Cal Poly seniors with enough credits need to graduate, school says

The pressure is on for Cal Poly students sticking around campus too long or failing to meet academic standards.

In the fall, the university identified 1,200 “super-seniors” who had far more credits than needed to earn bachelor’s degrees. For a variety of reasons, about half of them still haven’t graduated.

Cal Poly officials have taken measures to encourage them to finish, including enrolling some directly in the remaining classes they need rather than waiting for the students to enroll themselves.

Cal Poly officials also are keeping a closer eye on the about 800 to 900 students on academic probation each quarter to make sure they continue to improve their grades.

They are implementing a new program to help keep freshmen who fall behind off the academic probation list for the rest of their college careers.

And in some majors, such as business and engineering, students aren’t being allowed to complete more than one specialty area on their transcripts, which are called “concentrations.”

“Our goal is to educate as many qualified California resident students as we can within the resources we have,” said Kimi Ikeda, Cal Poly’s vice president for academic affairs. “We, as a university, need to be efficient and effective.”

Cal Poly received a record number of applicants for the fall 2010 quarter — 40,904, up 12.1 percent from 36,489 last year, university officials reported.

The university enrolled about 4,700 new students, including freshmen and transfers, in fall 2009.

The number of new students it will have this fall hasn’t yet been determined as accepted students continue to mull their decisions about which universities they’ll attend.

About half of Cal Poly’s 1,200 “super-seniors” graduated since they were identified by Cal Poly officials in the fall, and Ikeda said about 80 percent of those 1,200 are expected to graduate by June.

A few students on the university’s “super-seniors’’ list were enrolled as far back as fall 2001, but most were admitted in fall 2005, Ikeda said.

Ikeda said Cal Poly hasn’t enforced a CSU authorization to automatically graduate students who have finished their degree credits, but officials are urging them to file for graduation and suggest graduate school in some cases.

“Our goal is not to penalize students but rather to open more spaces so that we can educate and graduate more students,” Ikeda said.

Some students have been disappointed that they can’t concentrate in multiple subject areas, business major Alex Royalty said.

Royalty, a senior who graduates in the spring, said he hoped to complete concentrations in international business as well as management, and he had completed classes in both areas.

But when faced with a choice, he decided on international business.

Earning a second concentration means completing more classes — which may cause students to take longer to graduate in some cases.

“Some students are getting creative with how they’re wording their résumés by saying things like, ‘My degree is in finance with a focus on accounting,’ ” Royalty said. “But it’s not the same as having that on your transcript.”

Ikeda said the university hasn’t given a campuswide directive to reduce the number of concentrations or minors a student can complete and leaves it up to each college to decide.

Cal Poly’s 73 percent rate of graduation within six years of enrollment is well above the CSU’s average of 46 percent, university officials note.