Cal Poly was recently ranked one of the nation’s seven worst institutions for Latinx student success in a list compiled by the Education Trust. According to the university’s website, as of 2014, Latinx and Hispanic students made up 15.2 percent of the Cal Poly student body, while 58.6 percent were white.
Communication studies senior Karina Ocampo said she was not surprised by the rating. According to Ocampo, she is the only Latinx student in many of her classes and had a hard time adjusting to life in San Luis Obispo after moving from Morgan Hill where over a third of the population is classified as Hispanic according to PopStats.
“It’s a weird feeling being the only Latina in many of my classes,” Ocampo said. “And whenever I see another Latino around campus, it’s noticeable.”
According to The Education Trust report, just 17.8 percent of young Latinx adults (ages 25 to 34) hold a bachelor’s degree compared to 43.7 percent of young white adults. The Education Trust report said enrolling more Latinx students is the best way to address this inequality.
In general, Latinx students have a graduation rate of 39.5 percent as opposed to the 63.3 percent graduation rate of white students, according to The Education Trust. With its high graduation rate and abundant resources, Cal Poly could help close the gap by enrolling more Latinx students.
Brian Yañez Gounod, director of outreach for Cal Poly Movimento Estudiantil Xicano de Aztlán (MEXA), said he was not surprised by the Education Trust ranking either.
“One thing we discuss in the club a lot is about how we can make our campus better especially for Latino students. There is kind of this general thought that while there are resources available for Latino students, it’s just not as good as an atmosphere for learning necessarily at times for Latino students,” Gounod said.
Agricultural education and communication Department Head Robert Flores said Cal Poly continues to strive to serve a more diverse population. Flores emphasized that the Cal Poly administration’s focus on diversity has come a long way and that this year they are paying more attention to diversity efforts than they have in the past 35 years.
Programs and resources such as the Cal Poly Scholars Program, MEXA, the Multicultural Center and the Latinos in Agriculture club are all programs set in place to help Latinx students succeed at Cal Poly.
Although programs like these are already in place it might not be enough, according to Gounod.
“Some of it has to do with socioeconomic issues, but I think another big issue is just not having the resources that work for Latino students,” Gounod said. “It’s not that there are not resources. Students are trying to succeed but the resources offered just aren’t enough.”
Although diversity efforts remain a priority at Cal Poly, Ocampo said she wonders why so few Latinx students are being accepted in the first place.
“It was a proud feeling getting accepted into Cal Poly as a Latina woman but it also makes you question the system that is put in place when it comes to admissions,” Ocampo said. “How does it work? Is it favoring or giving a certain type of person an advantage?”
Flores cited the lack of an existing Latinx population as a main factor for the low rate of admissions. He said in order for Latinx students to come to Cal Poly and stay, they need to feel a sense of community.
“You have to have a critical mass [of Latinx students] already to attract others,” Flores said. “And I think that is slowly happening. Students are telling their friends and relatives about Cal Poly but you still have that hurdle of getting in.”
University spokesperson Matt Lazier said Cal Poly always has room for improvement when it comes to diversity, but believes with diversity being one of administration’s top priorities, improvements will be seen in the future.