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California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

College of Liberal Arts

San Luis Obispo, CA

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Introduction | California Polytechnic State University: College of Liberal Arts

Cal Poly's College of Liberal Arts (CLA) is among the most diverse and selective in the CSU system. CLA infuses a liberal arts education with meaningful, hands-on learning opportunities through laboratories, project-based and service-learning activities, and internships – it is a leader in the mission to offer a truly comprehensive polytechnic education. 

With a reputation for award-winning researchers and faculty, the graduate programs in the College of Liberal Arts can prepare you for your next professional and academic path.

Key Facts and Overview | California Polytechnic State University: College of Liberal Arts

The highly-respected graduate programs offered through the College of Liberal Arts focus on the individualized professional and research development of their students. CLA’s leadership in interdisciplinary opportunities are rooted in critical and creative thinking to envision and create change.

With strong corporate connections built through an enduring tradition of alumni programs, the College of Liberal Arts delivers an applied curriculum that prepares students to be career-ready upon graduating. Cal Poly Career Connections is an online network and mentoring platform that connects students, alumni, and the professional community.

California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) fosters scholarship, service, and teaching in a Learn by Doing environment. The application of theory to practice, active-learning methods, and field and laboratory work form the core of this academic approach.

Established in 1901, Cal Poly is a public, coeducational university located in San Luis Obispo, California in the western region of the United States. According to Colleges in California, its campus is one of the most beautiful in the state. The university is situated in an area known for its mild climate, natural beauty, and outdoor recreational options.

Majors and Degrees | California Polytechnic State University: College of Liberal Arts

The College of Liberal Arts offers four graduate degree programs. Post-graduate opportunities for students include teaching, writing, and further academic pursuit. 

The four graduate degree programs offered at CLA include: 

M.A. in English 

The M.A. degree in English offers a thorough survey of British, American and World Anglophone literatures, literary theory and criticism, composition and rhetoric, linguistics, and technical and professional writing. Students who complete the program are well prepared to either continue their studies at the doctoral level or enter a variety of career paths, including creative writing, professional writing, professional editing, marketing, public relations, and education.

M.A. in History

The M.A. degree in history is tailored to students who want to pursue careers in public history, education, museums, and local or state government. The program hones skills in historical research and analysis, allowing students to delve deeper into their historical interests while also emphasizing practical application through a well-regarding internship program. Graduates find employment in secondary education, community college instruction, doctoral programs, public history, and research positions in private companies.

M.S. in Psychology 

The M.S. degree in psychology is designed to provide California with highly competent master’s-level clinicians trained to counsel individuals, couples, families and groups in a multicultural society. The program fulfills the educational requirements for California’s Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) license. In the required counseling practicum, students apply their knowledge of psychological assessment, psychiatric diagnosis, and counseling theory and practice by working with individuals, groups, couples and families in San Luis Obispo County.

Master of Public Policy

The Master of Public Policy (MPP) program is tailored for students who wish to pursue careers in government, non-profit agencies or in businesses subject to government regulation. Students build leadership skills and capacity to analyze problems, design innovative policy solutions, and think creatively and critically about public policy through required and elective coursework, research projects, and internships.

Admissions | California Polytechnic State University: College of Liberal Arts

Admission to a graduate program at Cal Poly is centralized through the Cal Poly Admission Office, in direct collaboration with coordinators in each of the graduate programs.  Applicants to Cal Poly will follow the official process as described through Cal State Apply, selecting Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, which is one of 23 campuses of the California State University system.

Cal Poly recommends that applicants investigate the program of interest, and research any curriculum questions related to the program.  Program overview information can be found in the Graduate Education Programs Catalog on the Graduate Education website.  Each program has a Faculty Graduate Coordinator who can provide answers about curriculum and professional opportunities.  A list of Graduate Coordinators by program can be found on the Cal Poly Graduate Education website. 

Cal Poly also recommends that applicants familiarize themselves with the graduate admission information outlined on the Office of Admissions website, as well as with information provided on the Graduate Education website.  In addition to these resources, applicants should consult the program for additional program-specific requirements, if any.

