California legislators held a hearing in the Bronco Student Center (BSC) on Tuesday, Oct. 8 to discuss obstacles that threaten student success at Cal Poly Pomona. Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Contra Costa, alongside Sen. Richard Roth, D-San Bernardino, and Sen. Ling Ling Chang, R-Diamond Bar, expressed concerns over students’ ability to graduate on time and addressed issues within student well-being, as part of the legislators’ Higher Education Tour.
This tour is meant to raise awareness of challenges within the California State University system, through special hearings from the Senate Select Committee on Student Success. CPP is the second school of the tour, following CSU Dominguez Hills.
President Soraya Coley began the hearing with CPP’s recent highlights. She touched on the improved graduation rates and the positive effects of converting from the quarter system to semesters.
Coley also proved that the demand to attend CPP is high by stating that CPP turned away over 15,000 CSU-eligible applicants this fall.
Sep Eskandari, associate provost, provided a testimony on CPP’s graduation rates and student success efforts. Major efforts highlighted by Eskandari were CPP Connect, the California Promise Program, the Take 30 Initiative, Billy Chat and Graduation Initiative of 2025.
Glazer had a few comments about the student drop-out rates and lack of four-year graduations. He encourages the university to find solutions regarding why student are not returning to CPP.
“Certainly, financial issues will always be at play, but we hear a lot from students too that they couldn’t get their classes and that could set them back a semester or year,” Glazer said. “It’s not just hundreds, it’s tens of thousands every year statewide that drop out.”
Glazer also advises CPP to aim for higher goals regarding its four-year graduation rates. CPP’s current goal is to reach a 38% four-year graduation rate by 2025.
Student well-being was a major topic during the hearing. Leticia Gutierrez-Lopez, associate vice president of Student Health and Wellbeing, explained the various Basic Needs initiatives and mental health resources.
Glazer expressed concern with the number of Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) counselors and the wait time for appointments. Gutierrez- Lopez confirmed it takes one to two weeks to book an appointment to meet with a counselor at CAPS.
“Certainly, that’s something we need to work on,” Glazer said. “If you’re really stressed out and you’re reaching out, (but not in an emergency crisis situation) you’re going to be sitting around.”
Roth admitted the state budget allocated for mental health in educational institutions plays a role.
“We were able to put $65 million on the budget this year for mental health services, (which is) not nearly enough for higher education,” Roth said. “Frankly, not nearly enough for K-12.”
One of Roth’s solutions is to allocate funds toward mental health resources for the CSU schools.
Issues of student homelessness and food insecurities were also addressed.
Associated Students Inc. Vice President Rachel Hunter spoke about the Poly Pantry, which the senators visited as part of their CPP tour. The Poly Pantry is located in the BSC and provides food and basic necessities to those in need.
After opening the floor to public comment, students were able to voice their concerns to the legislators and CPP community.
Deystany Vickers, a first-year transfer political science student, stated a need for permanent housing on campus for students who are parents.
“Cal Poly Pomona is a great university; I just think it could be more parent-friendly,” Vickers explained. “I feel like if there was a place on campus for parents to come and feel more welcome, like permanent housing for parents, that would be great.”
Glazer concluded the hearing with praise for CPP and applauded the campus’ Basic Needs initiatives and graduation efforts.
“In a lot of ways, Cal Poly Pomona has been a leadership campus in the state,” Glazer said.
Moving forward, Glazer hopes CPP will consider raising the graduation rate goals.
In Roth’s concluding statement, he brought the issues back to budget.
“Many of these issues are budget-related and I want to make sure we fully explore them and provide the resources that you all need to move this institution forward,” Roth said.
Update: In the printed version, Leticia Gutierrez-Lopez is spelled incorrectly. We have corrected it online.
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