Foothill College cuts radio, work programs

Budget constraints reduce students' options

Foothill College will discontinue several programs this fall quarter due to $2.3 million in budget cuts that took effect July 1.

Programs on the chopping block at the Los Altos Hills community college include Chinese, creative writing, radio and cooperative work experience.

"We've really been in cut mode for three years," Foothill President Judy Miner said.

Foothill has generated less funding based on enrollment, called apportionment, for the last two years. Miner said the decline is mostly due to a state reduction in the number of time students are allowed to repeat courses and changes to how colleges can count attendance for unscheduled hours outside of the classroom, such as time spent in a tutorial center.

Miner said the college will recover some apportionment next year when it offers tutorial-center classes but expressed frustration at state bureaucracy.

"Had we got approval (for the classes) back in the fall, we would have mitigated our (apportionment) loss more than we did," she said.

This year Foothill also corrected how it counted hours for cooperative work experience, a program in which students complete assignments based on experiences at their jobs. The adjustment resulted in a nearly $1.5 million drop in funding.

"Like many other places, we were turning in actual hours that students would be spending on a job," Miner said.

She said the incorrect counting was due to a misinterpretation of the state attendance accounting manual.

Using the correct method, the school counted 68 full-time equivalent students for this year compared with 376 and 410 for the two previous years. The changed method resulted in a drop of apportionment from roughly $1.8 million in 2010-11 to $340,000 in 2011-12.

"This is just a program that's not going to be effective for what we can afford," said John Mummert, vice president of workforce development, explaining the decision to end the program.

Director of Cooperative Work Experience Beckie Urrutia-Lopez said international students would be particularly affected because of their visa restrictions.

"The only way for them to work off campus is to take a course," said Urrutia-Lopez, who has directed the program since 2000.

She said the program motivated students to take all jobs seriously by planning learning objectives, such as creating a procedural manual for a student's receptionist position.

But as a workforce-development program, it was undervalued by administration and faculty who were more comfortable with traditional academic courses, she said.

Miner said cooperative work experience will be replaced by an existing internship program that allows students to earn credit in specific fields of study.

Dean of Language Arts Paul Starer said Chinese and creative writing were cut to prioritize classes students need to earn degrees or transfer to a four-year college.

"Teaching a Chinese class essentially crosses out one English 1A class," he said. "It's a zero-sum game in that regard."

Foothill, which in previous years also offered Korean, German, and Hebrew, will now only offer Japanese and Spanish.

Starer said Chinese was chosen because enrollment had been in decline and no full-time staff would have to be laid off.

"It wasn't a decision made lightly," he said. "We're aware of existing on the Pacific Rim and the importance of Chinese as a language of increasing international importance."

Starer said creative writing was cut due to a downward trend in enrollment and because students weren't earning degrees in the subject.

"The classes were, I think, beloved by the community," Starer said. "But it didn't translate into the metrics the state really holds colleges accountable for, which is degrees and transfer."

Foothill's radio station KFJC 89.7 FM will continue to operate despite the elimination of the radio program, said station supervisor and broadcasting instructor Robert "Doc" Pelzel.

"Hopefully the changeover will make almost no difference to staff or listeners," he said.

Radio classes will now be offered through the Foothill-De Anza Community College District's community education program. These classes are non-credit and don't receive state funding.

Foothill will no longer fund Pelzel's position or the chief engineer. But KFJC, named best community college station in 2012 by the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System, will continue to broadcast its eclectic music selections from its current location on campus.

Pelzel said the station brings in $80,000 to $90,000 a year on its own, mostly through its on-air fundraising campaign. He said his position would be reduced and receive some funding from the community education program.

Pelzel said three people earned degrees from the program this year and that the concentration of radio ownership has reduced job opportunities in the field.

But he said students have learned skills at the station that have translated into other fields.

"Radio is just one aspect," he said. "We've had people who have done graphics for record labels, music promotion, sound people for night clubs, installers of high-end video and audio."

Biotechnology and intercollegiate golf will also be discontinued next year.


Like this comment
Posted by Mr Advice
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 1, 2012 at 6:08 am

Sell Pot at the bookstore and use $ to cover any cuts.

