Proposed end to Cal Poly’s Adult Degree Program prompts protest

A protest organized by students, alumni and supporters of Cal Poly’s Adult Degree Program was held Tuesday night in response to a recently announced proposal by a university administrator to shut down the program.

Brian Tietje, dean of Cal Poly’s College of Continuing Education, which administers the Adult Degree Program, wrote a letter to students dated Oct. 29 saying he’s recommending that the program be discontinued.

Tietje said that he doesn’t believe Continuing Education can “provide the level of support necessary” for its long-term success.

“Given the resources we’ll need for the future, I don’t think we can support the program,” Tietje said.

The evening-class program offers bachelor’s degrees to students who typically hold down full-time jobs during the day and want to finish college.

Tietje acknowledges that the program is self-sustaining because of student fees, but he said that covering costs for an advising staff and the reliance on faculty, who teach undergraduates in other departments during the day, make the program problematic.

Many of the students say closing the program will harm a diverse student population in which the average student age is 41.

“Getting rid of a program that directly contributes to the community and provides a unique access to education is not the answer,” said Kevin Selman, a 40-year-old social services worker from San Luis Obispo who is enrolled in the program.

Selman joined about 50 classmates, alumni and local community members gathered outside the Cal Poly Administration Building at 5 p.m. Tuesday to show support for the program.

“We don’t fit the mold of the 18- to 22-year-old Poly student,” said Brandon Mikel, a 41-year-old postal office manager who lives in San Luis Obispo. “We’re people of various ages, ethnicities and backgrounds trying to better our careers and lives. This is a unique program that we want to keep here.”

The Adult Degree Program offers a bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies, including classes in business, English and social science. Forty-one students are currently enrolled.

Tietje informed the students in his letter that, under his proposal, they’ll have until spring 2012 to complete their degrees.

“We remain committed to your success and will do everything we can to help you complete your degree in a timely manner,” Tietje said.

To discontinue an academic program at Cal Poly is an intensive process that requires the approval of the provost; by a review committee consisting of faculty, student, staff and administrative representatives; and by the CSU Chancellor’s Office.

The process can take more than 40 weeks to complete.

Tietje said he thinks Cal Poly potentially could house the program in one of its other colleges outside Continuing Education.

Students such as Selman and Mikel say that their careers would be enhanced by Cal Poly degrees.

They chose Cal Poly over online programs or institutions that advertise frequently on television because of their belief in the quality of Cal Poly instruction.

“I’ve really enjoyed the program thus far,” Mikel said.

“The teachers are amazing. We want future students to enjoy this he added”