The transition to PolyPlanner has been a trying one for some students. | Joseph Pack/Mustang News

Shelley Westerson

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Cal Poly is changing the way it does registration. It all started with the introduction of PolyPlanner last spring. In this new system— effective Fall 2015 — students will no longer have priorities, but current students’ priorities won’t expire until Summer 2016.

Why get rid of priorities?

The old system — which consists of 12 registration rotations where students are randomly placed in rotations by last name — is being phased out to bring in a fairer and more efficient system, according to Cal Poly Provost Kathleen Enz Finken.

“When I came to Cal Poly, I was very surprised at the way they had set up the priority system that we currently have,” she said. “It does not necessarily support progress towards graduation.”

One of the main problems with the old system is that students were not using their priorities as originally anticipated, Enz Finken said. The purpose of each student receiving three priorities was so they would use them during their fourth year to ensure they got the classes they needed to graduate on time.

Instead of saving their priorities, students use them earlier on in their academic careers when they have a late registration date or want to take a class that they feel is in high demand and otherwise may not get into.

Cal Poly Registrar Cem Sunata knows many American colleges give priority to students based on their year — seniors registering first, freshmen last. Why wouldn’t Cal Poly adopt a similar or better system?

“People are quite behind in their innovation in academic policies or procedures or practices, let alone to go into something as complicated as the registration system,” he said. “Actually, people are very wary of it. They don’t want to touch it with a 20-foot pole.”

The introduction of PolyPlanner

But Cal Poly is challenging the system. Through a series of emails last spring, PolyPlanner was introduced. Its purpose is to give students the opportunity to plan out their entire schedule for the rest of their time at Cal Poly and be able to share that information with the administration.

The changes are not welcomed by everyone. Students became frustrated with PolyPlanner for many reasons: It’s complicated, confusing, time consuming, and those that did not complete it in time were placed in the 13th registration rotation for the following quarter. After the first quarter with the new system, the Office of the Registrar forgave the approximately 1,000 students who failed to update their profile and placed them back in their original rotations. Students who forgot to update for the following winter quarter were not forgiven unless they had a legitimate excuse, Sunata said.

Registering for classes can be complicated, and the required use of PolyPlanner has created more problems for electrical engineering senior Kendall Searing.

“I hate it. I hate it with a burning fiery passion,” he said. “I don’t like having to do an extra step when I’m registering. I already do a lot of planning and figuring out what I’m doing. It’s just more annoying to then have to input all the schedule into another thing and update it every quarter.”

Why change the system now?

Though the registration changes have caused problems and frustrations for students, the overall goal is to improve four-year graduation rates. Sunata believes this will be accomplished by the new system because it forces students to be more responsible when it comes to their degree progress.

In 2010, Cal Poly introduced the Expected Academic Progress Policy, which most students know as their Degree Progress Report. This allows students to use their portal as a tool to stay on track to graduate by managing how many degree applicable units have been taken — information that will be useful since the new registration will be broken down into brackets based off degree applicable units taken rather than class standing.

For example, students with 75 to 100 percent of their degree progress completed will be in the first round of rotations. This means that registration times will not be given out until two weeks prior to registration in order to have the most updated information.

If students are not on top of updating their degree progress through the portal, their registration date will be delayed. Also, students will have to apply for things such as course substitutions, adding a minor and changing their major as soon as possible so the Office of the Registrar can keep their records updated.

“In no time in the past, in any higher education institution that I know of, have students had a say in what courses should be offered in the future quarters or semesters,” Sunata said. “That is unheard of and that is what we are trying to accomplish.”

If everything goes according to plan, eventually the system will run smoothly and unlike any other university, since Cal Poly is the innovator of the Degree Audit Software. Money and time will be saved because office personnel will no longer be needed to plan registration rotations; it will all be automatically sorted through the software.

“I’m actually really excited about the new registration system,” child development sophomore Anna Black-Hogins said. “I don’t think priorities were really a great thing because first of all, freshmen couldn’t even use them, and even if you use a priority, there’s such a huge population that has the early special circumstance registration and so many people use priorities that it doesn’t end up being such a great advantage.”

Love it or hate it, the new registration system is here to stay in hopes of making degree progress toward graduation the new priority.

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  1. So does this mean from fall 2015 to summer 2016 the 2nd years will all register first as they have 3 unused, expiring priorities, along with any upperclassmen who still have priorities left? Sounds as if registration won’t improve until fall 2016, and even that will depend on how large the entering classes of 2015 and 2016 are.

    1. Cathy, you most likely will not graduate on time and with said graduation, you most likely will be unemployed.

      1. Not quite. Planning ahead and choosing the right major and job will remedy your pessimism. In fact will be graduating early. Not a first year.

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