CPP combats initial decline in spring enrollment

As Cal Poly Pomona faces a decline in enrollment for the 2021 spring semester, the Student Success Center and Enrollment Services have collaborated to combat uncharted enrollment number and assist students struggling with virtual instruction and other unforeseen challenges.

According to administrators, the campus’ decreased enrollment is a result of students simply not knowing what classes to take and financial challenges. In response, the two administrative departments are offering financial assistance and other resources to help students create an academic plan, speak to advisors and answer questions regarding courses.

Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management and Services Jessica Wagoner described the financial issues students are currently facing and the demand on the university.

“We know that this pandemic is hitting first-generation, low-income students the hardest,” Wagoner said. “We have a huge surge in financial aid requests. Usually, the requests trickle in as we open the application. This year we had over 100 requests within a couple of days.”

According to Wagoner, the decrease in spring enrollment is lower than other CSU campuses.

“The decline is not as significant as other campuses, which we are thankful for,” Wagoner said. “When we look at the data it’s mostly students who started in the fall 2020 term that were not registering for spring.”

When asked on about specific decline numbers, Wagoner did not respond before deadline.

Associate Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for Student Success Cecilia Santiago-Gonzalez and her team sent out an interactive campaign that required students to answer a series of questions to find out why students may not be registering for spring semester. The campaign was led by the Student Success’ artificial intelligent bot “Billy Chat.”

“A majority of the students said that they did not know what to take,” Santiago-Gonzalez said. “A lot of them are fall 2020 cohort students that have never been to campus or never met with an advisor.”
Santiago-Gonzalez’s team contacted first-year and transfer students, providing them with a new planner that creates a roadmap for the next two to four years. Students were also educated on how to meet with an advisor and utilize curriculum sheets.

“I can’t take 100 percent credit, but we can make an assumption,” Santiago-Gonzalez said. “After this campaign, over 500 students registered for the spring term.”

Wagoner supported Santiago-Gonzalez’s claim and said there was a 10% increase after the Billy Chat campaign.

Acknowledging the difficulty of meeting students’ administrative needs in a remote setting, administrators have used various strategies to adapt to the new environment.

“It’s a challenge because we used to have people come up to the counter and ask questions directly,” Wagner said. “That’s not there anymore; we need to find a way get students the help they need.”
During the summer of 2020, Wagner’s and Santiago-Gonzalez’s teams collaborated to implement the E-Student Services.

The service allows students to enter a Zoom call where they can be directed to corresponding breakout rooms depending on the questions they need answered or what they need help with.

A second tool Wagner and Santiago-Gonzalez are pushing for is a live chat that will allow students to directly reach staff from admissions, financial aid and other departments.

Joseph Delgado, a fourth-year psychology student, praised CPP for the resources and help they offered him during the pandemic.

“CPP has provided me with money from the basic needs act and even a personal hotspot,” Delgado said. “I appreciate all the help they’ve given me. Earning my bachelor’s degree is what’s helping me push through the pandemic.”

(Feature image courtesy of MChe Lee)

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