The log jam of in-demand course sections is beginning to ease at Cal Poly Pomona.
The loosening of the jam is thanks to a multi-prong approach that includes collecting and analyzing enrollment data, which allows the university to strategically add sections of highly sought-after courses, said Sep Eskandari, associate provost at Cal Poly Pomona.
“We are leaving no stone unturned,” he said. “No one strategy is going to help all students.”
Enrollment data, additional sections, as well as other strategies are helping students meet academic requirements — key to paving the way to timely graduation.
Helping students graduate on time is part of the CSU’s ambitious Graduation Initiative 2025, which aims to raise graduation rates and close achievement gaps for all students.
Here are a few ways that Cal Poly Pomona is working toward those goals.
Increasing Class Availability
One obstacle to timely graduation is linked to the limited availability of some classes.
For example, a class with one section that filled up quickly and has a waiting list of 100 students becomes an easy candidate for adding sections.
“It’s a no brainer,” Eskandari said.
University officials are monitoring enrollment figures, as well as consulting with college and department faculty and staff, who also track their own numbers, Eskandari said.
Matching Classroom Space to Classroom Needs
Data gathering and analysis involves monitoring classroom space as well.
“It’s easy to say ‘Let’s add a section,’ but there has to be space,” Eskandari said.
The use of space analytics is helping match class sections with the proper classrooms. For instance, a class section with 30 students shouldn’t meet in a lecture hall designed to accommodate 100 students, he said.
Cal Poly Pomona’s shift from the quarter to the semester system has also affected class section availability, increasing demand for about 30 percent more seats, Eskandari said.
Under the quarter system, for example, a class could be offered to 50 students each of the three quarters in an academic year. The shift to semesters, in some instances, could mean that the section is offered to 50 students for only two semesters.
The remedy is adding another section to increase the available seats, which could require a larger classroom, according to Eskandari.
Officials at various level are working together to loosen course section bottlenecks by adding class sections, finding classroom space and identifying qualified faculty to teach the courses, Eskandari said.
Kimberly Gottula, a senior majoring in industrial engineering, said she recently noticed a new approach in the industrial and mechanical engineering departments.
“Halfway through senior registration day they ended up adding courses,” she said. “It definitely helps.
“If they make an effort, it does make you feel better,” Gottula said.
Adding course sections isn’t the only solution. Colleges and departments are also offering online courses, especially in general education, said Cecilia Santiago-Gonzalez, Cal Poly Pomona director of strategic initiatives for student success.
Funding for the additional classes comes from the university’s general fund and the Student Success Fee, which also supports longer library hours, tutoring and technology support.
The multi-prong strategies are making a difference. In (2017-18), the university added 319 additional sections of high-demand courses, according to Eskandari.
That’s “11,415 additional seats filled by students,” he said.
These strategies toward Graduation Initiative 2025 are having a positive impact at Cal Poly Pomona and systemwide.
More than 6,300 earned their degrees as part of Cal Poly Pomona’s class of 2018, the largest graduating class in the university’s history.
Across the CSU, 105,431 undergraduate students earned a degree in the most recent academic year, which is 6,660 more students than in the previous year (2016-17) and was a record high the CSU.