Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro
Fresno State’s job of getting students to consider the 108-year-old university as their best choice for higher education just got more difficult.
The university’s popularity with applicants and funding constraints have forced the California State University campus to turn away thousands of would-be Bulldogs who have met all eligibility requirements.
Five years ago, the university admitted anyone who applied and met all eligibility standards. Last year, the university turned away about 5,000 students. For the fall 2019 semester, Fresno State had to say no to almost 9,000 students.
“Due to state funding limitations, we’ve not been able to grow our enrollment as fast as the Valley needs and deserves,” President Joseph Castro said during a visit with The Fresno Bee editorial board.
While that may be a good problem to have, Castro believes the Valley’s students deserve a spot in its classes. About 3,300 of the 8,700 students who were not admitted for the upcoming semester live in Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Madera counties.
“Many of them are place committed, which means they really want to stay here in the Valley. Offering them a place on another campus may not be feasible,” he said.
While Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed a 2 percent increase in state funding, Castro and the California State University system are pushing for 5 percent additional funding. That would allow Fresno State to accept another 1,000 students, said Castro.
Castro is advocating that the CSU provide Fresno State with additional funds to increase its enrollment by taking money from other campuses that are not impacted by enrollment requests.
“Our campus, with funding, could grow to serve 30,000 students,” said Castro. “The only way to grow enrollment is through state funding.”
Fresno State has about 25,000 students.
The university’s rejection of 8,700 students accounts for 31 percent of the total for the 23 CSU campuses.
“It is deeply concerning to me,” said Castro.
Six years ago, Fresno State admitted students with at least a 2.0 GPA. For the fall 2019 semester, it raised the bar to a 2.9 GPA.
“Some people in the community may like that we’ve escalated our admission standards. It’s not the worst thing because we see our students rising to the occasion,” he said. “However, the issue for me is access. There are not a lot of other alternatives.”
One solution could be sending students to CSU campuses in Bakersfield or Turlock, which have available space for students. Castro said he is talking with Fresno Pacific about taking some students.
“If we don’t address it more aggressively, our admission standards are going to start to get higher and actually bump against UC standards,” said Castro.
That, he added, is not good because the UCs are designed to take the top 12 percent of high school graduates while the CSUs get the top third.
Not having room for students from a Valley that trails the state in residents with at least a bachelor’s degree is a big problem, he said.
“This is an area that needs more graduates, not lesser,” said Castro.
More students, he said, “will help elevate the whole region’s economy.”