Cal Poly prides itself on attracting the best and brightest students. Cal Poly offers some of the most sought-after degrees in the country, including engineering, technology, science and mathematics (STEM), among others.  These majors will be increasingly important in the future, as the U.S. Department of Labor estimates a shortage of 1 million workers over the next decade in those fields.

The cost of attendance at Cal Poly represents one of the greatest values in higher education in the country but is still financially prohibitive for many low-income California students. While Cal Poly tuition and fees are lower than tuition and fees at all University of California campuses, the UC can provide aid to students with family incomes under $80,000. Cal Poly is not currently able to provide aid for on-campus fees to even the lowest-income families.

Cost of admission for CA residents and non-resident compared to UC

Over the past few decades, Cal Poly students have approved multiple fees to support the hands-on learning for which our campus is known. Unfortunately, financial aid was not built into the fee structures. The State University Grant, or Cal Grant A/B, doesn’t cover campus-based fees. Federal Pell Grants can help, but the maximum amount available is $5,920, which doesn’t cover the campus fees and room-and-board costs for lower-income students. In addition to the fees, the combination of our high-cost majors, our Learn by Doing education and the limited financial aid we can offer means that it is often less expensive for students from low-income families to attend any other public university in California.

Net cost of attendance comparison - after financial aid


It is imperative that Cal Poly’s student body reflects the demographics of California, and the university is committed to that goal. All students benefit from a diverse educational environment that closely resembles the society in which we live. In addition, students will be more attractive to potential employers if their education equips them with the necessary cultural competency to work in an ever-diverse world. That kind of education can only happen on a campus that reflects the diversity of our state and nation.


California Universities vs. California Demographics

CSU, UC and Cal Poly data refer to the 2017-18 academic year. California demographics refer to 2016.

CA Universities Cal Poly CSU
(system wide)*
(System wide)**
California Demographics***
Total Enrollment (students) 22,188 484,297 273,179 Total Population 39.25M
Total Enrollment by Ethnic Origin Ethnic Origin Statewide
Hispanic/Latino 16.7% 40.1% 21.2% Hispanic/Latino 38.9%
African American 0.7% 4.1% 3.9% African American 6.5%
Native American 0.1% 0.2% 0.6% Native American 1.7%
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 0.1% 0.3% n/a Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 0.5%
Asian American 12.7% 15.8% 30.4% Asian American 14.8%
Multi-Racial 7.4% 4.7% n/a Multi-Racial 3.8%
White 54.9% 23.5% 25.0% White 37.7%
Non-Resident Alien 2.3% 6.6% n/a
Other/Unknown 4.9% 4.7% 3.4%
International n/a n/a 15.5%





Cal Poly Scholars

Through the existing Cal Poly Scholars program, the university has demonstrated the ability to attract and retain a higher percentage of low-income and first-generation students. In fact, the Cal Poly Scholars program has shown that retention rates and achievement levels of low-income and first-generation students equal those of non-first-generation students when properly supported.

Retention rates for first-generation scholars compared to all undergraduates.

Career Readiness

Employers and industry partners say that students who have had a diverse and inclusive educational experience are more likely to succeed in the workplace, where they need to collaborate, communicate and forge bonds with co-workers from many different backgrounds. To help Cal Poly graduates succeed and advance in their careers, the university must provide an intercultural environment in which they embrace differences, network, navigate and connect with anyone and everyone.

Further reading:

Additional Documents

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

Objective Statement: Proposal to Implement the Cal Poly Opportunity Fee

President Armstrong's Letter


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