General Requirements to be considered for admission to Cal Poly:

    • - Have completed a four-year college course of study at an accredited institution. 
    • - Be in good standing at the previous institution attended. 
    • - Provide official transcripts from the undergraduate degree granting institution to the Cal Poly Admissions Office by the appropriate deadline. 
    • - A GPA from the bachelor degree granting institution of 3.0 of better. A GRE score demonstrating a 50th percentile or higher in each of the 3 categories may allow an application with a GPA of 2.5 or below to be considered. 
    • - Some programs require GRE scores for all applicants. Refer to the Admissions Office and program as there are some exceptions. If your program requires GRE scores, official scores must be reported to the Cal Poly Admissions Office by the deadline. 
    • - Letters of Recommendation as required by the program on interest. 
    • - All graduate and post-baccalaureate applicants, regardless of citizenship, whose native language is not English and whose preparatory education was principally in a language other than English must demonstrate competence in English. Those who do not possess a bachelor's degree from a post-secondary institution where English in the principal language of instruction must take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) with a score of 80 or better, or the International English Language Testing system (IELTS) exam with a score of 6.5 or better. 

International applicant admission to Cal Poly:  

The CSU must assess the academic preparation of international students. For this purpose, international students include those who hold U.S. temporary visas as students, exchange visitors, or in other non-immigrant classifications. The CSU uses separate requirements and application filing dates in the admission of international students. The process for filing an international application can be found on the Cal Poly Admissions website.

Cost, Financial Aid, and Tuition | California Polytechnic State University: College of Liberal Arts 

Cal Poly ranked 37th in the U.S. in PayScale’s 2018 “College ROI Report,” which ranked 1,878 colleges and universities. According to PayScale’s projections, Cal Poly has a 20-year net return on investment of $699,000. This ROI is the 2nd highest in the California State University system and is higher than all of the University of California schools.

The estimated tuition and fees for a full-time, resident graduate student is $11,376 for three quarters. For full-time students who are not residents of the state of California, estimated tuition and fees are $17,712 for three quarters. For full-time international students, estimated tuition and fees are $19,902 for three quarters. Additional information about living expenses, supplies and transportation can be found here.

Cal Poly provides several opportunities to reduce tuition and fees, including resident tuition waivers, non-resident tuition waivers, and State University Grants. Applicants can apply for Resident and Non-Resident Tuition Waivers here. State University Grants are need-based financial aid. Students interested in need-based financial aid should submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) or the California Dream Act Application if they are not eligible for federal financial aid. Students who complete one of these applications are automatically considered for need-based grant programs. Graduate Education also oversees the Graduate Equity Fellowship, which provides support students with demonstrated financial need.  Graduate Education also provides Graduate Assistant positions to support the professional development and mastery of your chosen field.

Degrees & Awards

Degrees Offered

Degree Concentration Sub-concentration
Master of Public Policy (MPP)
Master of Science (MS) Psychology
Master of Arts in English (MAEN) English
Master of Arts (MA) History

Degrees Awarded

Degree Number Awarded
Master's Degrees 33

Earning Your Degree

Part-time study available? Yes
Evening/weekend programs available? No
Distance learning programs available? No
Terminal master's degree available? No

Degree Requirements

Degree Requirement
Master's Degrees Comp Exam Required for some
Thesis Required for some


Acceptance Rate



Application Fee - Domestic

Application Deadlines

Type Domestic International Priority date
Fall deadline April 1st March 1st No

Entrance Requirements

Exam Details
Master's Degree Exam GRE required for some 

Tuition & Fees

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Financial Support

Financial award applicants must submit: FAFSA or California Dream Act Application 
Application deadlines for financial awards March 1 and June 1 
Types of financial support available Tuition Waiver, Scholarship and/or Loans, Graduate Assistantships 

Student Body

Total Graduate Students
Not Reported
International Breakout (representing other countries)


Hispanic/Latino 20.35%
Black or African American 5.31%
White or Caucasian 60%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0%
Asian 4.42%
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander 0%
Two or more races 5.31%
Unknown 3.54%


Male (38%)
Female (61%)


Total faculty
Full-time - 16
Part-time - 6
Male (13)
Female (9)

Location & Contact

Address 1 Grand Avenue
San Luis Obispo, CA  93407
United States
Contact Dr. Philip Williams
Phone: 805-756-2706

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California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
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