Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

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California Polytechnic State University, popularly known as Cal Poly, is a public coeducational university located in San Luis Obispo, California. The university offers a full spectrum of degrees, but is best known for its technical programs. Cal Poly is part of the 23 campus California State University system.




Cal Poly was established in 1901 when Governor Henry T. Gage signed the California Polytechnic School Bill. The California Polytechnic School was built in San Luis Obispo and held its first classes on September 30, 1903, offering secondary (high school) courses of study. The first incoming class was 20 students. The school continued to grow steadily, except during a period from the mid 1910s to the early 1920s when World War I led to drops in enrollment and drastic budget cuts forced fewer class offerings.

In 1924, Cal Poly was placed under the control of the California State Board of Education. In 1933, the Board of Education changed Cal Poly into a two year technical and vocational school. The institution began to offer Bachelor of Arts degrees in 1940, and was renamed the California State Polytechnic College in 1947 to better reflect its higher education offerings. In 1960, control of Cal Poly and all other state colleges was transferred from the State Board of Education to an independent Board of Trustees, which later became the California State University system.

The college was authorized to offer Master of Science degrees in 1967. From 1967 to 1970, the school’s curriculum was reorganized into different units (such as the School of Science and Math, the School of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the School of Architecture, which was created in 1968). The state legislature changed the school’s official name again in 1971 to California Polytechnic State University. Since the 1970s, the University has seen steady enrollment growth and the construction of many significant buildings on campus. Cal Poly celebrated its centennial in 2001, and kicked off a $225 million fundraising campaign, the largest fund raising effort ever undertaken in CSU history. The Centennial Campaign raised over $264 million dollars from over 81,000 donors, more than tripling the university’s endowment from $43 million to $140 million. Cal Poly’s endowment is in the top 10% of higher education endowments nationwide.

Cal Poly Pomona relationship

Cal Poly Pomona began as a satellite campus in 1938 when a completely equipped school and farm were donated by Charles Voorhis of Pasadena, and his son, Jerry Voorhis. The satellite campus was initially called the Voorhis Unit. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation donated an 812 acre (3.3 km²) horse ranch in Pomona, California to Cal Poly in 1949. Located about one mile from the Voorhis campus, the two became known as the Kellogg-Voorhis unit. The Kellogg-Voorhis unit broke off in 1966, becoming the fully independent Cal Poly Pomona University. Since 1949, the San Luis Obispo and Pomona universities have cooperated on creating a float for the Rose Parade.

Female admissions

Cal Poly opened as a coeducational school and had 40 men and 12 women in its incoming class of 1904. In 1930, females were barred from the entire school. Female students were again admitted in 1956, 27 years later, and the university remains coeducational today.

Football team plane crash

On October 29, 1960 a chartered plane carrying the Cal Poly football team crashed on takeoff at the Toledo, Ohio airport. Twenty-two of the forty-eight people on board were killed, including sixteen players, the team’s student manager, and a Cal Poly football booster. Cal Poly alumni John Madden’s fear of flying is commonly attributed to the crash. Madden, who played football for Cal Poly in 1957 and 1958, knew many former teammates aboard the plane.


Programs and degrees

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The Agricultural Sciences Building

The univeristy currently offers BA, BS, BAR, BLA, BFA, and Masters degrees in seven colleges:

  • Agricultural Business
  • Agricultural Science
  • Agricultural Systems Management
  • Animal Science
  • BioResource and Agricultural Engineering
  • Crop Science
  • Dairy Science
  • Earth Sciences
  • Environmental Horticultural Science
  • Environmental Management and Protection
  • Food Science
  • Forestry and Natural Resources
  • Fruit Science
  • Nutrition
  • Plant Protection Science
  • Recreation Administration
  • Soil Science
  • Wine and Viticulture

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Outside the Architechture Building
  • Architecture
  • Architectural Engineering
  • City and Regional Planning
  • Construction Management
  • Landscape Architecture

