One of the most distinctive qualities of the Claremont Colleges is the cross-enrollment option that students from the five undergraduate institutions enjoy throughout their college careers. While each college is independent, the consortium offers students what tour guides commonly refer to as the best of both worlds—a small-school atmosphere with the resources of a larger university.
Pomona College’s cross-enrollment has shifted dramatically over the last decade, according to student enrollment data obtained by TSL. In the 2002-2003 academic year, more than 1,000 Pomona students attended classes at the other 5Cs, whereas about 1,800 did in the 2012-2013 year. The number of non-Pomona students enrolled in Pomona classes surpassed 3,000 in 2012-2013, the highest it has been on record.
Pomona Registrar Margaret Adorno said that cross-enrollment at the colleges has increased slowly and steadily over time, while the ratio of Pomona students taking non-Pomona classes to non-Pomona students taking Pomona classes has decreased.
The registrars for Pitzer College, Claremont McKenna College, Scripps College, and Harvey Mudd College did not respond to requests for cross-enrollment data at their institutions.
Adorno noted that cross-enrollment allows the colleges to mutually benefit from academic programs that are offered at just one institution. For example, it allows students to major outside of their home institution.
“Pomona’s Theater Department is five-college, so all the colleges contribute to it,” she wrote in an email to TSL. “And, the colleges all contribute to lower-division foreign languages which helps to even out the relative burden to any of the colleges that have languages that the others might not (e.g. while we exclusively offer Japanese, CMC exclusively offers Korean, and so on.)”
Benjamin Kersten PO ’15 is majoring in art history, a program that is jointly run through Pitzer and Scripps. Because of this, Kersten has taken at least one class per semester outside of Pomona since his first year.
“While Pomona offers a couple of art history courses, the majority of my course load for the major has focused at Scripps and Pitzer,” he said. “I technically could’ve taken all of my courses at Pomona, but the way in which the art history major works makes it so that each course is very specific and must be chosen on an individual basis. For instance, there are two modernist professors that are the forefront of the program, one is at Pomona and the other is at Scripps. If the one at Pomona is on sabbatical, then everybody flocks over to Scripps and vice versa.”
Kersten, however, notes that his situation is the exception.
“At the first academic advisory session, they recommend us not taking more than one course off campus each semester,” he said. “However, my major grants me more flexibility when it comes down to taking courses at other colleges.”
Kevin Bryne PO ’15, a computer science major, is in a similar situation.
“Pomona has a joint computer science department with Mudd, but I’ve decided to take a lot of my upper division courses at Mudd,” he said. “This semester, I’m taking three of my four classes up there.”
For Byrne, taking classes at HMC allows him to meet new people and get out of his familiar environment at Pomona.
“Mudd can be a little inconvenient just because it’s farther away from where I live than classes at Pomona, but it’s been really cool to get in a different group of people,” he said. “Pomona is relatively small, and there are lots of new people to meet in the classes I take at Mudd. There’s also a total different culture, especially around classes, which is refreshing. It’s not necessarily better; it’s just different.”
Jonathan Starzyk PO ’14 agreed, adding that taking classes on other campuses is a way to break stereotypes about other students.
“I feel like stereotypes of students at the colleges run unnecessarily deep,” he said. “Taking classes at the other colleges gives you a way to see for yourself if the stereotype lives up to itself. It also gives you a chance to deal with students who think in different ways because each one has its own philosophy.”
Starzyk, a media studies major, has found that he has to take classes outside of Pomona throughout his college career to complete the major’s requirements. For Starzyk, this can only be described as a plus.
“It’s almost impossible to take all my media studies classes at Pomona, but that’s great,” he said. “I want to get as deep into my major as possible. That means meeting other professors and understanding their teaching philosophies and their standards, and working all around the colleges. Why wouldn’t I want to do that for myself?”
Starzyk said that he would like to promote more cross-enrollment.
“I feel like cross-enrollment is important because we’re at a liberal arts college and we want to get a holistic, well-rounded education, and these colleges are amazing institutions that are literally right next to us,” he said. “Why wouldn’t we want to jump on that opportunity?”