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Fall 2015 was the most competitive quarter in the admissions office — more than 55,000 freshmen and transfer students applied, beating out last year’s record of just over 51,000. However, just because more students applied does not mean the class will be bigger.
Jim Maraviglia, Cal Poly’s associate vice provost for Marketing and Enrollment Development, explained some of the drawbacks of the growing applicant pool.
“I think there are extreme degrees of competition,” Maraviglia said. “Obviously we have more applications, but we have about the same number of spaces, so a growing application pool means admissions are more competitive.”
Interim University Planning Officer Linda Dalton also said the university needs to think carefully about numbers.
“Having access to equipment and technology sometimes really limits class size to a small number,” said Dalton. “We have a committee looking at enrollment challenges and I think there’s a general consensus that we need to (keep in mind).”
Not to worry, you won’t be sharing latex gloves or hair nets with your lab partner — Cal Poly is looking carefully to see if departments are capable of handling more students.
“Right now, we’re not planning to increase students,” Maraviglia said. “We have to plan for growth smartly, not for growth’s sake. The only way I see Cal Poly growing is by catching up with infrastructure.”
“First and foremost, we need to take care of the faculty who are here,” Maraviglia said. “Second we need (new) staff, third we need resources.”
If the admissions office does end up taking in more students, it’ll pick the growing departments carefully.
“Some areas have the demand and capacity to grow more than others, so we wouldn’t be growing just by an even percentage of all programs,” Dalton said. “We look at discipline, demand by the applicants, demand by graduates and other factors first so that all of that will be balanced out.”
Cutting back on class size isn’t unheard of. According to the 2014 Cal Poly Fact Book, 2014’s incoming Fall class was smaller than 2013’s, enrolling 209 fewer freshmen.
“If we grow without planning, it’ll definitely impact (students’ educations),” Maraviglia said. “We have to grow smart, and we can only grow where there is enough faculty, staff and infrastructure to support growth.”
Sitting in a jam-packed classroom wouldn’t be the only problem with a larger Fall 2015 class. Maraviglia is also concerned about teachers’ salaries.
“I could only see growth occurring when we have enough faculty, that are hopefully better paid, and staff to support students,” Maraviglia said. “That would be my goal.”
However, it’s hard to turn down the incoming herd of bright Mustangs. According to Cal Poly’s Fact Book, the average GPA of enrolled freshmen has been steadily increasing.
“When you look at how many students have job offers before they even finish college, it’s pretty hard not to see that we want to try to satisfy more of that demand,” Dalton said.
Cal Poly is already a competitive university, but the competition will only continue to increase. The final class size has not been determined, but for now, admitted students can breathe a sigh of relief while listening to their parents fire questions at admissions officers.