — or other institutions, frankly — and so we want to understand how you do it because the success rates are incredible.”
The initiative identified UCLA, Smith College and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill as “exemplars in the field” and visited each campus to learn more about various programs and resources offered to transfer students and get a better sense of best practices that can be shared with other ATI member institutions.
LaViolet and her colleague Benjamin Fresquez spent Jan. 25 and 26 at UCLA meeting with transfer students, staff members who work with transfer students, and senior administrators. This included a meeting with UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, Youlonda Copeland Morgan, vice provost for enrollment management, and Ffiona Rees, senior associate director, evaluation and international admission.
“Our transfer students go on to the same graduate schools and professional schools and are highly successful,” said Block, during that meeting. “I think in terms of being inspired as an institution, these students provide a lot with their remarkable backgrounds and experiences… They work incredibly hard to get here.”
UCLA has long had a commitment to supporting college access for such students and was one of the first institutions to join the American Talent Initiative, which works with institutions that graduate at least 70 percent of their students in six years. It hopes to grow its network, which now includes 86 member institutions, to include the approximately 290 colleges and universities that meet the criteria.
LaViolet said that ATI has identified transfer students as being a rich source of talent and a key population to successfully reach their goal. “This has the potential to be transformational for the sector,” she said.
Among the services and resources designed to support UCLA transfer student enrollment, retention and graduation are the Center for Community College Partnerships, the Academic Advancement Program, the Summer Intensive Transfer Experience, the transfer experience living learning community, Bruin Day for Transfer Students, the newly expanded Transfer Student Center and the recently launched First to Go program. The financial aid office also works with transfer students to maximize their financial support through various sources, including scholarships.
In 2017, UCLA offered admission to 5,500 transfer students for the 2017-2018 academic year and 3,200 of them became Bruins.