Like this comment
Posted by Mr. Nice
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 2, 2012 at 10:35 am

What a brilliant idea Mr. Advice has!! They should make him in charge of the Pot Store at Foothill JC.

Like this comment
Posted by eraser
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 2, 2012 at 2:21 pm

The bathrooms are constantly covered in graffiti. It was finally cleaned up this year --after a year--but showed up again in no time.

I'd rather have fewer classes and not go to school in what looks like the worlds filthiest gas station...

Not to mention all the dead weight. Aside from foreign students you'd have a hard time convincing me more than 20% of the kids enrolled there did so for any other reason than their parents told them they'd have to pay rent otherwise.

Get rid of the sports programs too. I'm tired of the slack jawed athletes stumbling around campus and *trying to* bully other students.

At least they're there to loudly and shamelessly rate womens' bodies as they walk by. I'm sure that's a skill that will be useful one day.

Congratulations to the coaches for raising such fine young men.

Like this comment
Posted by SP Phil
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 2, 2012 at 2:29 pm

There is a long section in this article about the radio program, but then the final sentence reads: "Biotechnology and intercollegiate golf will also be discontinued next year."

Golf I get, but I'd like to know more about the biotechnology program and what Foothill and its present/future students will miss when it goes.

I am requesting the reporter to look into this. After all, biotech is one part of Silicon Valley's success and future.

Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Gemello
on Jul 2, 2012 at 8:49 pm

I'm the biology lab technician at Foothill College. Why the biotech program was discontinued is more complicated and sensitive than one sentence in the Voice can convey. While money was certainly a huge consideration, the existing condition of the program and other variables greatly contributed to its discontinuation.

If you wish to know more, contact me through the staff directory on the FH website.

- John Atkins

Like this comment
Posted by Foothill Mom
a resident of another community
on Jul 3, 2012 at 2:06 am

"Eraser", I have had two sons at Foothill, and one of them just finished his last Linear Algebra final last Friday and is on his way to UC Santa Cruz in Computer Science in the fall. (The other one is within a few courses of completing all the requirements for the AA in Computer Science.)

While I will not deny that many young people get the "college or work" ultimatum from their parents (and why should it be otherwise after finishing high school, pray tell??), my sons' experience has been that the students have been both more competent and more motivated than they expected. (They both went to Gunn, so they already knew what competent and motivated students look like.) Part of this could certainly be the course of study they both pursued — science and math courses are not the easiest way to waste time taking classes, if that is one's goal.

Oh, and we are not foreigners.

As for the bathrooms, well, I've only been in the ladies' rooms, but they've been clean enough, just sometimes lacking paper towels and such (like most public restrooms everywhere in these tight times). Nor have my sons ever complained about the state of the men's rooms. If there's a particularly messy one, let the folks at Foothill know about it.

Like this comment
Posted by Kman
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 3, 2012 at 1:36 pm

"Get rid of the sports programs too. " That would solve all the monetary problems.

Like this comment
Posted by Local Parent
a resident of another community
on Jul 3, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Re eraser's "dead weight" comment:

Not to pick on Foothill specifically, but why do community colleges offer classes that teach students to add, subtract, multiply and divide positive and negative whole numbers and fractions ? If a student didn't get this after completing grade school, should colleges really be teaching it to them ? Shouldn't it be the student's responsibility to learn it themselves, and until they do, they shouldn't be allowed to take any class which involves numbers ?

Like this comment
Posted by Foothill Mom
a resident of another community
on Jul 4, 2012 at 1:44 am

Local Parent: No, of course the community colleges should not be teaching basic math. That should have been taken care of in high school (along with basic English composition). Unfortunately, it often isn't. These are what are called "remedial" classes, to remedy the deficiencies that were never made up in K-12 education. If a kid is passed through at some inferior high school (maybe when they were too immature to realize what they were missing), and then gets out in the world or decides to go to college and finds that they need these basic courses to pursue any higher education, they are kind of stuck. In most cases, I suspect, they can't very easily learn this stuff on their own (or they would have passed the classes in the first place), and so need some help from instructors.

