Cal Poly has been working toward reducing unit counts as much as possible, Associate Vice Provost for Programs and Planning Mary Pedersen said.
Cal Poly’s effort to decrease unit counts and increase graduation rates is just beginning.
In 2013, the California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees voted to amend a California Code of Regulation law. The law — Title 5 — initially indicated a required maximum and minimum unit count for each undergraduate program.
The Board of Trustees voted to align all unit counts to the standard 180 units for the quarter system.
After the amendment, Cal Poly has been working toward reducing unit counts as much as possible, Associate Vice Provost for Programs and Planning Mary Pedersen said.
“We got a memo from the chancellor’s office telling us that we need to bring all our programs in alignment,” she said. “Now we’re simply in the process of doing so.”
The process has been broken down into two phases. Phase one involves lowering unit counts to between 180 and 192 units. Phase two deals with programs more than 192 units.
“We’re tackling the ones in this medium range first,” Pedersen said. “We had 22 programs — 11 in each phase — that needed changes in unit counts on our campus.”
Cal Poly was able to get five phase one programs completely down to 180 units, including liberal studies, agricultural science, agricultural systems management and food science and nutrition.
“The remaining six programs made unit reductions that didn’t go all the way down (to 180), but we improved them,” Pedersen said.
For each program that remained more than 180 units, Cal Poly sent a request for an exception.
“We filled out a request for why it had to be over that amount, and pretty much all except one of these programs are accredited,” Pedersen said. “Our justification was that in order to meet the accreditation standards, we needed to have those units in the program.”
Cal Poly is now working on phase two.
“We have two architecture programs in phase two — architectural engineering and construction management,” Pedersen said. “All the other programs are in the engineering department. We’re working hard to reduce these unit counts as much as possible.”
But reducing unit counts doesn’t just affect graduation rates.
“There are a few more reasons as to why we’re doing this,” CSU spokesperson Liz Chapin said.
The CSU system hopes lowering unit counts will provide a pathway for students coming out of community college and transferring into the four-year CSU system to get a bachelor’s degree, she said. Students will also save money with costs associated with those classes and the number of courses taken, Chapin said.
“This is an ongoing effort, but it’s never going to be applied to all programs in the CSU system,” Chapin said. “There are going to be program exceptions that will be approved by the chancellor.”
As for graduation rates, a program evaluation is set every five or six years for all 65 programs on campus, Pedersen said.
“Departments talk about graduation rates, write about it, how it needs to get better and what they are doing to improve,” she said. “Engineering is going through that right now because they’re going through accreditation … so there should be some talks about more changes soon.”
From a general university perspective, Cal Poly is doing a number of things to help students graduate on time, Associate Vice Provost Kimi Ikeda said.
“We’ve instituted and created the Mustang Success Center,” Ikeda said. “We’ve also instituted a policy called the Expected Academic Progress Policy, and we’re in touch with the residence halls to help them (students) stay on track.”
According to Ikeda, each college has its own advising center which operates specific to its own department.
Regardless of the college and the academic process at hand, Ikeda said Cal Poly is trying to make revisions.
“We’re doing everything we can to help students have a timely graduation,” she said.