Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 30, 2010

Foothill College woos potential freshmen

With talk of university-transfer guarantees, community college promises 'world class' experience

by Chris Kenrick

Dressed in a crisp blue shirt and bow tie, the tall, lanky Matais Pouncil was in recruitment mode.

"We're not talking second-rate education here," he said from the stage of Foothill College's Smithwick Theatre. "We're talking first-class, world-class experience."

Pouncil, a Foothill administrator, spoke Wednesday to a hall full of local high school seniors at "Day on the Hill," an introduction to life on the Los Altos Hills campus.

Several dozen seniors from Gunn and Palo Alto high schools, in the midst of firming up their post-high school plans, took time off from school to attend.

"I really liked it," Paly senior Mollie Sitzer said. "I was very pleasantly surprised at the commitment the teachers seemed to have with the students, because there are so many of them.

"I'd expect them to act somewhat stressed out, but they didn't."

Sitzer, a graduate of Fairmeadow Elementary and JLS Middle schools, plans to study Japanese and illustration and pursue a career as a concept artist.

Students attended workshops on financial aid, student services and the community college's transfer program, which allows a student to contract with certain University of California and California State University campuses for guaranteed junior-year admission if the student meets certain requirements at Foothill.

"It was very informative, especially since I'm going to be going to Foothill for two to three years and then transferring to a four-year college," Gunn senior Suzanne MacPherson said.

MacPherson plans to major in psychology and pursue a career as a therapist. She hopes to complete her undergraduate education at a UC or a private four-year institution.

Gunn senior Danial Rahbar attended the Day on the Hill with his mother, Afsaneh. Rahbar is a relative newcomer to Palo Alto, having attending school until 10th grade in Iran.

After Foothill, Rahbar said he hopes to complete a degree in civil engineering at the University of California.

Foothill is the largest single recipient institution of Paly and Gunn graduates — not a well-understood fact in college-obsessed Palo Alto.

In the fall of 2008, 121 district students enrolled at Foothill — about 14 percent of the graduating class. There were 67 from Gunn and 54 from Paly. Fall 2007 figures were nearly identical, and fall 2009 figures were not available, according to Foothill-De Anza Director of Communications Becky Bartindale.

Another 18 Palo Alto district graduates matriculated at De Anza in the fall of 2008, she said.

In a session about transfer options following a Foothill education, students learned they can lock in priority, or even guaranteed, admission to various four-year institutions.

Under "transfer admission guarantee" agreements, Foothill students who meet certain coursework and grade-point-average requirements can secure guaranteed admission to UC campuses at Davis, Irvine, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz, as well as private four-year institutions including Cornell University, Santa Clara University and the University of San Francisco.

Minimum Foothill grade-point-average requirements for those programs range from 2.0 to 3.5.

Foothill also has "priority admission" partnerships with certain institutions, including UCLA, Mills College and Whitman College in Washington.

"If you come to Foothill, we can't wait to see you," Elaine Piparo, Foothill's transfer director, said. "We want you in our school."

Mindy Sitzer accompanied her Paly daughter, Mollie, to the Foothill event.

"It was very informative," Sitzer said Wednesday night. "I got a feeling that everybody there is really supportive. They're looking out for our best interests. They're really supportive in helping the kids attain their goals.

"I also got a sense of how crowded it's going to be when Mollie needs to take classes," Sitzer continued. "We went to three breakout sessions, and they were full.

"Getting the classes you want and need I think is going to be a challenge."

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be e-mailed at ckenrick@paweekly.com.

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