One in six Palo Alto grads attends Foothill-De Anza

Community college chancellor offers statistics on Palo Alto students who go to Foothill

About one in six Gunn or Palo Alto high school graduates goes directly to Foothill or De Anza community college, according to the college chancellor.

Linda Thor, chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, spoke at a reception Sunday at the Palo Alto home of Elaine Andersen, a member of a Foothill College "friends" group.

Sunday's reception drew several dozen PTA and other community leaders, including Palo Alto school board members Barbara Klausner and Camille Townsend, Palo Alto Mayor Sid Espinosa, City Council members Pat Burt and Nancy Shepherd. State Sen. Joe Simitian and Foothill-De Anza trustee Bruce Swenson also attended.

Michael Kirst, a Stanford University professor and current president of the State Board of Education, told the group that getting more students successfully through community colleges will be critical for the future economic success of California and the nation.

In the fall of 2009, about 18 percent of Paly and Gunn graduates entered Foothill or De Anza, and the rate over the past decade has ranged between 13 percent and 19 percent, Thor said.

According to Foothill statistics, about 80 percent of Palo Alto students meet their goals of completing preparation for transfer or successfully transferring to a four-year university.

Between 2004 and 2009, Palo Alto students attending Foothill or De Anza transferred to about 95 different four-year institutions, including every University of California campus, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Cornell, Mount Holyoke, Northeastern, Occidental, the University of Michigan, the University of Southern California and Yale, Thor said.

Foothill-De Anza students ranked No. 1 among 72 community colleges in California for UC transfers in 2010, Thor said.

The colleges' Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) program guarantees Foothill or De Anza students admission as juniors to certain UC or other campuses if they meet agreed-upon grade and course requirements.

Foothill and De Anza have TAG agreements with UC campuses at Davis, Irvine, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz, as well as with some private universities, including Cornell, Thor said.

UCLA and Berkeley do not have TAG agreements with any college. However, Foothill has a "special transfer relationship" with UCLA called the Transfer Alliance Program. It does not guarantee admission, but in 2010 more than 80 percent of the Foothill honors students who used the program were admitted to UCLA, Thor said.

Andersen, who with her husband hosted Sunday's event, is a member of the Foothill Commission, a group dedicated to promoting and raising funds for the school in the community. She received an associate's degree from Foothill in 1969 before earning her bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees from Stanford University. She is a professor of linguistics and neuroscience at the University of Southern California.

Chris Kenrick

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Like this comment
Posted by Linda Lingg
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 22, 2011 at 11:57 am

Palo Alto Weekly, thank you for this article. I am so glad to see the facts presented clearly to our community for use in individual and district-wide decision-making.

Like this comment
Posted by greatarticle
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm

I am so glad the weekly put this in their headlines, as a society we need variety of jobs,skills, every job has its top performer and excellent service to others, we should feel proud of those kids who are going to 2-year colleges too.

Like this comment
Posted by great resource
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Foothill College is a great community resource. It would be a shame to kick them out of their Cubberly campus. Bicycle and bus routes from Palo Alto to their main campus on the other side of I-280 are very poor.

Like this comment
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 22, 2011 at 2:01 pm

I think the article provides more than just being proud of kids going to 2-year colleges:

"about 80 percent of Palo Alto students meet their goals of completing preparation for transfer or successfully transferring to a four-year university"

"in 2010 more than 80 percent of the Foothill honors students who used the program were admitted to UCLA"

Most of these kids seem to be continuing onto 4-yr universities and to me, this seems like a much SMARTER route to get into the UC/other institutions. Given the economic environment, I would hope that there's more than just "one in six" kids/families that choose this option!

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm

I don't think the Foothill Cubberley campus meets the needs for many of our students going to Foothill. But better transportation options to get them there are most definitely needed.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 22, 2011 at 3:29 pm

MP Resident - great post! My siblings & I all went to Foothill before transferring to four year schools. I recall having some tough, thought-provoking instructors who did right by their students.

Many of my high school friends did the same, going to JCs in the area, transferring, & a number of went on to get graduate degrees as well. For the 2 years who didn't transfer, they found various career paths and it wasn't any big thing to not transfer. People found their paths in a very natural way - & of course, the economy was better then. We are lucky to have the CC system here - it's invaluable.

My siblings & I can more than hold our own w/our Ivy League, Oxford, Cambridge, LSE & Stanford colleagues, friends & spouses - & that's not in small part because we recognize that education is lifelong & goes beyond university - it's a value & an attitude.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 22, 2011 at 3:49 pm

London School of Economics?

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 22, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Musical, was your question directed at me? If so, yes, London School of Economics. But I'm not sure if you wanted to know what LSE stands for or had a different question - let me know!

Like this comment
Posted by CCC-Transfer-Rates-Too-Low
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Interesting that the actual transfer rate for students in a 2-year window to a 4-year (well .. actually 6-year these days) is not a part of the article. The article claims: 80% of the "honors students" transfer .. OK .. how many "honors students" are there? If 80% of the "honors students" turns out to be 2% of the total student body, then we are not really in a good place. And that calls into question why kids who are in "honors programs" at Foothill could not get into a UC/CSU school? The numbers are being fudged here. And we have the Weekly, in part, for failing to make note of this "fudging" in its article.

The CSU school are reporting as low as 4% for 4-year graduation rates, and some of the UC schools are in the 40% for 4-years. Data on the UC Davis web-site shows that the graduation rate is just a little over 80% for 6-year students.

The Community College Chancellor's Office has, in the past, posted system-wide data showing that the transfer rate for 2-year "programs" is as low as 15%. So, unless we look at all of the students, and not just the "honors students", we're missing the big picture.

