California State University (CSU) campuses must now comply to a mandate from the Chancellor’s Office to reduce undergraduate enrollment. Cal Poly must cut 1,648 of 17,349 students, but administrators said the cuts should not affect diversity on campus.
Reducing the number of admitted students proportionately reduces the number of available spots for eligible minority applicants, Chancellor Charles B. Reed said in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Stricter admissions policies are often thought to discriminate against minority students, who might not have access to the same academic opportunities.
However, Cal Poly administrators like Provost Robert Koob say the university will be able to avoid this.
“By lowering totals, we don’t anticipate to inappropriately impact the minority groups,” he said.
The decrease may very well change the racial makeup on campus but will do so inadvertently, he added.
There are three ways Cal Poly will reduce the number of incoming students: graduating more students, reducing the size of the incoming class and enforcing academic disqualifications.
Graduating those who are eligible reduces the number of students on campus and is not influenced by race or ethnicity. The university is also block scheduling some students, especially seniors, to ensure they graduate.
Though graduating students will help alleviate some of the pressure by lessening the number of students enrolled, the undergraduate student body will be most impacted by the acceptance of fewer students and the disqualifying of currently enrolled students.
Cal Poly had a record number of applications for its fall 2010 quarter with nearly 39,000 submissions.
Race is not a variable in this process, said James Maraviglia, assistant vice president of admissions, recruitment and financial aid.
While more than 600 first-time freshmen already accepted early admission offers, Cal Poly still has no record of how diverse the new class of students is, Maraviglia said.
According to state laws, race cannot be a factor in the admissions process. California’s Proposition 206, passed in 1996, says California State University campuses cannot admit students with consideration to race, sex or ethnicity.
“The admission that we do is truly race and ethnicity free, solely dependent on qualification,” Koob said of Cal Poly’s admission process, which is largely based on standardized test scores and high school grades. This is unlike some universities which include more components, including essays in their admissions decisions.
Prospective applicants will face a more competitive pool because of the limited spaces and undefined number of available spots, he said.
Reducing the incoming class is only one change, though. A more immediate effect of the budget is reducing the number of Cal Poly students through academic disqualifications.
Disqualification is based on a student being placed on academic probation for consecutive or multiple quarters.
Academic probation occurs automatically when undergraduate students earn less than a 2.0 grade point average in a given quarter.
Only a small percentage of students on academic probation each quarter are disqualified because Cal Poly has not yet rigorously enforced the policy, Koob said. But Cal Poly asked each college to evaluate students eligible for academic disqualification more strictly.
Electrical engineering junior and Black Student Union president and electrical engineering junior Adonna Anderson said disqualification does not automatically affect minority students.
“I think more on the mindset that everyone is equal with the same opportunities and chance of making it here, regardless of being a minority,” Anderson said.