Cal Poly sees record number of applications

Cal Poly students make their way to and from classes on campus Tuesday afternoon.
Cal Poly students make their way to and from classes on campus Tuesday afternoon.

Cal Poly received its highest number of applications in history this year and attracted more applications from minority students.

The applicant pool for fall 2014 totaled 51,662 undergraduates, according to Jim Maraviglia, the university’s associate vice provost of marketing and enrollment development.

The tally included 43,794 applications for the freshmen class and 7,868 from transfers.

Over the past decade, Cal Poly has nearly doubled its number of applicants from 27,062 in 2004 to this year’s total of nearly 52,000.

This year’s pool also has the largest percentage of freshmen applicants seeking admission to only one campus in the California State University system — 23 percent.

Maraviglia said that surveys and Cal Poly research have identified four main reasons for the high level of interest in attending the local university, including a committed faculty.

“(Faculty) are greatly committed to their students inside and outside of the classroom,” Maraviglia said in an email. “Faculty care.”

The other reasons were: preparation of students for the workplace and graduate school, the attractiveness of its location, and a low cost of tuition compared with other universities.

In addition, for the 21st year in a row, Cal Poly was rated the best public master’s university in the West in U.S. News and World Report’s America’s Best Colleges guidebook.

Cal Poly ranked ninth in the magazine’s overall list of the West’s best universities, including both public and private institutions that provide a full range of undergraduate and master’s level programs, but few, if any, doctoral programs.

Cal Poly has seen significant increases in applications to majors such as agriculture, food and environmental sciences (from 2,029 in 2004 to 4,324 for 2014), engineering (from 5,419 in 2004 to 14,877 for 2014), and science and math (from 3,664 in 2004 to 9,328 in 2014).

While Cal Poly’s application numbers have risen drastically, its enrollment figures haven’t climbed as quickly, increasing the challenge of getting in.

The university enrolled 16,636 students in 2004 compared with 18,679 in 2012, its latest official tally on its public report after an annual fall census.

But Maraviglia said, unofficially, the enrollment figure this year is more than 19,000.

Enrollment peaked at 19,777 in 2007.

Over the past five years, the average grade point average of first-time freshmen has risen from 3.81 in fall 2009 to 3.87 in fall 2013.

In addition to the overall increase, the university has seen higher numbers of minority applicants.

Hispanic freshmen applicants have jumped from 3,390 in 2004 to 11,097 this year, making up 25.57 percent of the pool of prospective students.

African-American freshmen applicants have increased from 560 over the past decade to 968 this year, making up about 2.2 percent of the pool.

White freshmen applicants have risen from 11,597 a decade ago to 16,945 now and comprise 38.7 percent of the pool this year compared with 51.4 percent a decade ago.

The university has made it a point of emphasis to recruit students in low-income communities to better represent California’s demographics.

In its fall 2012 report, 61 percent of students were white, 14 percent Hispanic, 12 percent Asian, 6 percent biracial, and 1 percent black. Other ethnicities made up the rest of the student body.

Maraviglia said Cal Poly officials use social media, texting and other communication tools to attract students. They believe it’s the best way to reach students who receive free lunches or whose parents didn’t attend college.

“By law, we can’t recruit students specifically by ethnicity,” Maraviglia said. “We can touch the schools that have high categories of poor or first-generation students. We foster relationships with those schools and use tool sets that appeal to students such as instant messaging, texts and video messaging.”