Office of the President

Our Resilient Bronco Community

Feb. 1, 2021

Dear Cal Poly Pomona Community,

With the spring semester underway, I write to welcome you back from winter break and wish you well for the academic term. I also take this opportunity to share a few updates on matters of importance for the Cal Poly Pomona community.

COVID-19 Response

First and foremost, I offer my gratitude for your ongoing resilience during these challenging times. We must continue to acknowledge the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in our communities, our workplaces, our schools and in our homes. My thoughts continue to be with all those experiencing loss and grief. And while the increasingly robust dissemination of vaccines provides hope that we may be moving closer to the end of this pandemic, I sincerely ask that we each maintain the necessary precautions to protect ourselves and our communities. As the volume of infections and deaths decline from the holiday surge, we persist in a cautious approach to repopulating our campus by continuing teaching and learning in a predominantly virtual mode and commencing a very limited number of approved in-person learning activities after March 1. 

As initially announced by the CSU Chancellor’s Office in December, we are actively planning toward the goal of primarily in-person instruction in the fall. As has been the case during our entire response during the pandemic, this prospect hinges on our priorities for protecting the health and safety of our campus community and those with whom we interact. The CPP Safer Return website holds the latest COVID-related information for our campus, including details on the state’s vaccine distribution efforts, how to keep yourself and others healthy, and information on accessing campus resources remotely. I want to thank the members of the Safer Return Task Force for coordinating our response and preparing for the future return to campus.

The State Budget

On Jan. 8, Gov. Gavin Newsom released his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year. A welcome investment in the CSU, the governor’s proposal includes $144.5 million in recurring funding for the CSU, including $30 million to support basic needs for students. Additionally, the proposal includes $225 million in one-time funding for the CSU of which $175 million would address deferred maintenance.

Of course, you will recall that this proposed increase in recurring funding still represents less than half of the $299 million cut from the CSU budget last year to address the pandemic-imposed state budget deficit, not to mention the revenue losses to self-funded enterprise programs like student housing, dining and parking.

Based on the governor’s proposal, Chancellor Castro announced at the CSU Board of Trustees meeting last week that there will be no increase in tuition for the 2021-22 academic year. He also affirmed that, assuming proposed state and federal support is realized, the system would not pursue an employee furlough program. We continue to work closely with the governor’s office and our representatives in Sacramento to advocate for the CSU and assure that our state’s most dynamic engine of social mobility remains strong now and for generations to come.

If you happened to watch the governor’s televised budget announcement, or if you were following our social media channels in the days following, you would have been heartened to hear our campus mentioned by name in laudatory terms. While discussing the importance of applied learning and career readiness, Gov. Newsom held up Cal Poly Pomona and our sister campus in San Luis Obispo as two of the “finest universities in the world.” While it is gratifying to get such a “shout out,” this kind of recognition for our campus is not rare and reflects the excellence for which Cal Poly Pomona graduates are known in California, nationally and internationally.   

And one last note regarding the budget. From the beginning of the economic crisis, we have pursued carefully crafted measures to address budget shortfalls while protecting our core mission of student success and academic and research excellence (we laid out the details of our approach at last fall’s Annual Meeting on the CPP Budget). One piece of this effort is the Early Exit Program, which provides state-side employees a program for voluntarily separating from Cal Pomona through a severance package and separation agreements.

While this program represents a critical component of our budget response, it also means that we are losing a host of experienced and talented staff. To all those finishing their time as Cal Poly Pomona employees, I want to express the gratitude of our entire campus community for sharing your time, expertise and effort. You are part of a legacy more than eight decades old, and I hope you always take great pride in being part of the Cal Poly Pomona family.

One outcome of the Early Exit Program is that many units across campus are incentivized to work differently by leveraging shared services and using technology in new ways. Due to the nature of some of these changes, we are working with managers to make necessary accommodations and compensation adjustments where applicable. While we look forward to a physical return to campus in the near future, we must do so understanding that we will operate differently, building on lessons we learn now. Indeed, we know that the future of work means adaptation and continuous learning both for our students and our employees.

