When California's Master Plan for Higher Education was spawned more than a half century ago it was not just innovative legislation, but a social compact establishing primacy of higher education in the Golden State.
There is no denying it has done much for many. Too much and too many to possibly count.
One of the key components of that plan was establishment of the community college system. These schools were conceived as an efficient vehicle to ready lower-division students for transfer to higher institutions, usually in the University of California and California State University systems.
But that sometimes has been easier said than done.
The current community college system has 112 colleges and 2.1 million students. But, according to the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office, the system transfers only about 40 percent of its students to four-year universities. That number is far too low.
To be sure, there are some societal reasons that contribute to the low transfer rate. For example, because community colleges are relatively cheap, some students enter without much direction or any grand visions of four-year diplomas. They are little more than recreational students. As we see it, little can be done about such students.
But it is clear that some element of the poor transfer rate can be placed at the doorstep of confusing and even conflicting pathways between schools. Anyone who has attempted to transfer from community college to a four-year school knows the difficulties of finding out what credits will be accepted at which schools.
It has been a sore subject for decades.
In 2010 the Legislature stepped in. To us, those can be scary words, but not so in this case. In passing SB1440 lawmakers created something called an Associate Degree for Transfer. Obtaining the two-year degree guarantees admission into the CSU system as a junior. The program is being phased in over five years and is a gigantic step forward.
However, a recent Public Policy Institute report revealed students don't know much about the program. That must change. The best program in the world is useless, if students don't know about it.
That is why CSU and the community college systems have asked Gov. Jerry Brown for $5 million to launch an aggressive marketing campaign to highlight the transfer degree.
That decision should take the governor about 30 seconds to make. In California that is budget dust; more money than that can be found in the seat cushions of certain capital watering holes frequented by legislators and lobbyists.
Conducting such a campaign and aiming at both community college student and current high school students is a very smart way to take another step toward making good on that social compact made so many years ago.