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CIP student shares transfer challenges with State Assembly panel

“I’m hoping that people heard what I’ve experienced and what other people have experienced and make effective change.” —Jarrod Vargas ’21

Jarrod Vargas, ’21, a psychology major at University of the Pacific, was selected to speak on issues facing college transfer students for a webinar led by a California State Assembly member.

Vargas spoke at “The Transfer Process: Perspectives from the Students Who Lived It,” an Oct. 28 webinar hosted by California State Assembly Member Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park). Vargas was one of five students from several universities on the webinar panel.

Berman, the chair of the Select Committee on the Master Plan for Higher Education, organized the webinar to connect policymakers with transfer students.

“I’m hoping that people heard what I’ve experienced and what other people have experienced and make effective change,” Vargas said.

Josh Hagen, program manager of student success initiatives for the Campaign for College Opportunity, addressed the importance of these continuing efforts. “Students are still taking far too long to transfer. Equity gaps still exist,” he said.

Vargas transferred to Pacific from San Joaquin Delta College in fall 2019. He has worked to advocate for other transfer students as a member of Pacific’s Community Involvement Program (CIP), a scholarship program for first-generation college students with leadership potential.

Vargas says he “chose to transfer to Pacific essentially because I got the scholarship.”

The cohort model of CIP has benefited Vargas.

“We support each other through anything: academic or a rough day. We try to be there for each other,” he said. “The cohort is for first-generation (students) from diverse backgrounds and is committed to social justice. I feel like I’m part of a family.”

Vargas’ journey to Pacific was difficult.

“I’ve been in and out of junior college for a long time,” he said. “I struggled financially and I experienced housing and food insecurity that made it impossible for me to complete my degree in a timely manner.”

These struggles were compounded by the Great Recession. Vargas graduated from high school in 2007 and there was little part-time work available. As a student who did not receive financial help from his family, Vargas said he “wasn’t able to get enough work to make it on my own and the (work) schedule would conflict with classes.”

While he was at Delta, Vargas said he was stuck in a cycle of failing classes or being unable to attend classes due to his work schedule. He would try switching his major to alleviate those conflicts, then go through the same issues the next semester.

During the panel discussion, Vargas mentioned Pacific’s online lab classes as an example of more accessible learning. The three-hour, in-person lab classes had previously created difficulties for his work and school balance.  

“We should identify what changes we made that worked well,” Berman responded, referencing the innovation that has come from the unexpected challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vargas wants to see more opportunities for transfer students at Pacific.

“Pacific does a really good job. What I would love for Pacific to do differently is to open up,” he said. “I would like there to be more dialogue with (campus leadership) and first-generation and transfer students.”

A recording of the webinar will be posted on Master Plan for Higher Education soon.