Cal Poly seeks to close ‘equity and achievement gap’ by redistributing wealth via student fees

Cal Poly SLO’s administration just released a plan to heavily alter one of Cal Poly’s mandatory fees in order to improve equity through the redistribution of its student’s wealth.

This plan comes in the wake of the CSU’s new 2025 Graduation Initiative to close equity gaps after the continuation of California's affirmative action ban.

California Polytechnic University is planning to increase student fees by thousands of dollars, for the purpose of redistributing the money to chosen students in the form of financial aid.

The leadership of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo recently released its proposal to the student body to radically alter the College Based Fee (CBF) at Cal Poly as part of a plan to improve equity through the redistributing of the wealth of its students.

On Jan. 5, 2022, Vice-President Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore released an email to Cal Poly’s student body asking for its participation in a consultation period so that students can be properly informed on the proposed change to the CBF. 

The email presented the two goals of the proposal as being to provide financial aid to students in need, and to continue funding “student research opportunities and student-faculty collaboration.” 

The proposal would increase the fee for each student by $2,957 to $3,591, a change that would take place gradually over five years, with the range of money paid depending on the college the student attends. 

Only 40% of the funds obtained would be used to improve educational quality while 60% of it would be tagged for redistribution. The plan is that the tagged funds will then be handed over to the Trustees of the California State University to fund the State University Grant program. 

[RELATED: Cal Poly admins plot to reduce white enrollment]

Cal Poly Director of Media Relations Matt Lazier told Campus Reform that the “primary focus” of the financial aid portion of the plan is to assist families based on their Expected Family Contribution,” which is an estimate of a family’s financial strength based on its income, size, assets, etc.

“The proposal does leave the option to consider other factors if there are sufficient funds and if the university sees the need to provide support in those directions,” Lazier added.

One of those directions is likely the fulfillment of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Cal Poly SLO, and the California State University system as a whole, have been openly stating their intent to improve their commitment to DEI for many years now. This redistribution proposal comes after the 2020 failure of Proposition 16, which would have overturned a ban on Affirmative Action in admissions.

The CBF was first introduced in 2002 as a way to provide student-approved additional funding to be spent in the department said students would be studying in. These fees are classified as Category II fees or campus-mandatory fees - meaning students must pay them in order to enroll/attend the university. The objective of the CBF, according to Cal Poly, was to promote student development and enhance educational quality and experience for students. This included things such as hiring more and better faculty, increasing the depth and difficulty of courses, purchasing better equipment, and paying for studying abroad programs.

But now public institutions in California, including the CSU system, see diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as a primary goal. The latest iteration of this goal can be seen in CSU’s new 2025 Graduation Initiative. As part of Cal Poly’s administration’s similar commitment to DEI (being subordinate to the CSU system), they are seeking to expand the scope of CBAF to include financial aid rather than focus on quality education. 

Lazier confirmed the above to Campus Reform, saying “the proposal does seek to increase graduation rates and eliminate equity gaps, both of which align closely with broader CSU goals.”

[RELATED: Cal Poly will require some sophomores to live on campus, claims it’s for students’ own good]

This change will only affect new students starting with the Fall of 2022. This fact was made very clear in the email to the student body as it was typed in bold. Since no current Cal Poly student will have to pay the fee, they lack any personal stake in the effects of what they support. 

When asked why the fee will only affect new students, Lazier responded, “Students and families make decisions regarding attending Cal Poly based in part upon the cost of attendance, and they plan accordingly. Significant changes to that cost structure can create undue financial hardship for existing students and their families/supporters.”