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 will take 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.
Editorial Intern Bryce Druzin can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.