Photo by Nha Ha
Cal Poly will have a “laser focus” on graduation rates in coming years, University President Jeffrey Armstrong said in his annual State of the University speech Monday, in which he outlined four goals and promised changes to the university revolving around new funding.
Aside from graduation rates, the president will also focus on enhancing research and Learn by Doing opportunities for faculty, improving the campus “climate” for diversity and increasing donations.
“One of the best attributes I first noticed about Cal Poly is that as good as everyone believes Cal Poly is, everyone also believes we can be even better,” Armstrong said.
The president said Cal Poly’s four-year graduation rate, which stands now at 31 percent, “needs to more than double” by 2020. In addition, Armstrong repeated a goal he had previously declared for that same time frame: upping Cal Poly’s student population by between 4,000 and 5,000 students.
The drive to serve and graduate more students — especially those from low-income backgrounds — received a push from President Barack Obama in August as he described his own goals to tie federal funding of universities to their “affordability.” This measure of affordability could measure both graduation rates and service to students receiving need-based aid.
Armstrong said in an interview after the State of the University address that while Obama’s speech didn’t transform his own priorities, it changed how the campus as a whole looks at these issues.
“In my day-to-day dialogue it’s always been a focus,” he said of increasing graduation rates. “Anytime we see a plan focusing from a political perspective, it’s really geared by what people are expecting … accountability has been on the minds of many people.”
These changes, Armstrong said, will be more realistic once Cal Poly establishes additional partnerships with donors and businesses in the community. Cal Poly increased its annual private support by more than 50 percent this past year, he added, to nearly $43 million.
The president’s speech came as the highlight of Fall Conference, an annual welcome event his office holds each year.
In addition to the Monday morning remarks, Armstrong and his wife Sharon will also welcome new faculty to his on-campus home Monday evening. He will attend another reception for new faculty at Julian’s Patisserie in the library Wednesday.
Thursday, the Armstrongs will host newly promoted and tenured faculty at their home.