The 2016-17 academic year marks the highest student enrollment in the university’s history, and administrators are attributing the perceptible growth to decreased enrollment from the prior year.
With a six percent increase from the 2015-16 year, the university now accommodates about 16,000 more students with an overall total of 25,300.
According to Kathleen Street, associate vice president of Enrollment Management and Services in the Division of Student Affairs, graduation rates were higher than expected last year, which resulted in a recouping of enrollment in what appears to be an influx of new students.
“We’ve been growing at two percent in enrollment increase,” said Street. “A number of years ago we had budget cuts, so our enrollment started going down and we are now in a position where we are continuing to grow.”
Like the preceding academic year, Latino/Hispanics make up the largest demographic at 48 percent. Asian Americans make up the second-largest demographic at 25 percent.
First-generation students also make up the largest component this year. Over 50 percent of incoming freshmen and about 70 percent of incoming transfer students are composed of first-generation students.
“We’ve seen that our first-generation students are very motivated to do well,” said Street. “They’re very dedicated to getting an education, so that’s a population we’re very supportive of.”
According to Street, the university will accommodate the growing numbers through a comprehensive strategic planning process that includes supplementary advising and initiatives to help the process of graduation.
Some of the procedures include managing class offerings that extend beyond the usually-impacted Tuesday and Thursday schedules that cause congestion in both parking areas and classrooms.
Street also said that with semester conversion set for fall 2018, course restructuring and the expansion of classroom space have subsequently been in the works for about a year now.
“The campus has done a lot in terms of planning for how we could help the students who start in quarter and end in semester,” said Street. “There’s been a lot of planning in terms of making sure that sequence courses that need to be completed before conversion are going to be offered so students don’t get into a bottleneck.”
The university will also begin to push students to develop individual academic plans and road maps to assist the rate of graduation.
“In the past, students may have had difficulty getting classes, so we’re trying to really offer the classes they need to graduate,” said Street. “The more students that graduate in a timely manner”that opens up space for growth in terms of incoming students.”
Course restructuring will also assist the influx within impacted majors. During the 2015-16 year, the College of Engineering accommodated the highest number of students.
“With the increased enrollment, student demand has increased and we are doing our best to offer additional sections to meet that demand,” said Cordelia Ontiveros, interim dean of the College of Engineering via email correspondence. “This fall, we have exceeded our enrollment target as set by the university.”
Additionally, admission is more selective within impacted majors to ensure that quality of resources to students remains intact.
Among the resources laid out by the strategic planning process is the newly-established One Stop Student Services.
Introduced in spring 2015, One Stop is comprised of extensively-trained enrollment counselors to assist students with the process of navigating college as seamlessly as possible.
“Basically, One Stop was put together because we noticed that students were being bounced around from office to office,” said Zoe Lance, communications specialist in Enrollment Services at One Stop. “So to have something like One Stop where we tell students, ‘you can just come here and we’ll get all your questions answered’ is a real life saver, especially when you don’t even really know where to start.”
Lance offered insight to alleviate student concerns surrounding graduation and the newly-crammed campus.
“My main piece of advice both as a staff member and a Cal Poly Pomona alumna is just to stay on top of it,” said Lance. “The more on top of it a student is about their long-term academic planning, and being aware of the different resources and tools that are available to them”that’s really the secret of getting out of here on time.”