A new California State University (CSU) policy taking effect this year will aim to level the playing field for undergraduates by implementing mandatory summer courses for some students.
Incoming Cal Poly freshmen struggling in English and math may soon find themselves in summer school as part of the Early Start Program (ESP). The CSU Board of Trustees approved the program in 2010 after seeing similar plans implemented at campuses across the CSU system.
Brian Tietje, dean of continuing education at Cal Poly, said the university will not be affected by the program as much as other schools in the state.
“Quite honestly, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is probably the least impacted by this program,” Tietje said. “There won’t be many students admitted who need Early Start.”
CSU early assessment projects coordinator for Cal Poly, Lisbeth Ceaser, said students in San Luis Obispo are well above average as they enter their freshman year: Last year 96.6 percent of freshmen were proficient in math, while 89.2 percent were proficient in English. This is the highest of the 23 campuses in the CSU system.
According to CSU spokesperson Erik Fallis, this is not the case with the CSUs: More than half of incoming freshmen to the CSU system are proficient in neither math nor English. Fallis said because of this, the time was right to make ESP a systemwide program.
“Our most important goal is not to get students in the door,” he said. “We want them to be successful once they get here.”
The ESP will consist of summer classes that provide coursework aimed to help students who are not ready for college-level English and math. The classes, which students can choose to take from one unit or three units, will be offered at all CSUs as well as some community colleges. Fallis said students who are required to enroll can do it at any participating institution, but the cost per unit will be $182 no matter where the student attends.
“There will be a lot of options available as part of Early Start,” Fallis said.
Two tests administered to prospective CSU students will determine if an individual is required to complete the summer coursework. The English Placement Test (EPT) and the Entry-Level Mathematics Test (ELM) are already required testing for incoming CSU students who do not earn an exemption such as scoring well on an advanced placement exam.
The results of these two tests will determine if a student has to enroll in the ESP. Since the program is being phased in during its first year, only those who score in the lowest 25 percent for the ELM will need to take the math portion of the ESP. All students who score below 138 on the EPT will be required to take the remedial English ESP.
Incoming freshmen who are not residents of California will not be required to take ESP classes.
Fallis said the CSU was seriously concerned for students who enroll in the CSU and are not proficient in English or math. Though class curriculum differs from campus to campus, he said nearly all courses require basic understanding in at least one of the two subjects.
“We do not want students to come into higher education, take a semester or two and then leave,” he said.
The California master plan for higher education states the CSU is required to service the top third of high school graduates, regardless of their pre-existing education level. Fallis said the ESP will help in that mission.
“What exists across the system is aligned to meet our mission under the master plan for higher education,” Fallis said. “The master plan is designed to serve the top third of California students. If that upper third isn’t college ready, you still have to serve them.”
Cal Poly will offer ESP classes beginning Summer Quarter 2012. Though Tietje said the majority of incoming freshmen at Cal Poly will not need these classes, they will be open to all students entering the CSU required to enroll in ESP.
“The students that, for whatever reasons, need Early Start Experience, that’s what we’re going to offer,” Tietje said.