Press Release Budget

CSU Recommends Integrating Cal Maritime and Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo




​Integration reflects CSU’s commitment to its core educational mission, fiscal sustainability and supporting workforce needs while preserving Cal Maritime as one of the nation’s premier maritime academies. 

The California State University (CSU) has announced a recommendation to integrate California State University Maritime Academy and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and preserve Cal Maritime’s nearly 100-year history and reputation as a vital maritime institution.  

CSU Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Steve Relyea and Deputy Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs and Chief Academic Officer Nathan Evans made the recommendation to Chancellor Mildred García, explaining that 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.”   

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.”  

Under the 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.  

Cal Maritime’s students would become part of the Cal Poly student body and 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. 

“As I've reflected upon this new opportunity the CSU has asked Cal Poly to take on, I've recognized the value it provides both Cal Poly and Cal Maritime,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong. “Both of our institutions share an innovative, hands-on, learn by doing approach and academic programming that is rooted in world-class engineering. I am optimistic and confident that we can leverage these and our other collective strengths to build upon and ensure our future success.”  

The integration, which would be complete by the start of the 2026-27 academic year, requires the approval of the CSU Board of Trustees. The board will be asked to act on the recommendation at its November 2024 meeting following information sessions at its July and September meetings.   

“The recommended integration of Cal Maritime and Cal Poly is an innovative and vitally necessary strategy with benefits that will be felt throughout the CSU, the state of California and our nation,” said CSU Chancellor Mildred García. “It provides a long-term solution to Cal Maritime’s untenable fiscal circumstances, preserves its licensure-granting academic programs so key to the maritime industry and our state’s and nation’s economy and security, and leverages academic and operational synergies between the two universities that will benefit California’s diverse students, families and communities for generations.” 

​Cal Maritime Facts

The only degree-granting maritime academy on the West Coast and one of only six state maritime academies in the U.S., California State University Maritime Academy (Cal Maritime) was founded in 1929 and became a part of the CSU in 1995. 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 leading to high paying jobs for its graduates.  

As of the 2023-24 academic year: 

  • Degree programs: 7 undergraduate degrees; 1 master’s degree  
  • Student population: 712 undergraduates; 43 graduates 
  • Undergraduate demographics: 52% students of color; 25% Pell; 9% first generation 
  • Employees: 81 faculty; 176 staff 
  • Annual budget: $53 million 

​​​​​Frequently Asked Questions​​​

Is Cal Maritime being closed or eliminated?  

Cal Maritime is not being closed or eliminated. If the recommendation is approved by the CSU Board of Trustees, Cal Maritime will be integrated with another institution (California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo) that has complementary academic programs. All necessary steps will be taken to ensure that existing Cal Maritime programs – including those that lead to a Merchant Marine license issued by the U.S. Coast Guard – will continue, maintaining this critically important resource for our state and the nation’s economy and security.  

Why is the CSU considering this integration?  ​What were the circumstances at Cal Maritime that led to this recommendation?  

Cal Maritime currently faces fiscal challenges of a magnitude that undermine its viability as a standalone institution. This financial unsustainability also threatens the offering of key academic programs leading to a Merchant Marine license issued by the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as the continued employment of numerous faculty and staff. The integration recommendation would preserve these programs, which provide a vital economic and security resource to our state and nation.  

As of April 2024, Cal Maritime leadership projected that it will be required to utilize $2.8 million of its operating fund reserves in fiscal year 2023-24, leaving a mere $317,000 balance as of June 30, 2024. This remaining balance represents less than three days' worth of university operating expenses, a level that is untenable by any measure.  

The primary factors contributing to this unsustainable financial condition are declining enrollment, increased compensation costs and rising operating expenses. Over the past seven years, enrollment at Cal Maritime has declined by 31%, from a headcount of 1,107 students in 2016-17 to a headcount of 761 students in 2023-24. Projections indicate that a growing budget deficit through 2026-27 is inevitable, even if enrollment growth targets were met.   

The integration of Cal Maritime and Cal Poly is consistent with the recommendations of the CSU’s Sustainable Financial Model Workgroup report to “identify prospects for cost savings that could arise from consolidation of certain administrative functions and from inter-campus cooperation and collaboration in the offering of programs and services.” This Workgroup, formed in 2022, was charged with creating a multi-year strategy to achieve stable and predictable revenues to support the CSU mission, maintain affordability for its students and recognize the differing needs of its universities.  

Is this a temporary solution to help Cal Maritime through its financial challenges, with a goal of having it regain its independent status once enrollment and finances improve?  

No. This is intended as a permanent solution as all of Cal Maritime’s enrollment and finances situation. The success of this integration will rely on the strengths that Cal Poly can bring to Cal Maritime, such as national recognition, strong academic programs, student advising and coursework, and marketing and branding for strategic enrollment growth.  

Were any steps taken or considered to mitigate Cal Maritime’s fiscal crisis?  

