Cal Maritime may be merged with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

The growing financial crisis facing the California State University Maritime Academy has resulted in a proposal to merge the Maritime Academy with California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo.

On June 5th, California State University (CSU) announced that CSU Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Steve Relyea and Deputy Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs Nathan Evans made the recommendation to Chancellor Mildred García, explaining: “bold and decisive action is necessary to address growing financial challenges and enrollment declines at Cal Maritime that have undermined its viability as a standalone institution.”

“The integration of Cal Maritime and Cal Poly will benefit the students, faculty, and staff of both institutions, as well as advance the broader mission of the CSU system by enhancing the quality, diversity, and sustainability of the CSU’s academic programs and services statewide,” said Relyea and Evans. “In addition, it will serve industry and workforce needs of the state of California and of the nation while also supporting U.S. economic and national security interests. We are confident in our recommendation.”

The CSU statement noted: “Over the last seven years, Cal Maritime has experienced a 31% enrollment decline, from approximately 1,100 students in 2016-17 to just over 750 in 2023-24. That, coupled with rising employment and operational costs, has contributed to Cal Maritime’s fiscal crisis. These challenges are not unique to Cal Maritime, as colleges and universities nationally, including the state maritime academies, have been experiencing enrollment and fiscal challenges. Cal Maritime has implemented several actions and is considering additional steps toward reducing expenses and increasing revenues over the next three years. However, any further reductions to its budget risks compromising Cal Maritime’s critical infrastructure and unique academic mission.”

“Cal Maritime has been part of Vallejo’s rich history and a source of pride for eight decades. Our students, faculty, staff and alumni have played an important role in the history of the state, the region and the nation,” said Cal Maritime Interim President Michael Dumont. “An integration with Cal Poly is an amazing opportunity to honor that legacy by preserving one of the nation’s premier maritime academies.”

Recruiting the Key

A senior California Maritime Academy (CMA) executive said maritime schools are finding it harder to recruit cadets, warning that schools must work harder to be relevant and address diversity issues.

On February 6th, Franz Lozano, Chief Financial Officer at the California Maritime Academy, told the Propeller Club of Northern California that enrollment at CMA has dropped as a result of a changing social and work environment.

Lozano said all maritime schools are facing similar challenges and that schools need to recognize the need to address diversity issues and adjust to a changing work environment.

Ryan Edmister, President of the California Maritime Academy Propeller Club told a Propeller Club of Northern California audience in May that he acknowledged issues facing the California Maritime Academy: “Our academy is struggling, and I realize that many of the academies, particularly the state schools, are in a similar boat … due to the crisis in higher ed … Cal Maritime especially is amid severe budget decline, enrollment issues and many cultural issues that are propagating here across our campus. With our new president, Admiral Dumont, there have been many fantastic changes and new initiatives … on campus to improve this state of affairs. And I'm very proud that our new incoming class of freshman cadets will be over 230, which is amazing.”

Under the CSU recommendation, Cal Maritime would retain its maritime focus within Cal Poly, with the integration of operations, resources and governance structure. Cal Maritime’s specialized degree programs, three of which lead to a Merchant Marine license issued by the U.S. Coast Guard, would continue to be offered at the Vallejo campus. Both institutions would benefit from expanded academic offerings, research opportunities, and facilities.

CSU said that Cal Maritime’s students would become part of the Cal Poly student body benefit from Cal Poly’s strong reputation as a comprehensive polytechnic institution and gain access to a broad range of academic facilities and student services.

The only degree-granting maritime academy on the West Coast and one of only six state maritime academies in the U.S., Cal Maritime was founded in 1929 and became a part of the CSU in 1995. It is located on 92 acres of waterfront property in Vallejo, California—and aboard the 500-foot Training Ship Golden Bear. Cal Maritime offers multiple academic programs that prepare students for high-impact maritime industry careers in the fields of engineering, oceanography, transportation, global logistics, marine sciences, and international relations. Specialized programs in marine transportation, marine engineering technology, and mechanical engineering lead to a Merchant Marine license issued by the U.S. Coast Guard in addition to a bachelor’s degree upon graduation. Cal Maritime consistently appears as a top university for return-on-investment rankings.

Stas Margaronis
Stas Margaronis


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