Close to Home: Sonoma State opens its doors wider to transfer students

Sonoma State University alumna Mackenzie Knight knows firsthand how challenging and rewarding it can be to transfer from a community college to a four-year university. She earned her associate’s degree at Santa Rosa Junior College before coming to Sonoma State to complete her bachelor’s degree in business administration. “The more support you seek, the more you get at Sonoma State,” she said recently of her experience.

I met Knight last fall while she was working on a senior project. She is an impressive young woman who dreams of working in human resources. Thanks to the pathways that exist for transfer students, she was able to graduate in December and embark on her career path.

Sonoma State is in a strong position to serve transfer students like Knight, and we want to welcome even more to campus. Already, we lead the California State University system in transfer graduation rates. More than 62 percent of our transfer students graduate within two years. Money magazine’s 2019 list of Best Colleges for Transfer Students ranks Sonoma State No. 12 in the nation. We also have a new Transfer and Transition Center and 23 new academic advisers working in tandem with dedicated faculty to support student success.

At the same time, we are redoubling our efforts to increase access to a bachelor’s degree. Thousands of students attend regional community colleges, including Santa Rosa Junior College, Napa Valley College, Solano Community College and the College of Marin. To open our doors wider, Sonoma State is changing our recruitment and admissions practices to make it easier for students to transfer. For all future admissions cycles, transfer students can be admitted in fall or spring, do not need to complete their full general education package before transferring and will only need to meet CSU eligibility requirements as opposed to the higher criteria in effect currently.

Educational attainment is a critical factor in the North Bay’s vitality. For our communities to thrive, we must produce more college graduates. Sonoma, Napa, Marin, Lake, Solano and Mendocino counties are lucky to have a strong network of two-year colleges and a public four-year university to help meet this need. California is projected to face a workforce shortage of 1.5 million people with bachelor’s degrees by 2025.

Natural disasters - such as fire, flooding and mudslides - only exacerbate regional challenges for workers prepared to solve the complex problems of 21st-century life.

Just as important as educational attainment is our shared commitment to finding equitable pathways to educational access. Sonoma State wants to serve transfer and first-year students, particularly from within our local six-county region. As a designated Hispanic Serving Institution and the region’s only public four-year university, we pride ourselves on access and affordability.

Across sectors, we have work to do in our region to ensure we have enough college graduates positioned to contribute to the economic, cultural and educational betterment of our region. The Strategic Sonoma Action Plan and the Career Technical Education Foundation have framed new ways to meet the needs for a trained workforce. These are both a good start.

President Judy K. Sakaki and her leadership team are committed to helping Sonoma State serve the region through greater community partnerships and transparent educational pathways. Together, we can lead our communities to greater strength by prioritizing educational equity, access, inclusion and success and serve many more promising students - students like Mackenzie Knight.

Lisa Vollendorf is the provost and executive vice president of academic affairs at Sonoma State University. Email her at

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