Yes. In recent years, Cal Maritime has taken significant steps to contain costs and reduce expenses by assessing all operating expenses, increasing operational efficiencies, eliminating vacant positions, imposing a hiring freeze, pursuing shared-service agreements with other CSU campuses, and aligning the university’s administrative structure to a size more appropriate to its current enrollment circumstances. As part of the reorganization, Cal Maritime has eliminated two vice president positions and redesigned two other vice president positions with a corresponding reduction in salary. Cal Maritime continues to assess the need for further workforce reductions as part of its reorganization efforts. The university is also examining additional reductions that will likely impact service levels and programmatic offerings in the upcoming academic year.  

Are there alternative options to help Cal Maritime achieve financial viability? 

Given the current budget environment and fiscal outlook, the only viable option is integration with another CSU campus. The CSU remains committed to ensuring that the unique and much-needed offerings of the Cal Maritime campus are preserved and maintained. To do that, integration must occur.  

Why is saving Cal Maritime important to the CSU? 

Unique to the western United States, Cal Maritime is one of only six degree-granting state maritime academies in the nation that produce U.S. Coast Guard-licensed mariners. Cal Maritime graduates are prepared for high-impact careers in the fields of engineering, oceanography, transportation, global logistics, marine sciences and international relations. The CSU is unwaveringly committed to preserving this critically important resource—vital to economic and national security—for the state and nation. By providing a solution to Cal Maritime’s financial unsustainability, the recommended integration enables the CSU to meet this consequential commitment. 

Why was Cal Poly recommended as the university that Cal Maritime would integrate with?  
Cal Poly and Cal Maritime are similar institutions in many fundamental ways, primarily in their academic missions and learning ethos. Both institutions rely upon a hands-on, “learn by doing” approach. Both offer degree programs within high return-on-investment program areas. Clear synergistic opportunities exist in multiple academic programs, perhaps most obviously withing the engineering and marine science fields. Both institutions are involved in national and economic security issues that impact the western United States, the Pacific Rim and beyond. There is also untapped potential in the ability of the two institutions, if combined, to compete for increased federal funding for national security, renewable energy and other programs.    

Were other CSU campuses considered as potential integration partners for Cal Maritime?  

Many options were considered to preserve Cal Maritime’s unique programs while ensuring financial feasibility and sustainability. It was determined that Cal Poly was clearly the best aligned with Cal Maritime for a successful integration for both universities.  

Will the integration result in cost savings for the CSU? 

We anticipate that there will be some cost savings over time associated with administrative structures, but the short-term costs to position both campuses for success is projected to be approximately $5M a year for seven years. Two-thirds of those funds are estimated to be used for financial aid and scholarships. It is important to note that these are one-time funds and not on-going baseline funds.  

Who is making the final decision about this integration and when? Will there be an opportunity for public comment/input?  

The CSU Board of Trustees will make the final decision—expected during the November 2024 meeting—regarding whether to move forward with integration of Cal Maritime and Cal Poly as recommended. The proposed integration is also expected to go before the board for discussion in July 2024 and in September 2024. 

Will this be an inclusive process? Will there be an opportunity for public comment/input?   

Yes, the integration will be an inclusive process. There will be time for public comment at any board meeting where the integration is considered as part of the agenda.  

What is the timeline for the integration?   

The Board of Trustees will hear information items at its July and September 2024 board meetings. The board is expected to vote on the item at the November 2024 meeting. If approved by the board, the integration would begin in July of 2025 with the first maritime academy students enrolled as Cal Poly students in fall of 2026.​

What happens if the board votes against integration?   

If the board votes against integration, The CSU will have to again evaluate the financial solvency of Cal Maritime.   

What will Cal Maritime be called if integration is approved?  

The name of Cal Maritime after integration has not been formally determined. A final name will be discussed and decided at a later date.  

What does this recommendation say in light of the national trends around declining enrollments and demographic cliffs?   

This integration is a pathway toward addressing both of those trends in a way that supports additional enrollment.  

Are there plans to merge other CSU campuses?  

In May 2023, the CSU Board of Trustees was presented the Financial Sustainability Workgroup Report that stated even under the most aggressive tuition proposals and a fully funded ongoing state budget pursuant to the multi-year compact with the governor’s administration, the 23 CSU campuses would continue to be significantly challenged to balance their budgets. This is a result of dramatic changes in both tuition and state General Fund revenue compounded by the “enrollment cliff” that is already impacting California universities, as well as growth in systemwide costs including newly adopted unfunded state and federal mandates. The CSU must address with urgency these growing costs with a change in annual budget practices that will need the support of all CSU stakeholders and policymakers at the state and federal levels. To the extent the CSU is unable to make headway and meaningful progress in this endeavor, all options must remain on the table for consideration.  

Has any study been done regarding this integration?  

There has been a careful review of other campus integrations in multiple university systems throughout higher education.