For busy Delta College graduates who want to transfer to Stanislaus State, the 45-mile stretch of Highway 99 from Stockton to Turlock can be more of a roadblock than a road to success.
But for some, that trip is about to get much shorter. Delta and Stanislaus entered into a formal partnership this week that will allow Delta students in some cases to earn that coveted bachelor's degree without ever leaving Stockton city limits -- a change that means unprecedented access to public higher education in this region.
The arrangement sets up "seamless pathways" for Delta students to transfer into a number of areas of study, including communication, psychology, business administration, liberal studies and criminal justice. The new agreement guarantees that students in at least three of the most popular fields -- liberal studies, psychology and business administration -- will get the courses they need at the Stockton Center, a mere four miles south of Delta College.
So they can hop onto a bicycle and say goodbye to that long drive to Turlock.
"We have students here who desperately need to be able to get to a four-year school, but who really can't afford, for a whole host of reasons, to go out of town," said Delta Superintendent/President Kathy Hart. "They need a CSU here that they can count on for programs that they need... This is so important for our students."
There are other benefits to the new arrangement. Research shows that among students who earn an associate degree from a community college and then transfer to a four-year university, 71 percent go on to successfully complete a bachelor's degree. In other words, community college prepares them for a four-year institution.
There's also the price to consider. Starting at a community college, students stand to save more than $10,000 in tuition and fees over the first two years.
It's certainly not new for Delta to send students to Stanislaus's Stockton Center. But the new agreement will open the door wider. Transfers from Delta grew 14 percent last year without any special advertising, said Stanislaus State President Ellen Junn.
"We anticipate even more growth," she said. "We know that the need for four-year college graduates here in San Joaquin County is critical. We're confident this agreement will help foster a well-educated and well-prepared workforce for this region."
Delta College President/Superintendent Kathy Hart and Stanislaus State President Ellen Junn sign a new agreement on Thursday.
The new agreement takes effect this fall. To participate, students should apply to Delta and register for classes just like anyone else would. They'll need to maintain a GPA of at least 2.0 and they'll need to write a letter of intent to transfer into the program that they choose. Once they earn an associate degree for transfer at Delta, they will be considered as having met all of the lower-division general education and prerequisite requirements at Stanislaus State.
A Stanislaus State counselor will be working on the Delta campus to help keep students on track. Application fees to Stanislaus will be waived, and Delta students with a GPA of 3.8 or better will be eligible for special transfer scholarships or internship opportunities.
Faimous Harrison, dean of the Stockton Center, called the new agreement a "call to action." Delta and Stanislaus State have long worked together, but the memorandum of understanding signed by administrators on Thursday signifies a new commitment.
"Honestly, I think this day is long overdue," Harrison said.
Stanislaus State Stockton Center Dean Faimous Harrison signs the new agreement.
At a signing ceremony, Stockton City Councilman and Stockton Unified School District administrator Dan Wright cited sobering statistics about the lack of bachelor's degrees in the region (about 17 percent of Stockton residents have them) and the low median income.
"If a student can attend classes in their hometown, getting the first two years at a fraction of the cost and being able to bike or bus their way to classes on the Stockton campus, it's a no brainer," he said. "It's going to be life-changing, transformational for many of our families."
While the guarantee of Stockton Center classes applies initially to the three areas of liberal studies, psychology and business administration, Stanislaus officials said that if interest grows in other programs that the new partnership can be expanded.