College of the Redwoods


Cal Poly Humboldt

College Matters | It’s complicated helping students succeed

This article was originally posted in the College Matters column of the Times-Standard.

Thursday, June 8, 2023 - 1:30pm

Throughout the academic year, students have many obligations. If they fulfill their obligations, which include remaining in school, they ultimately will earn their degree and graduate. For many students, remaining in school sounds simple. In reality, it is complicated and so many factors can influence whether a student remains in college and graduates.

There are alumni who worked hard, stepped over hurdles, and did what they needed to do to complete their degrees. We have learned that while the outcome of graduating might be similar, the story and pathway to get there can be very different.

At Cal Poly Humboldt, we have a tradition of doing an informal survey during commencements. We ask our graduates to stand if they held a job while going to school. They’re asked to stand if they helped raise a family. They’re asked if they’re the first person in their family to earn a college degree.

The number of graduates who stand for each question (sometimes all three) is astonishing. To see how far they’ve come is nothing short of inspiring. It’s also a reminder of their triumphs over some tough barriers students here and across the nation face today.

They have faced increased obstacles in completing degree requirements, particularly in recent years due to the impact of the pandemic, economic challenges, and complex demands on students. It’s different. It’s complicated.

One way our campus is working to provide more access for students is through the development of coursework during long breaks and the summer. Similar to summer 2022, the campus is offering an expanded summer session. This allows students to take two undergraduate courses (up to six units) for free. An expanded summer session is still new for Cal Poly Humboldt. In providing summer courses, we are activating campus during the most beautiful time of the year. It also helps us thrive as a campus and balances our growth over an entire year.

Free summer session allows students to:

• Take important core and prerequisite courses.

• Take especially challenging courses that often have a high failure or withdrawal rate.

• Retake courses or make up courses offering students an opportunity to catch up, retake and/or stay on track.

• The opportunity to get ahead and graduate sooner, saving time and money.

• To provide students who are simply interested in learning to expand their knowledge and to take courses they would not have the means or time to take.

• Take more challenging courses during a summer session. Students can concentrate on one subject, which frees up more time and energy during the regular academic year for volunteer work, clubs and other activities.

We have received countless emails and phone calls about the difference free summer made for our students and that’s why we have brought it back for a second year. Last summer was our first effort as a Cal Poly to offer free summer courses. Approximately 1,300 students registered, averaging nearly two courses and completing nearly 5% of their university requirements that summer which helped them stay on track. This year’s summer session is even more robust than last year enrolling 1,500 students.

Recent graduate Amanda Roosma, a student-athlete, shared that she used summer courses to reach her spring 2023 graduation date. She was balancing an intensive biology major while working and practicing with the rowing team. She also shared that summer session had been especially helpful as her college career was further extended by transferring between several schools before landing at Cal Poly Humboldt.

“I would either have to drop​​​ something and commit to 20 units this semester or I would have to see if there were courses offered next summer so I could avoid an extra full year or semester,” Roosma says. “But that doesn’t have to be the case anymore, and taking summer classes was a way for me to avoid that. This alleviates so much pressure from getting into that one class you need or satisfying that one requirement.”

She added, “I would recommend summer courses, even as a first-year student, because that’s going to give you more space to be involved in clubs, to put more time into research, or to connect with professors or to graduate students.”

As we continue to transition to a thriving polytechnic institution, we remain committed not only to accepting students into rigorous and workforce-aligned degree programs but also to partnering with our students to ensure their success. Free summer session is just one example.

Be kind.

Dr. Tom Jackson Jr. is the president of Cal Poly Humboldt. Dr. Jenn Capps is provost and vice president of academic affairs.