Andi Di Matteo is a journalism senior and Mustang News social media editor. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
Di Matteo was not involved in the writing or editing of “Administration proposes adding fee to out-of-state students to fund grant for low-income in-state students.”
This month, Cal Poly unveiled a plan for yet another fee increase under the guise of increasing diversity. This time, it unfairly targets out-of-state students and their families.
The Cal Poly Opportunity Grant and Fee proposes increasing already high out-of-state student tuition to provide financial assistance to California students who couldn’t afford to attend otherwise. This fee would go into effect as early as Fall 2018, meaning out-of-state students who receive acceptance next month may be forced to enroll elsewhere.
Only 50 percent of the revenue from the proposed fee would actually fund the grant it’s named for, 25 percent would go to support services for low-income students and the final 25 percent would go toward the general Cal Poly budget, which can be used at the discretion of President Jeffrey Armstrong. Over a four-year period, out-of-state students starting in Fall 2018 would contribute an additional $2,010 per year to Armstrong’s fund. Once the full fee takes effect in 2021, out of state students would be giving $8,040 per year to Armstrong’s fund.
Armstrong claimed out-of-state students have the privilege of choosing to attend a university in their home state or coming to Cal Poly. However, students in California actually have far more educational opportunity, with more than 200 four-year universities and colleges in the state. For context, Utah has 35, Montana has 22 and Idaho has six.
Cal Poly has failed over and over again to increase diversity, and it continues to fail students of color. A recent ranking deeming Cal Poly one of the nation’s worst institutions for Latinx students proves that funding for resources or scholarships alone does not improve the general atmosphere or make students of color feel accepted.
Recent attempts to increase diversity, such as ending early decision enrollment, resulted in Cal Poly admitting an estimated 850 more students than originally planned, putting a strain on on-campus housing and class offerings.
I’ve never had to defend my out-of-state identity or the validity of my position as a student here. Nor should I be made to feel like I’m taking the spot of a student who would statistically “improve diversity.” Having a few thousand more students of color means nothing unless Cal Poly simultaneously encourages an accepting campus climate and equips students with the tools to have effective conversations about differences (Free speech wall? Milo Yiannopoulos? Anyone?). The “add poor people of color and stir” approach Armstrong proposes is equally insulting to Californians.
Out-of-state families are just as invested in diversity as Californians. However, the best way to increase diversity is not by increasing tuition. Diversity and affordability are not synonymous. Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo are cost-prohibitive for other reasons, from exorbitant rent that continues to rise, to the expense of transportation to and from wherever students call home.
Diversity exists in more than just race. Out-of-state students, regardless of race or income, bring a different perspective to Californians. If only I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a bad potato joke after telling people I’m from Idaho, maybe I’d be able to afford this tuition hike.