During California’s tough budgetary times, one thing Cal Poly isn’t lacking is applicants.
Though Cal Poly’s application rates are down 3 percent from last year, Cal Poly is not prepared to accommodate even 50 percent of the students applying. This past year, the university had more than 20,000 more applicants than there were seats available, with some colleges and departments only accepting 27 percent of freshman applicants.
With population and demand growing faster than the university can expand, Cal Poly’s acceptance rates aren’t capable of accommodating thousands of students applying each year.
For example, Cal Poly’s College of Science and Mathematics (COSAM) received 8,913 applications for Fall 2012, both first-time freshmen and transfer students combined. As of today, the college is projected to accept only 630 of those students according to a list from Cal Poly admissions of applicant counts and tentative student targets to be accepted per college.
Yet, these low numbers aren’t unusual to the college.
“We are expecting a normal number,” COSAM dean Philip Bailey said. “We expected a normal number this past fall, but ended up with about 200 more than expected in CSM. I believe (the College of Engineering) had a similar issue, though overall the university was not over-enrolled by very much at all.”
Though the university is not considered over-enrolled, the College of Engineering is planning on letting in more students. Engineering currently has approximately 4,000 more applicants for Fall 2012 than COSAM does. With 12,681 students applying, the College of Engineering is planning on letting 1,174 in, according to the list.
But not every student accepted actually chooses to attend Cal Poly. The colleges plan ahead for that situation.
“It’s a bit of a guessing game,” College of Engineering associate dean Fred DePiero said. “If we want to get one person in the door, we send out three acceptance letters. It’s sort of a game of chance that the predictions work well.”
Cal Poly maintains small admissions numbers with a comprehensive application process, which only approves approximately 44 percent of the applications received by the university each year. Only so many seats can be filled each quarter due to a mixture of different demands: specific funding within each college, the resources that are available to faculty and students and facility space for classes, to name a few.
“I don’t want to be gloomy about it, but the financial situation is not good,” DePiero said. “We have great students. We have students coming out of our ears, but we need more money.”
DePiero said the upcoming Student Success Fee vote could play a part in improving the college’s financial situation. He said the College of Engineering would greatly benefit from the fees passing. They could handle more students at a time, and have all the resources needed to properly accommodate every student. It’s a different story for the College of Science and Mathematics.
“The only way we have been able to accommodate students is by saving money by not purchasing equipment or support faculty/staff development and student/faculty research to the extent we should,” Bailey said. “But with savings from the past three years by CSM and the provost, we were able to do very well in 2011. In (2012 and 2013), we are having to make some serious curricular changes to cut costs as well as the other cost savings.”
Accommodation needs are the keys to how many students are accepted per college.
Another example of colleges shrinking their admittance rates is the College of Liberal Arts. According to the projected numbers attained by the admissions department, the college has 9,124 applicants for Fall 2012. As of now, the department will only be able to accommodate 665 of those applicants.
“I would like to see more students, but I’d like to have the resources that go along with servicing the students,” graphic communication department head Harvey Levenson said. “We would like to service the students so that they can graduate with a good education in four years.”
According to Levenson, the plan is to fill every seat and get students out in four years. If fewer students accept their admission than are projected, students on a wait list will be contacted for possible admission.
“Presumably, admissions will be running a waitlist, they have been for the past few years, so they would be able to let additional students in as needed,” College of Liberal Arts associate dean Debra Valencia-Laver said.
But there is a set limit on how many students the college can accommodate.
“We base our numbers on past patterns of acceptance and we are planning to come in as close to that as possible,” Valencia-Laver said. “We came in on target last year, and we plan to come in very close to target this year, too.”
With only a certain amount of seats available each quarter, the college has no choice but to turn down thousands of students.
“If you allow in more students than you can service, that puts us back in the time frame where they graduate in a longer period than four years,” Levenson said. “We’re trying to get people through in four years. It’s based on keeping the department at a student level that can be serviced.”