Last Word

The Opportunity to Say Yes

President Jeffrey D. Armstrong speaking at Fall Conference

Learn by Doing isn’t cheap. It requires a deep commitment to more faculty, better facilities, and enhanced learning opportunities. It means a high-impact education, but unfortunately it also means that our campus-based fees are more expensive than other universities in the CSU.

This has created a barrier for low-income California undergraduates. Students do not have access to state-based financial aid for these fees and the result is cost of attendance at Cal Poly that is more expensive than all other public universities across the state (California State University and University of California) after accounting for financial aid.

That’s why I am excited to announce the launch of the Cal Poly Opportunity Fee. This fee will allow us to expand our successful Cal Poly Scholars program, providing financial support in the form of scholarships to cover campus-based fees to academically qualified low-income undergraduate students from California, as well as academic support to help them succeed. The program will be funded in part by a fee paid by new out-of-state undergraduate students beginning in fall 2019, and in part by support from private donors.

From the results we’ve seen in Cal Poly Scholars, we know that reducing the financial burden of attending Cal Poly increases the number of low-income, majority first-generation California students who can afford to make the decision to come here.

That is something that we must achieve as we seek to serve the diverse population of California.

The financial support that this program will provide isn’t meant to impact who is qualified to get a Cal Poly education. It’s designed to ensure that more admitted students — applicants that we already know are qualified — have the opportunity to attend. Simply stated, we are removing a financial barrier that is keeping a disproportionate number of first-generation, low income students from attending Cal Poly.

As required by the CSU, our plan underwent an intensive discussion process with our students, faculty and staff during the winter quarter. The feedback was significant with approximately ten percent of the student body and faculty participating. Consequently, we revised the plan and the result is significantly different from that earlier preview. The new plan, while increasing financial and academic support for low-income students, also provides more for all Cal Poly undergraduate students in the way of enhanced advising services, improved data systems and management, and funding for additional tenure-track faculty.

The Cal Poly Opportunity Fee and expansion of Cal Poly Scholars is our way of ensuring that every qualified California student, no matter their background, has the opportunity to say yes to a transformative Learn by Doing education.


Jeffrey Armstrong



Jeffrey D. Armstrong, President

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