At last week’s UC Board of Regents meeting, leaders from the three branches of California public higher education declared their intent to boost the number of community college students who transfer to California State Universities and UC campuses.

A task force with an equal number of delegates from UC, CSU and California community colleges has been created to organize their efforts. At the San Francisco meeting, UC President Mark G. Yudof said the state’s dedication to fostering the transfer of students from two-year colleges to four-year universities must be reinvigorated to guarantee opportunities for individual students and sustain an economic future for the state.

“Expanding the opportunity for a four-year education is a critical need for California,” Yudof said in a press release. “We at the university can’t just sit back and wait for them to come. We need to be actively involved, working in partnership with the other institutions of higher education, to help students pursue the transfer option and understand that it is achievable and affordable.”

Despite their focus on recruiting transfer students, recent budget cuts have forced the UC to curtail freshmen enrollment for the fall quarter of 2009. As a result, UCSB will be accepting 275 fewer freshman applicants this year.

Christine Van Gieson, Director of Admissions at UCSB, said the contracting number of spots available at the UC might cause first-year applicants to opt for a cheaper freshman and sophomore education.

“The fact that we’re having to decrease the number of freshman students that we are able to accommodate arouses concern that students will turn to community college,” Van Gieson said. “We need to be sure that we’re not just turning people away by providing a path from community college too.”

Over the past two years, all UC campuses have seen dramatic growth in the number of transfer applicants. UCSB alone has seen a 29.4 percent increase in applications from California community college students. Despite this increase, Van Gieson said she thinks the initiative is a worthwhile endeavor.

“We have seen some ups and downs in the transfer applicant pool,” Van Gieson said. “I think that’s the reason for the redoubled effort. We don’t want to see these numbers decline again, which they have had the tendency to do over time.”

Previously, the UC system has sought to keep community college students on track for transferring by sending representatives to various campuses, as well as offering online tools for negotiating major requirements and calculating credit transmission.

Although the exact vision of the recently assembled committee is unknown, Van Gieson said, their plans will likely be robust.

“Our aim is to ensure that California students have access to the University of California if they wish it,” Van Gieson said. “And that they have the opportunity to attend a campus they have interest in.”