This year, the freshman class will receive partially blocked schedules for the entire 2017-18 school year to increase graduation rates, according to University Registrar Cem Sunata. Blocked scheduling is the process in which the university enrolls students in their classes rather than students completing the process on their own.
Cal Poly is in its ninth year of blocking fall quarter schedules for freshmen. The fall quarter schedule is a full-time blocked schedule of 16 units consisting of major, support and general education classes. Winter and spring quarters will be partially blocked for the first time this school year. Students will only be blocked into critical major and support courses.
Sunata initially proposed the idea for year-long blocked scheduling three years ago, but it gained traction in 2016. Despite Cal Poly having the highest graduation rate in the California State University (CSU) system, the release of the 2016 CSU Graduation Initiative— a detailed plan with the goal “to increase graduation rates for all CSU students while eliminating opportunity and achievement gaps”— was seen as a push for the university to better itself.
This led the university to form a Graduation Initiative Team, which has been working on a plan to increase the rates of graduation by 2025.
“We, as an institution, started thinking about what we can do to improve our retention and graduation rates,” Sunata said. “Class availability has always been a point of contention at Cal Poly.”
From 1999 to 2015, the registration system included a series of 12 rotations, which put students at a disadvantage if they were placed into one of the last rotations. The current system prioritizes students based on their degree progress. This was implemented to even the playing field and allow students to have a better chance at getting the classes they need.
However, according to Sunata, this system still put freshmen at a disadvantage, because some upperclassmen with higher degree progress still need to take required general education classes. Because upperclassmen are able to register first and secure spots in these courses, freshmen are left unable to enroll in them, perpetuating the cycle.
In order to end this cycle, the university implemented partial blocking for freshmen, although it posed concerns for current sophomores. Because freshmen are being blocked into major and support classes throughout the whole year, sophomores who still need to fulfill their major requirements are at risk of not getting a spot in these classes. However, this potential problem was not overlooked.
“We did work with the departments to reserve seats for continuing students,” Sunata said. “We have to make the switch over at some point, otherwise this cycle will go on forever. Hopefully going forward, when these freshmen become sophomores, they won’t have the same issues.”
Continuing students who still have issues getting the classes they need may be helped by PolyPlanner, a tool that students are required to use to pick courses or leave notes regarding absences from the university for upcoming quarters. This allows for individual concerns to be acknowledged by the university and the registrar.
Bioresource and agricultural engineering freshman Grady Moosman has conflicting views on the year-long blocked schedule.
“On one hand, I feel like it makes it a little easier on freshman who are still trying to figure out the college life, not having to figure out how to register for classes,” Moosman said. “But on the other hand, it may make it difficult for freshmen needing to take specific courses to advance in their major and for students looking to
Cal Poly students may only request a change of major after their first quarter, which means that freshmen would continue taking classes for their original major during winter quarter regardless of having a blocked schedule or not. The only potential issue for freshmen changing their majors would occur during spring quarter.
“In winter, we’re going to be blocking you into your spring courses. If that change of major happens before we start blocking spring, there’s not a problem,” Sunata said.
If a student’s change of major is approved after their spring quarter is already blocked, they are able to drop their previous major courses and add classes for their new major during their registration rotation.
“Since this is our first time around, there may be some hiccups,” Sunata said. “But we’re pretty confident that it’s going to be successful because we have learned a lot from the full block scheduling, so we’re ahead of the game a little bit.”
Correction: A previous version of this article said students would be blocked into 12 units. This has been changed because that figure was not accurate.