Thursday, August 12, 2021

Humboldt State Foresees Significant Enrollment Increase as Cal Poly Humboldt

Posted By on Thu, Aug 12, 2021 at 1:21 PM

click to enlarge Humboldt State's Founders Hall. - FILE
  • FILE
  • Humboldt State's Founders Hall.
As Humboldt State University gears up to welcome the first wave of students back  on Saturday, the campus released its “near-final draft” of a self-study conducted as part of the process for becoming California’s third polytechnic campus, a final version of which is slated to go before the California State University Board of Trustees for consideration in January.

With the designation, HSU forecasts a rapid increase in enrollment over the next few years, growing from this fall's student class of about 5,500 to nearly 11,000 students by 2028. And it would bring a name change, with the current recommendation being California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt — or Cal Poly Humboldt, for short.

The 135-page document submitted to the Chancellor’s Office earlier this month states that HSU already has a strong foundation for becoming a polytechnic and currently serves the third highest number of number of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) students in the CSU system, only behind the two current polytechnic campuses: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly Pomona.

The study also notes those two programs are impacted and bringing HSU on board as a third option — and the only one located in the northern reaches of the California — would not only benefit the local community but fill a statewide need.

“We are a sound investment as a university already excelling in inclusive STEM education and research with a focus on economic, cultural, and environmental sustainability and a just global society,” the conclusion states. “As a polytechnic, HSU is a triple threat: adding unique degree programs aligned with the state of California’s goals regarding areas like climate resilience and wildfire mitigation, creating access to impacted degree programs in the CSU system that correlate with huge workforce games, and stimulating the Northern California economy and specifically the North Coast as HSU is the largest regional employer and an economic driver for the region.”

Earlier this year, the university announced plans to expand its curriculum to include more STEM-related degree programs as soon as fall of 2023 — including applied fire science and management, cannabis studies, data science, geospatial information science and technology and software engineering — as part of the campus’ polytechnic push, using $25 million in state funds.

Another $433 million included in the state budget to assist HSU’s transformation into polytechnic university “would go toward improving technology and broadband support, which is vital to our rural campus, and toward infrastructure for mixed-use space for housing and other basic needs, academic instruction, and the support of students’ success,” the study states.

“Humboldt State University would expect to see enrollment increase 50 percent within three years and 100 percent within seven years, immediately adding highly educated and trained graduates to the California workforce. HSU would rapidly meet student demand for more programs and hands-on learning offered by polytechnic institutions,” the study states. “This would help California retain more students who are enrolling in STEM programs at universities within California and across the United States.”

The study does note the “limited off-campus” housing opportunities in the area but states HSU is launching plans to accommodate around 4,000 students in campus housing by 2028, beginning with around 800 beds via the Craftsman’s Mall project by 2024.

On the financial side, the study states HSU ”has made significant strides in righting itself from decades of structural budget challenges” and enters this academic year with a balanced budget, having “addressed the structural budget deficit of $20 million in less than three years.”

“We are gratified by the support shown by the chancellor and governor through the invitation to submit this proposal and the possible commitment of extensive state funds to jump start this transition if approved,” the conclusion states. “We are excited to partner in growing capacity within the CSU for the degree programs students seek and that California needs. Thank you for the impetus to dream big and plan for Cal Poly Humboldt.”

Read the HSU draft study here.

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Kimberly Wear

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Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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