This is most likely not the last review I will write for Students Review. I checked Students Review before enrolling at CSUMB, and unfortunately the negative reviews of the school were for the most part inarticulate and seemed to lack a concrete basis, with the exception of a very few. As a result I chalked the negative reviews up to Freshmen not adjusting to college life or general student bitterness.
That was my first mistake.
So here are some facts about the school that you need to know as communicated to me by Advisors, R.A.s and Faculty.
As of this Fall (2008) the residence halls are functioning at 120%. This means that they are 20% over capacity. The following is a quote from the CSUMB Homepage's scrolling promotional banner: "How about guaranteed on-campus housing, ample parking, and actually being able to register for the classes you want?" Obviously, if the residence halls are 20% over capacity, there is no such thing as guaranteed on-campus housing. One of my roommates moved into our room the day after classes started (almost 5 days after move-in) because she had been wait-listed. It is 2 weeks into the semester and I saw someone moving into a dorm yesterday. There are still people on the waiting list, and while some are making it off this late, due to drop outs, most will not be able to secure on-campus housing. Some guarantee.
Speaking of drop-outs, you also need to know that CSU has the lowest student retention rate in the entire CSU system. (In case you're wondering, yes, that is a very bad thing.)
Furthermore, not just CSUMB, but to an extent the entire CSU system is in some degree of hot water due to the public education budget cuts in California. When I took some of the complaints I had to a school advisor, this fact was cited as an excuse for the extremely obvious problems the school is experiencing. In an attempt to convey to me the gravity of CSU's financial situation the advisor I was speaking to also informed me that at that moment students were still being admitted to the university, in a desperate attempt to increase the student body size and thereby increase university revenue. This was the day that classes started for the Fall 2008 semester, and days after the residence halls were already operating at 120% capacity.
This massive emergency influx of students brings on another list of issues. As stated above, the school clearly flaunts the idea that you can register for the classes you want (apparently as opposed to other schools, where you can't?). This is a gross deception. The current student body is the biggest in CSUMB's (very short) history. The freshman class is 30% larger than last year. This statistic is another sound-byte the school loves to flaunt. Unfortunately, however, while the student body grew the school's capacity to serve those students did not. As an out-of-state student, I (and others like myself, though the vast majority of CSU students are from California) could not attend an orientation session until the week of freshman registration. Due, in part to the inflated student population, but also to the new, and very inefficient online student data base (PeopleSoft) that CSUMB has begun recently begun using, classes were already full or could not be registered for. As a result my initial schedule was heavily unbalanced, and very major-specific, despite the fact that I am an incoming freshman and as such likely to switch majors. It took extensive research, perseverance and, to be honest, luck on my part to achieve something even remotely resembling a normal first-year schedule. This was a common experience among entering freshmen, and the situation is exacerbated for out-of-state students, despite the fact that the tuition they pay is double that of in-state students (higher out of state tuition is standard, that is not an issue here, I only mention it to highlight the complaint above.) Classes that were full at the time of student move-in and registration include: PreCalculus, Chemistry 1, US History, Humanities courses, all freshman Composition or Literature classes, almost all PE classes - the list could go on. These are basic freshman classes, which should be configured to allow the highest number of students to attend, because they are ULRs (University Learning Requirements - required for any liberal university degree) yet these were the classes that were full. As add and drop time comes around a few spots open up in some core classes, but for the most part whatever you can scrounge together in the mad rush of registration week is what you get.
Because CSUMB invests so much in (deceptive) marketing, yet has such a low retention rate, it is a bizarre anomaly in terms of availability of courses. There are nowhere near enough seats available in standard freshman courses, and an overabundance of spots of available in the higher level major-specific classes. Lots of people come, few people stay, and CSUMB isn't really prepared for either.
There are more subjects I haven't even touched on yet: The fact that past students complain regularly about the transferability (or lack thereof) of CSUMB credits, the campus (the former military base Fort Ord) which is still home to derelict and condemned buildings, the poor development of the campus, the distance from local attractions, the lack of good advising for incoming freshmen, the complexity and inconvenience of the process of changing majors (even for freshmen who haven't even begun classes yet)...
Here's the crux: If you do your homework you will most likely find CSUMB to be unappealing, disappointing and dishonest in their marketing, services and academics. The evidence is plenty and many (much) better schools exist, even within the CSU system (if that's where you're hell-bent on going) but if you value quality academics, and a fulfilling college experience I can only recommend that steer clear or get out fast. CSUMB has some major problems to work out before it can be said that they are meeting the needs of the student in body, in almost any arena.
Despite so much dysfunction, the food is good, and a very nice new library will be opening soon.But food and books don't equal quality education, and CSUMB is most definitely lacking in the qualities that matter when selecting an institution of higher learning.