California State University, Long Beach
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A Good Opportunity

Published: February 15, 2016

One door for African-American enrollment at CSULB is as a community college transfer and re-entry student, the specialty of Assistant Director of Transfer and Reentry Services’ Bruce Vancil for the office of University Outreach and School Relations under the leadership of department director Valerie Bordeaux.

The 27-year member of the university hosts an ongoing series of workshops and activities to assist African-American students to get into the university through transfer and re-entry programs.

“We’ve done these workshops for years,” said Vancil. “We have two sets of workshops. One is for transfer students and one is for re-entry students which are open to all. Our focus for the last couple of years based on the campus demographics and enrollment management goals have come to target African-American students. After we identify the students through the workshop, we offer specialized, individual activities most of which is advising.” Additional activities include recruitment visits to community colleges with significant populations of African-American students.

As demand for a spot at CSULB rises every year, so do admission requirements.

“Now there are more competitive requirements along with higher GPAs,” said Vancil. “If you graduated from a particular high school, you are considered to be a local applicant transfer versus non-local. The students we’re targeting are in various areas of L.A. County—Long Beach, Compton, West L.A. and South Central L.A. They are not recognized as local applicants so they face a higher GPA standard. What we try to do is customize and individualize our services based on requests, but with over 27,000 applications last year for transfer and reentry, we can’t assist everyone. Our target also extends to American Indian and Southeast Asian students as well as admission assistance to all prospective students and applicants.”

Enrollment doesn’t get any easier for non-local students.

“Even if they have all the courses they need to get in, they still have a higher GPA requirement,” he said. “Our office has always been about helping the most people we can. This is based on enrollment management goals which currently include increasing enrollment for the above-mentioned groups along with colleges and academic programs.”

There is a kind of Catch-22 for transfer and reentry students who need to access CSULB’s many resources to enroll, but can’t do that until they really do enroll.

“There are students who want to apply to CSULB but are uncertain about their majors,” said Vancil. “They can’t use the Career Development Center because they have to be students to do that. My role is to get them in. If there is difficulty with funding, I help these students with financial aid and help to identify scholarships.”

Vancil sees CSULB as a rare opportunity for African-American students even when compared with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). “Even the HBCUs have said, ‘look at the state of California. They have a large population of African-American students. We want the chance to recruit that group as well.’ But in the past, when some African-American students attended an HBCU, they called me because they wanted to return,” said Vancil. “The financial aid may not be adequate. The community they grew up in is not there. If they get into financial trouble or a family member falls ill, it is not easy to jump on a plane and come home. Other common challenges include the discovery by students that attend other universities that courses are not always equivalent between universities and may not transfer back as subject credit. When advising students seeking to leave an HBCU, they are not too happy to discover they may not be eligible to enroll at CSULB. Working towards the requirement of another degree may not provide admission eligibility at another university.”

Bruce Vancil (r) with prospective re-entry student Shalona “Summer” Murray.
Bruce Vancil (r) with prospective re-entry student Shalona “Summer” Murray.

CSULB has plenty of attractions for transfer and reentry students, not the least of which are the 139 potential bachelor degree options at CSULB.

“I get calls from students who went elsewhere for a particular major but decided to change their major only to find it is not available there, but is at CSULB through one of our eight colleges,” said Vancil. “We have a great variety of degrees that many want.”

Vancil believes another reason transfer and reentry students choose CSULB is an alumni connection.

“They tell potential students that Long Beach State is a great school. Our reputation is solid,” he explained, including points for being near a beach. One big reason is the campus diversity. “Every university these days tries to promote its diversity but Long Beach State truly is. Students take the campus tour and wind up saying, ‘I see me on this campus.’ Of course, we’re trying to increase those numbers even more,” he said.

Preparation, application, admission and enrollment are Vancil’s four goals for re-entry and transfer students and his workshops outline what transfer students need to do to enter CSULB.

“If they do not prepare but still apply anyway, they won’t get admitted,” he said. “There are a variety of reasons they are not offered admission. CSULB received 29,001 potential transfer applications for fall 2016 admission. Last year was 29,903 transfers applied to CSULB for less than 4,000 spaces. But what I love the most about working in public higher education is that numbers are not what is most important. We believe in community development. Public universities are about more than profit and loss.”