A High-Demand Campus

Perhaps more than any single variable, continuing to attract talented students from across California and beyond serves as our most essential bulwark to the state’s budget challenges.

Anyone who’s paid attention to higher education news over the course of this semester has seen some concerning numbers about college enrollment. The latest data from the National Student Clearinghouse show a 2.5 percent decrease in enrollment nationwide compared to last year. California saw a 6 percent decrease.

Despite these disheartening national and state figures, the story at Cal Poly Pomona is positive: our fall 2020 enrollment rose by 6 percent compared to the previous year, resulting in our largest ever student body. This increase is on par with any of the best enrollment years that we’ve seen over the past decade.

And thanks to an amazing campus-wide effort — led by the Enrollment Management team, Outreach, Athletics, and many others— we can expect continued enrollment strength for the coming fall. We received 57,764 undergraduate applications for fall 2021, representing a 4.5 percent increase compared to last year and a new record for our campus. The demand for a Cal Poly Pomona education remains stronger than ever. As we support our students’ entry into an ever-more dynamic, post-pandemic world of work, we are confident that our distinctive polytechnic approach to their preparation will assure that they thrive in their personal, professional and civic lives.

Of course, an ongoing opportunity and challenge in our post-pandemic operations involve organizational planning and targeting resources to assure that we meet evolving demands in an environment that portends future budget reductions over the next several years.

Investing in our Campus Infrastructure

While we certainly miss having everyone on campus, we are taking advantage of the opportunity to address a number of longstanding campus infrastructure needs. Through state funds specifically allocated to maintaining our facilities, we upgraded and installed modernized elevators in seven different buildings and repaired or replaced roofs on three buildings. We upgraded to more efficient lighting technology in multiple buildings and are in the planning stages to repair and repave roads across campus, including creating new shuttle routes developed through the campus master planning process.

And in one of the most expansive projects in Cal Poly Pomona history, in June we launched the Electrical Infrastructure Upgrade project. With our campus electrical distribution system reaching the end of its lifecycle, we are installing a state-of-the-art electrical network to accommodate technological innovations for decades to come.

Achievement Amid Adversity

Even in the midst of a global pandemic, Cal Pol Pomona continues to garner a range of achievements and accolades. I am so proud of our students and your tenacity during these times, along with our dedicated faculty and staff, who have had to balance their personal circumstances with their professional commitments. Consider a fraction of our accomplishments in just the last few months:

  • We earned recognition as the highest-ranking polytechnic university in the nation on the “2020 Social Mobility Index.” We also ranked No. 6 among all colleges and universities nationwide. [Read more]
  • Six horses bred at the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center took top honors at the U.S. National Arabian Horse Show, the most prestigious championship of its kind in North America. [Read more]
  • The Tournament of Roses featured our Rose Float Program in a television special aired in place of the annual parade. [Read more]
  • Our Reading, Advising, and Mentoring Program (RAMP) received a $2.2. million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support underrepresented students. [Read more]
  • And for the second straight year, a team of Cal Poly Pomona students finished third in an international cybersecurity competition that draws teams from more than 100 universities across North America. [Read more]

I close on a brief personal note. This past month marked the completion of my sixth year as your president. In fact, I vividly recall my first day in the role because I attended the Tournament of Roses Parade where my husband, Ron, and I joined hundreds of CPP students, campus personnel, family members and Rose Float alumni, along with those from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, to witness the outcome of the longstanding collaboration between the two campuses.

Serving as your president has been the honor of my career. Each day I am uplifted and inspired by your accomplishments and your dedication to this great university. I also remain steadfast in our shared commitment of valuing an inclusive and diverse campus that emphasizes academic excellence; creativity, discovery and innovation; personal growth, development and team building; and contributes to our collective and societal well-being.

As we begin this semester, I am eager to better understand the range of experiences across our community during the past year and to reflect with you on the challenges and opportunities now before us. To this end, I’ll be holding listening sessions, just as I undertook during my first year at Cal Poly Pomona, in a variety of venues over the coming months. I look forward to talking with you and to further refining our shared vision for Cal Poly Pomona.

Thank you again for your commitment to this university. I wish you a healthy and successful semester.


Soraya M. Coley, Ph.D.