  • Business (
  • Accounting
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Industrial Technology
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Masters of Business Administration
  • MS in Industrial and Technical Studies
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The Cotchett Education Building

  • Administrative Services
  • Counseling/Guidance
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Education Specialist
  • Literacy and Reading
  • Multiple Subject
  • Single Subject

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Computer Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Electrical Engineering
  • General Engineering
  • Industrial Engineering
  • Manufacturing Engineering
  • Materials Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Software Enginerring

  • Art and Design
  • English
  • Ethnic Studies
  • Graphic Communication
  • History
  • Humanities
  • Journalism
  • Liberal Studies
  • Modern Languages
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Psychology and Child Development
  • Social Sciences
  • Speech Communication
  • Theatre/Dance
  • Women's Studies

  • Biochemistry
  • Biological Sciences
  • Chemistry
  • Kinesiology
  • Mathematics
  • Microbiology
  • Physical Sciences
  • Physics
  • Statistics


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The main atrium of the Architecture Building
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The Engineering West Building

According to U.S. News & World Report, Cal Poly is ranked the top public, largely undergraduate university in the western United States. Among the highest-regarded engineering schools, it is number 2 and 3 (for schools whose highest degree is a bachelor's or master's) in the nation for its Computer and Industrial/Manufacturing Engineering programs respectively.

In a 2002 poll conducted by the leading architecture and engineering journal DesignIntelligence (, Cal Poly was voted the number 2 architecture school in the nation.


Students are required to choose a major when they apply and each candidate is judged against others applying to that major. Because of this, there is a large disparity between what type of student is admitted in different majors. However, the number of applicants in all majors exceeds the number of spaces available. The architecture science majors and some liberal arts majors are particularly difficult to get into. The agricultural majors are the easiest. To prevent students from applying for an easy to get into major and then transferring to another, the transfer process has been made extremely difficult. In some majors it is all but impossible.

In Fall 2004, 27,063 students applied to Cal Poly, and only 9,880 were accepted. That's an acceptance rate of about 37%, and of those accepted, 3,836 (38%) enrolled. The average GPA of freshmen admitted was 3.77, but even higher in some majors. In Fall 2004, 9,043 (57%) men and 6,784 (43%) women were enrolled in Cal Poly. As with everything else, the number of men and women is skewed by major. Liberal arts majors are dominated by women, while engineering, physics and architecture students are mostly male. It is not unusual for classes in these majors to have few or no members of the opposite sex.


As of November, 2004, tuition for the average student is approximately $1300 per quarter. Tuition has increased rapidly in the past several years. In 1997, tuition was only about $700. Some of the increases were to make up for the budget cuts in education by the state of California. The others were made to higher additional teachers and to improve campus facilities.


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The Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center

Cal Poly owns more land than any other California university, except UC Berkeley. There are 9,678 acres (39 km²) in total. The lands are all used for student education, mainly agriculture. The land includes the main campus, two nearby agricultural lands and two properties in Santa Cruz county.

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The Recreation Center


Parking on campus is a perennial problem, eliciting strong emotions in students and nearby residents. A large portion of students live off campus and commute to Cal Poly, in spite of the very high rents. Many choose to live off campus because of the campus-wide ban on alcohol, the long distance to downtown San Luis Obispo and the additional freedoms of off-campus living. Cal Poly has responded by building additional dorms and trying to make living on campus more enjoyable. The measures have been at least partially successful. A more direct approach to the parking crisis was the building of parking structures. However, the completion of the first parking structure was delayed for years, and the others aren't even scheduled to start for several additional years. The parking situation has been made worse by the closure of one of the largest and most convenient parking lots on campus. The parking lot was cleared to make way for additional engineering buildings. Parking will undoubtedly remain a problem for years to come.

Although parking is a frequent concern of enrolled students and university faculty, the unavailability of parking on-campus cannot be compared to parking issues plaguing larger American cities.

Similarly, housing costs in the city of San Luis Obispo are sometimes considered outrageously high. But problems like these are significantly worse in other cities.

Notable alumni

Points of interest

External links

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