Students wave to their family members and friends as they wait to collect their deplomas during the Santa Monica College 2011 graduation ceremony at the Corsair Field. (File photo).

More than 1,000 Santa Monica College students successfully transferred to University of California campuses in 2014-15, according to college data, and nearly 200 students from SMC made the jump to USC the next fall.

Officials see them as the lucky ones.

The challenge of transferring from a community college to a four-year university is among the topics to be explored during a public forum and panel discussion on higher education at 10 a.m. March 5 at SMC.

“There are a lot of barriers,” said Joanne Leavitt of the League of Women Voters of Santa Monica. “It isn’t as easy as it looks on paper.”

Co-sponsored by the local league chapter and the college’s Public Policy Institute, the free event will aim to examine those barriers. Attendees will hear from students, educators, administrators and State Sen. Ben Allen about the current status of post-secondary education in California. Allen, a Santa Monica High School alumnus, is a former member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education.

The panel will also include Patricia Ramos, the SMC dean of workforce and economic development, and Janet Robinson, an SMC alumna who leads the college’s transfer center.

SMC board chair Louise Jaffe and Public Policy Institute co-director Shari Davis, both active members of the local league, will moderate the discussion. A question-and-answer session will follow.

“How do state funding, affordability and equity intersect to provide access to California’s system of public higher education?” Jaffe said in a press release. “Where are we today? Where do we need to be? And, how can we get there?”

The program is part of an ongoing consensus-building effort by the League of Women Voters, a nonprofit political organization that promotes active participation in government through education and advocacy. Local league chapters have been holding study sessions to analyze education-related issues, including preparedness, access and financial aid as well as more personal issues like housing, transportation and child care.

The Santa Monica chapter on April 9 will hold a consensus meeting, feedback from which will be forwarded to a state committee, Leavitt said. Organization leaders will then develop a position statement to be adopted by the board before the end of the calendar year. The position statement strengthens the group’s legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of the state’s students, Leavitt said.

“We’re really interested in student input,” she said. “They know about barriers that we would never have thought of.”

League discussions are grounded in statistics. Just 45 percent of high school graduates went to college in 1960, according to research cited by league officials, but that number was 70 percent as of 2009. The percentage of the UC budget covered by state funding dropped from 76 percent in 1989-90 to 48 percent in 2014-15, data show.

“What programs are available in our community for students who do not really want a four-year degree right now?” reads a league notice about the event. “How does this transfer program from a community college to the [California State University] or UC system really work? Are the CSU and UC campuses meeting their target under the old Master Plan? Does the Master Plan still work? And, finally, what is the state legislature doing to help solve these problems?”

The upcoming forum at SMC will be held in the Humanities and Social Sciences lecture hall No. 165. RSVP to Parking is free at the college. Seating is on a first-arrival basis.