CPP sees record number of fall applicants

By Joshua Hernandez, Feb. 16, 2021

Cal Poly Pomona set a campus record for applications received for the fall 2021 semester. According to an email sent from the Office of the President last week, Cal Poly Pomona received 57,764 undergraduate applications for the upcoming semester; this marks a 4.5% increase in applications than the previous year.

Conversely, U.S. college enrollment dropped 2.5% from the previous year, and California alone dropped 6%.

Sepehr Eskandari, associate provost for Academic Planning and Faculty Excellence, attributed the increase to three factors. Eskandari believes the pandemic changed the demand for California campuses, Cal Poly Pomona’s reputation as a destination campus is increasing, and most of California’s population resides in southern California.

“We responded to that demand to ensure we continue to serve our local and regional communities. I think that’s a very, very important responsibility,” Eskandari said.

Despite the increase in demand, the same campus-wide email also stated that CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro would not increase tuition fees for the 2021-2022 academic year. The tuition freeze was approved in compliance with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal, announced early January.

In the higher education section of the Governor’s Budget Summary for 2021-2022, Newsom’s proposal will allocate an additional $144.5 million for the CSU budget, a 3% increase from the previous allotment.

Ongoing adjustments also include $15 million toward the general fund so students may have access to electronic devices, high-speed internet and increased mental health resources, as well as a $15 million increase to “support students experiencing food and housing insecurity, financial distress, and other challenges” to earning their degrees.

The increase in allotted funds is meant to aid students negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, strengthening the pre-existing safety net so graduation rates stay stable.

As for how Cal Poly Pomona provides support, Jessica M. Wagoner, senior associate vice president of Enrollment Management and Services, said financial aid assistance increased significantly in the wake of the pandemic, and more students are filling out the FAFSA than before.

“When we look at the call logs, we see three times the amount of phone calls coming directly into Financial Aid, because financial aid is so personal to each student as far as the package,” Wagoner said.

To address the increased call volume, Wagoner said Financial Aid, IT, advisors, and the Office of Student Success are pooling their resources and staff to accommodate students seeking financial aid.

“We’re investing in students and our student support model to have more of a holistic approach to handling financial aid,” Wagoner said.

However, to meet the budget cuts resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, Cal Poly Pomona implemented several cost-saving measures during the 2021-2022 fiscal year to balance the university’s budget.

One such measure was the Early Exit Program, which allowed retirement-eligible faculty to voluntarily separate from the university; those who accept can receive a severance payment comparable to six-month’s salary, ranging from $35,000 to $90,000.

Another measure instituted to contain costs was a hiring chill; however, unlike a hiring freeze which would temporarily halt hiring altogether, a hiring chill slows the rate at which the university hires more administration and staff. Currently, there are no tenure-line positions open.

As Cal Poly Pomona’s total enrollment swelled to 29,704 students, with that expected to increase as the number of applicants rose for fall, the school is dependent on state funding and student fees in order to hire more faculty to counterbalance increased enrollment.

Nicholas Von Glahn, president of the California Faculty Association’s Pomona chapter, said roughly half the budget comes from the state, with the other half coming from student fees.

According to Von Glahn, these funds are then used to pay for faculty, staff and administration salaries, as well as licensing for services like Zoom, with the purpose of adjusting the infrastructure to accommodate enrollment growth.

Von Glahn said as long as the infrastructure is not exceeded, enrollment growth is manageable.

“My concern is if we do not get sufficient funding from the state, and if we are trying to accommodate those students with the same resources we’ve had in the past, or fewer resources, that would be really difficult, because then there will obviously be pressure to increase class sizes,” Von Glahn said.

According to Von Glahn, this is important because it would not only add to the professors’ workload, but it would also negatively impact the quality of education.

For example, in one of his classes Von Glahn grades for half an hour per final paper before sending it back to the student for revisions.

“Well, a half an hour times 24 students, that’s 12 hours of work. If you put in 10 more students, well then I either have to spend five additional hours, or I have to spend less time per student giving that feedback,” Von Glahn said.

Additionally, Von Glahn also pointed out that professors are still adjusting to online education; while it makes certain assignments easier, the learning curve cannot be ignored.

“When you’re doing a class very differently than how you’ve done it, it takes three iterations to really nail it before you really like the way you’ve got it,” Von Glahn said. “Well, we’re still at one and a half iterations.”

CPP faculty are currently in contract bargaining, and the state budget will be revised in May; the budget bill deadline is June 15 by midnight.

“We are opposed, as CFA, to increasing student fees, and we demand that the state pay for quality education that it promised Californians,” Von Glahn said. “We really hope California can continue to honor that obligation, and even in these difficult times, to make sure that students are getting the quality education for an affordable price that they deserve.”

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