Zach Donnenfield | Mustang News

Open forums for the Cal Poly Opportunity Fee (CPOF) concluded March 8 leaving the outcome of the grant and fee proposal in the hands of administration.

Students were encouraged to attend one of the four open forums to learn more about the CPOF and its relationship in funding the Cal Poly Opportunity Grant (CPOG) for low-income, in-state students. Open forums comprised of informational presentations and later invited students to share their opinions and ask questions.

“I think [open forum discussions] demonstrate that students are caring about the issues that are going on at Cal Poly,” kinesiology senior Marina Katague said. “I’m really thankful that even if they were on the side of the issue that I wasn’t on, that I have a student body that is taking interest. I think that shows a lot of initiative.”

As part of an alternative consultation process, the open forums were designed to educate students about the campus-based fee adjustment that would increase tuition for out-of-state freshmen and transfer students beginning Fall 2018. This way, students are able to understand the implications of the CPOF and CPOG to develop an informed opinion.

Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) Board of Directors representative for the College of Science and Mathematics Mitchell Collins, who recently voted against a resolution that opposed the CPOF, said he believes the process is important despite its flaws. The forums allow students to voice their concerns to be communicated to President Jeffrey Armstrong, but are still left out of the voting process.

“One of the reasons I think [I’m] for the alternative consultation process is so that not a lot of in-state students are voting  while out-of-state students are only [a little more than] 15 percent of the population  on a fee that would be charged to them,” Collins said.

The ASI Board representatives also attended open forums and personally spoke to their college constituents to arrive at their March 7 decision. On the other hand, some students who went to the forums did not feel any progress was made in their favor.

“I don’t think anyone is against the outcome [of increasing diversity],” civil and environmental engineering graduate student Troy Kawahara said. “The idea is great, but it’s the execution. [Administration] fail[s] to have meaningful dialogues.”

Both in-state students and out-of-state students have voiced opposition to the fee proposal. Some offered alternate solutions, such as applying the CPOF to all students rather than just those from out of state. Others said the lack of transparency about the allocation of funds from the fee was a main issue to be addressed.

In an interview with Mustang News Feb 7, Armstrong addressed how the funds would be allocated. He said 50 percent of the money raised from the fee will fund the CPOG and 25 percent will fund support services for low-income first-generation students. The remaining 25 percent will go to Cal Poly for pending budget conditions, but over time may be used for additional CPOG or support services funds.

Some students also noted that the CPOF and CPOG, which administration say will increase diversity, may discourage diverse out-of-state students. For example, international students, who already pay the largest cost of attendance as an undergraduate, can also diversify the student population, which is the primary goal of the CPOF and the CPOG.

Architecture junior and international student Miaoxin Wang said he fears the fee proposal will discourage other international students from attending.

“I think the long-term solution is to actually make the programs better, so that people are actually attracted to come here and more people know about them,” Wang said.

While many students oppose the CPOF, students such as business administration junior Neda Jamaly believe the overall goal to tackle the lack of diversity on campus is valuable.

“This [grant] may admit more diverse students onto this campus and we should do that, but I don’t think just admitting diverse students will help the issue,” Jamaly said.

In a Mustang News poll conducted Feb. 7, 14 percent of approximately 1,300 respondents said they support the CPOF.

However, Jamaly feels the fee proposal will only create more tensions for minority students.

“As a minority student, I think we defend ourselves enough on this campus,” Jamaly said. “When people know they are paying for other people, it’s not going to make them empathetic to that situation or that person’s situation. They are just going to feel frustrated that, ‘I’m sitting here paying for my tuition, but I’m also paying yours.’”

Jamaly hopes the conversation about diversity, the CPOF and the CPOG does not end with the open forums.

“They shouldn’t just end it, then vote and then it’s over,” Jamaly said. “This is the start of the conversation.”

Students can still submit feedback for the CPOF and the CPOG through March 14 via their Cal Poly Portal.

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