Too often, these students are even being admitted to schools like Cal States, but then they have to take the remedial classes there. This is true of a much higher percentage of college students than you might think. IMHO, these students should receive admits to four-year state schools contingent on their successful completion of the remedial coursework they need at a local community college. If they can't hack it there, a spot for another student is opened up at a CSU or UC, and that student has probably saved a lot of money (and/or the school has saved some scholarship money). The community college level makes the most sense for taking these "bonehead" courses, at least until another consistently successful model is developed (online courses, courses through high schools for returning students, etc.)

(Oh, and lest any of you think the "Linear Algebra" course I mentioned my son taking above was just a form of "algebra" — no, it's a math course that's usually taken by science and math majors in their sophomore year at college, after having completed a year of calculus.)

Kman: As an amusing aside, Foothill's sports program saved my son's butt. He was ill a lot during one semester in high school, and by state law, if a student misses more than 10 class sessions for any reason — excused or not — they have to make it up somehow. My son needed one lousy PE credit to graduate, and he didn't want to take an entire semester of PE to get it, which was the only option on offer. So I talked his counselor and the head of the PE dept. at Gunn to let him take a PE class at Foothill, and he took a 1-credit bowling course through Foothill at the late lamented Palo Alto Bowl. That single credit saved us a world of grief, and it was a lot more fun than spending one of his course slots his senior year on taking PE with the frosh and sophs. So one can get creative with the offerings at Foothill.

Like this comment
Posted by Local Parent
a resident of another community
on Jul 4, 2012 at 9:53 am

Foothill Mom: I understand that many 1st year college students may have problems with algebra, and so, those should be offered at CC's.

But, if someone is of college age, wants to take college classes, does not know how to do grade school arithmetic, and yet cannot learn it on their own, then it speaks to their potential (or self-motivation or determination) to do everything else necessary to succeed at the college level.

Sure, the CC's can give them qualifying tests to see if they're ready, and lists of textbooks, worksheets, tutors and online resources to help them out, but should the CC's really be offering quarter-long classes as well ? (And as I understand it, those classes have an over 50% failure rate anyway.)

Like this comment
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 5, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Now if the Foothill-De Anza Community College District could get it in gear and enact (Title 5) petitions for extenuating circumstances instead of failing students. For those of you that don't know, this community college district fails students (of all ages) who have serious documented medical emergencies (including academic honors students), fails students whose parents die, have serious car accidents, etc. This district's ineptitude (criticized by other districts throughout California because they had no idea the FH-DA was failing students and wasn't complying with Title 5 law) has made our students less competitive, cost them transfer opportunities and jobs where they have to show their F-filled transcripts. Emergencies happen in life and this isn't particle physics and complicated to resolve.

Like this comment
Posted by Local Parent
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Concerned: Those are some serious charges. Do you have documentation of them ?

The process for students in the situations you describe is to give them an incomplete. Missed work must then be completed within one calendar year. If not, then the incomplete will be converted to an F by default. I believe this is standard state education policy. Anything else would be flouting the law.

Like this comment
Posted by Longtime Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 9, 2012 at 1:25 pm

The Biotech program was aimed at preparing students for entry level positions in local biotech companies. This type of applicant is welcomed in the biotech industry, as many types of lab jobs are well-suited for individuals who have good lab skills but perhaps not a four-year degree in biochemistry or molecular biology.

Cancelling this program is a huge loss for Foothill and for the community. If internal conflicts and issues were the cause, then shame on Foothill for not addressing the problems adequately.

I agree with SP Phil: This would be a good story to write; how and why we are witnessing and allowing the death of valued program at Foothill.

Like this comment
Posted by Nick V
Mountain View Voice Staff Writer
on Jul 12, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Nick V is a registered user.

Hello Longtime Resident,

This is Nick Veronin, the education reporter for the Mountain View Voice. I'm very interested in writing a story that digs a bit deeper into the discontinuation of the biotech program. Please email me if you might be able to lend some insight or could point me in the direction of someone who could help.

-Nick Veronin:

Like this comment
Posted by Nick V
Mountain View Voice Staff Writer
on Jul 12, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Nick V is a registered user.

To any and all upset by the fact that biotech has been cut: Please email me and explain why. I am considering writing a story about it, but I need community members who disagree with the move to contact me, in order to write a story.

Nick Veronin, staff writer,

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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