President Armstrong announced the new Opportunity Fee on Thursday, which will be implemented Fall 2019. Connor Frost | Mustang News

University President Jeffrey Armstrong announced today that Cal Poly will implement a new fee for newly enrolled out-of-state undergraduate students starting Fall 2019.

The Cal Poly Opportunity Fee will increase the amount of financial aid allocated to low-income and first-generation students in California, according to Armstrong. Funds will help cover campus fees and expand the Cal Poly Scholars Program, which aims to recruit and retain high-achieving, low-income students from California high schools.

“There are some barriers that can’t be torn down and there are some barriers that can be removed,” Armstrong said in an interview with Mustang News. “One barrier for our low-income students is finances. It doesn’t seem right or moral to have barriers to a certain group of California students simply because they can’t afford to come to Cal Poly.”

The decision to charge out-of-state students was made based on limited funding from the state. Armstrong said the university’s first obligation regarding financial aid is to in-state students because their families pay California state taxes. Additionally, more in-state students have financial need. Approximately 6 percent of out-of-state students qualify for Federal Pell Grants, compared to 22 percent of in-state students, Armstrong said.  

“Many times, you have to make difficult choices,” Armstrong said. “We are choosing to put our resources behind low-income California students.”

Roughly 80 percent of Cal Poly Scholars are first generation college students, while they only make up 20 percent of the general campus population. By expanding the program, Armstrong said he anticipates this number will increase.

The fee is also aimed to increase diversity on Cal Poly’s predominantly white campus, according to Armstrong.

“If you look at the demographics of our student body and you look at the demographics of the neediest students, they’re majority minority,” Armstrong said. “It will have an impact on diversity.”

This fee is one of multiple efforts to foster a more diverse and inclusive environment on campus after incidents involving racial prejudice sparked international headlines and student backlash in Spring 2018.

“The goal is to reach the breadth of California,” Armstrong said. “The goal is to remove the barrier for our low-income students. They also happen to be the most diverse students.”

Armstrong said this is one way they will attempt to increase diversity while still being compliant with California Proposition 209, which prohibits public institutions from granting preference based on race, sex, or ethnicity. 

“We have a moral obligation to open our doors to the broadest cross-section of California’s academically qualified students as we can,” Cal Poly’s Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Inclusion, Jozi de Leon, wrote in a university press release. “These new funds go a long way in meeting that obligation. A more diverse student body will only help in our efforts to maintain a campus community that is inviting and welcoming to all.”

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