The CCC System has for some time now been getting almost more money than the UC System and the CSU System combined. That's just WRONG! for a 15% transfer rate.

Sorry .. but this article is presenting "cook the book" numbers, and several folks posting here have missed this point, big time.

Like this comment
Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 22, 2011 at 6:41 pm


California community colleges overall, including Foothill and De Anza, have very low transfer rates. The following link puts some numbers to that: Web Link
Thor also noted Sunday that a very high percentage of students, something like 70 percent, enter community college in need of remedial instruction in language arts or math. Today's article was more tightly focused on Thor's statistics pertaining to Gunn and Paly graduates.

Like this comment
Posted by L
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 22, 2011 at 11:04 pm

This number is way too high. I'm actually quite surprised. I thought/ hoped it would be lower, ~5%? We moved here for the school district ..

Like this comment
Posted by too-high-unfortunate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 22, 2011 at 11:11 pm

Agree with L. If they are just reporting on Foothill that means we're not counting all the community colleges or drop-outs. This is telling me that my child has a +16% chance of not going to a 4 year college, albeit a good one, if I send him/her to a PA high school? I'm sorry. That's not good enough.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 23, 2011 at 12:02 am

In the 70's we affectionately referred to Foothill as high school with ashtrays. I don't recall what proportion of Cubberley grads went there, but some of my best friends were among them. No matter where we went, we valued learning and, as Hmmm says, recognized it as a lifelong endeavor. We may have had different academic launch vehicles, but it is the course corrections throughout the years that put us on a satisfying trajectory.

The comments just above (if they aren't deleted) don't merit a response.

Regarding LSE, not exactly a household 3-letter abbreviation, I just hadn't seen it thrown into that mix of juicy names, and never knew any Palo Alto kids who applied there. MIT yes, CIT less so, often thought to be in San Luis Obispo.

ps: Must be heckuva commute for that USC professor. High Speed Rail anyone?

Like this comment
Posted by Foothill Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 23, 2011 at 1:39 am

I have two sons at Foothill (Gunn grads). The elder son, while academically capable, has a number of disabilities/challenges and has to take things slow and easy (he needed 5 years at Gunn, too), plus independence is still a ways off for him. The Disabilities program at Foothill has helped him out. Younger son went out of state to a tough school, couldn't handle it, came back to Foothill, and is currently finishing up his applications to UCs and CSUs for next fall. Foothill was a great fallback for him, and he's done well there.

@CCC-too-low: I interpreted the 80% statistics to mean that 80% of students from Palo Alto do successfully fulfill all the requirements for transfer, and that — separately and additionally — 80% of Foothill students (from PA or not) who are in the UCLA TAP program, specifically, get into UCLA. Two different 80% figures in two different contexts. (Someone can correct me if I'm wrong about this.)

As for the abysmal number of transfers — I can think of several reasons why this might be the case. Students woefully unprepared for college (or just unable to learn college-level material) can't complete the remedial course work. Students who have to work to support themselves, and who don't have enough hours in the day to do a good job at school while working long hours. (My own husband, when getting his B.S. at a major university, got straight As when not working to put himself through, but his grades were considerably lower when he had to work.) The challenges of having small children to care for — something I suspect affecting a higher percentage of CC students than 4-year students. Students who have been out of school for a while and who have gotten "out of the groove" of studying.

Additionally, it's not clear how those getting terminal AA degrees or certificates figure into the "not transferring" stats, since that's not their goal. Plus, how do they count students like me, who already have B.A.s or higher, but take occasional Foothill classes for enrichment? (Every person in a 100-member choir I used to sing in was technically a Foothill student, for example.)

So I'd like to see such statistics broken down more according to who's actually aiming to transfer, and what percentage of those students do or don't transfer, and why or why not.

Like this comment
Posted by greatarticle
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 23, 2011 at 8:02 am

Foothill is doing fantastic job to transfer the majority of its students into san jose state,santa clara university,san Francisco state..all of those schools have good reputation for entry jobs in local market.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 23, 2011 at 10:05 am

@Foothill Parent, for more statistics, you can start here (if my cut & paste of the url works)Web Link

Shows 6732 students of the 16898 are there with aims to transfer; 2008 aim for a terminal AA or AS or vocational degree or certificate, 1294 new career, 2727 undecided, and so on. 4529 (26.8%) already have a BA/BS or higher.

Clearly Foothill is a valued resource for many segments of the population.

Like this comment
Posted by teacher of well rounded and smart kids
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 23, 2011 at 3:39 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 23, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Hi Musical,

The local LSE friend went to Los Altos high, Foothill, then the Marine Corps, then back to Foothill, then finished at a private college & then LSE, finishing his doctorate. When I see LSE, I admit I think LSU :-) His wife, also a local, was a Foothil student who transferred & became a computer science engineer when there were even fewer women than currently.

Like this comment
Posted by Gisela Zebroski
a resident of Los Altos
on Nov 24, 2011 at 6:43 pm

FH has been my place back in 1969. With limited preparation (8 years of school) I was able to catch up, thanks to great teachers. After graduating I went on to SJSU where I earned my bachelors with a double major and became a published novelist. My life was greatly enriched by my education - only possible through the head start in a community college. I'm now a member of the Commission and can't rave enough about the institution, a stepping stone for many underprivileged people of all ages to live up to their potential.
Thanks Elaine for spreading the word to all those who seek to better themelves.

Like this comment
Posted by Cathy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 26, 2011 at 7:23 pm

The LSE actually has a high number of American students, it has a very popular, one year general course that is marketed heavily over here. It is very lucrative to the university but a relatively cheap year, compared to the cost of US private universities. My room mate in my first year at the LSE, way, way back, was a general course Wellesley student.
Just wanted to point this out as it is not often that my alma mater gets discussed on these boards.

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

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