University administration reports steady enrollment numbers amid virtual instruction

Incoming freshmen and transfer student enrollment numbers at Cal Poly Pomona have remained steady despite the pandemic and the shift to virtual instruction, according to the Office of Admissions. As a result, the CPP administration has adapted to managing more than 9,000 incoming students through unprecedented means.

Jessica M. Wagoner, senior associate vice president for enrollment management and services in the Division of Academic Affairs, said most of Southern California’s state university campuses have not experienced the same decline in enrollment as the state’s northern campuses.

The number of enrollments for fall 2020 is fundamental in determining CPP’s budget due to the deficit the state of California is experiencing resulting from closures during pandemic on March, which led to a shortfall in budget for the California State University (CSU) system. CPP’s budget is composed of the state’s budget and its enrollment numbers, leaving this year’s budget with uncertainty.

Enrollment numbers for CPP looked very similar to last year, which was approximately 27,915, as science and engineering programs continue to remain strongest in enrollment. The Office of Admissions has seen a low number of students who stated they could not attend the university due to COVID-19. However, international student numbers have experienced a slight dip.

“We’re definitely going to have our lowest numbers, especially new international students,” said Wagoner, in reference to international student enrollment, “We have been experiencing decline for several years now just due to the policies that are happening in the United States and now travel restrictions, and more difficulty getting visas, all that was already happening and now throw in a pandemic.”

Brandon Tuck, interim director of admissions and enrollment planning, confirmed there were 16 international students who deferred this semester and one out-of-state student.

“We have seen an uptick of students withdrawing or asking for a deferral and that’s been basically just the climate, the inability for them to; it’s just been unsure,” commented Tuck on the decline of international students. Tuck stated that some international students have asked if they can start in the spring or fall 2021.

CPP had 171 applicants decline their offer of admission this year compared to the 105 students last year, but more students were admitted this year as the admissions office anticipated enrollment challenges resulting from the pandemic.

Incoming students will be experiencing their first semester at CPP largely through screens­­—a dynamic that the university has had to address and accommodate.

The early summer decision by California State University (CSU) Chancellor Timothy P. White to transition all 23 CSU campuses to virtual instruction for the fall semester helped universities plan a largely online curriculum. With weeks of preparation, there has been no need for any additional accommodations like the chancellor’s Executive Order No. 1037 which allowed students to withdraw from a course when spring semester was abruptly disrupted.

“Unfortunately working remotely has become kind of the norm, especially for the incoming class. They’ve done it in high school and the last semester of community college,” said Tuck.

The admissions office is working with students on obtaining transcripts from other institutions that are also working remotely. Tuck says the admissions office is flexible and listening to the needs of students during this difficult time.

Orientation has also played a large role in onboarding more than 9,000 incoming students. Janetta McDowell, director of first year and transition experiences of orientation services

McDowell highlighted the importance for orientation staff to be available because she wants incoming student so feel welcomed and to have their questions answered.

With the help of the IT Department, a survey was sent out to incoming students asking them about their technology needs. Those students that needed assistance were loaned iPads, received a discounted laptop through the bookstore or were provided leased laptops to succeed in their online classes.

“I think I just want students, you know, to feel welcome in being part of the bronco family… And even virtually, that is what we want students to feel. This is their home,” said McDowell.

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