Cal Poly Announces Grant to Improve Access for Low-Income California Students and Increase Campus Diversity

Proposed new fee for out-of-state students would fund the Cal Poly Opportunity Grant

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly today announced the proposal of a new grant that seeks to improve the quality of the university’s Learn by Doing education by increasing diversity and creating an intercultural experience that prepares all students for success in an ever-diverse world. 

The Cal Poly Opportunity Grant proposal would provide financial assistance for high-achieving, low-income California students who meet Cal Poly’s rigorous academic admission requirements but can’t afford to attend the university.

By serving a greater cross-section of California residents, the university will work toward its goal of increasing diversity on campus and enhancing the quality of education and career readiness for all Cal Poly students.

“Qualified students from every demographic deserve exposure to our world-renowned Learn by Doing education,” Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong said. “This transformational new grant would improve access for first-generation and low-income California students.

“The grant also would provide all students the opportunity to excel on a campus that more closely resembles our diverse state — something employers and those recruiting our students are increasingly demanding. Our graduates will leave Cal Poly even more prepared to tackle future challenges and effectively collaborate in a global society.”

To fund the Cal Poly Opportunity Grant, the university is proposing a new campus-based fee, the Cal Poly Opportunity Fee. The fee would be assessed on all newly enrolled non-California-resident students starting in fall 2018 — all current students would be exempt from the fee.

As proposed, incoming out-of-state students in fall 2018 would pay an additional $2,010 a year and continue to pay the same annual fee during their undergraduate tenure at Cal Poly. Each subsequent incoming class of out-of-state students would pay an increased amount until the 2021 class (when the fee is fully phased in), as follows:

  • Fall 2018: $2,010
  • Fall 2019: $4,020
  • Fall 2020: $6,030
  • Fall 2021: $8,040

The proposal includes a provision allowing for the fee to be adjusted up to $2,700 per year for a given incoming class, if needed, to fund the Cal Poly Opportunity Grant. The combination of total tuition and the Cal Poly Opportunity Fee for out-of-state students would never exceed 90 percent of the comparable tuition and fees at a UC. In addition, the percentage of out-of-state students admitted to Cal Poly will continue to be capped at 15 percent, which is the current level.

As part of an on-campus consultation process, the university is currently gathering feedback from the campus community to help determine whether to establish the proposed fee.

The Cal Poly Opportunity Grant will provide financial aid to low-income California students as early as fall 2018. Initially, the grant will be aimed at the lowest income bracket among prospective students but will be expanded to provide support to students from a broader range of lower-income levels. In addition to financial assistance, Cal Poly will provide grant recipients with proactive advising and other academic support.

Through the Cal Poly Opportunity Grant, the university intends to increase the percentage of low-income students on campus. Racial and ethnic minorities and first-generation students are over-represented among lower-income households. Therefore, by making Cal Poly more affordable to students from lower-income families, the university can increase the diversity of its student population, improving the educational environment for all Cal Poly students.

“It is imperative that our students reflect the demographics of California, and Cal Poly is committed to making that happen,” said Jozi De Leon, vice president for diversity and inclusion and the university’s chief diversity officer. “Cal Poly’s student population has become more diverse each year since 2002, but we are not where we want to be. All qualified students deserve access to quality education. Most importantly, all students deserve exposure to a diverse student body.”

The Cal Poly Opportunity Grant will be modeled off the university’s successful Cal Poly Scholars program. Cal Poly scholars provides students from California partner high schools with scholarships for up to five years, a technology package, proactive advising and other support.

Created in 2012, the Cal Poly Scholars program has improved retention rates among first-generation and low-income students as compared to their peers who did not participate in the program. With the Cal Poly Opportunity Grant, the university intends to serve exponentially more students with financial need.

Funds designated for support services for students receiving the Cal Poly Opportunity Grant will be reviewed by an advisory committee to be composed of students, faculty and staff. ASI and the Academic Senate will advise Cal Poly’s President regarding appointments to the committee. A student representative of Cal Poly Opportunity Grant recipients and out-of-state students will be included on the committee.

Cal Poly’s President will provide an annual report on Cal Poly Opportunity Fund revenue and Cal Poly Opportunity Grant disbursements to the advisory committee, Cal Poly Campus Advisory Council and the CSU Chancellor.  Additionally, the program will be reviewed after five years to determine its effectiveness in meeting the desired goals. Learn more at

About Cal Poly
Founded in 1901 and part of the renowned California State University system since 1960, Cal Poly is a nationally ranked, four-year, comprehensive polytechnic public university located in San Luis Obispo, California. Known for its Learn by Doing approach, small class sizes and open access to expert faculty, Cal Poly is a distinctive learning community whose more than 21,000 academically motivated students enjoy an unrivaled hands-on educational experience that prepares them to lead successful personal and professional lives. For more information, visit

Contact: Matt Lazier
(805) 756-7109;

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