Pierce increases reach

Pierce College hopes to expand its Outreach Program courses with the help of an assembly bill.

While Pierce has been offering the Outreach program for years, the passage of Assembly Bill 288 now allows for classes at high schools, to be held during school hours.

The new courses will help students gain college credits. With these classes, by the time students arrive at Pierce, they will have gathered enough credits to be close to graduating and be eligible to transfer to a university.

Sheri Berger, vice president of Academic Affairs, said the assembly bill allows those classes to be limited to the students of that school and be offered during school hours.

“A couple of years ago, the state passed Assembly Bill 288, which allowed colleges to enter into the ‘College and Career Access Pathways,’” Berger said. “It allows us to enter into these agreements with high schools to develop a pathway, in which we work collaboratively with them. We can offer high school classes that instead of it being after school –  which is what we are doing now – it can be during the high school day, and it can be restricted to students at the high schools.”

William Marmolejo, dean of Student Services, said that despite the more demanding meeting with neighboring schools, the bill has allowed for better work between Pierce and the participating high schools.

“They changed the law, the funding and those sorts of things,” Marmolejo said. “So this is a new law, but we had to do a whole bunch of things. We have to sit down with the school and the administration, we talk about books and all those kinds of things, but now that it’s a more defined program since Assembly Bill 288 passed, it incentivises us to work better with these high schools.”

The new bill prompts high schools and colleges to work closer together to further high school students’ readiness for college.

However, there have been some difficulties getting schools to join the program, especially when it came to textbooks.

“Books were a really big thing because a book had to be in place at the beginning of the program, so every semester that same book is used,” Marmolejo said. “Textbooks are expensive and a lot of times they might change a couple of things in the edition and all of a sudden you have to pay for a new book.”

To avoid continuously buying updated versions of textbooks, Marmolejo said they decided to buy one set of books and use them for the next three years.

Despite concerns relating to class materials, certain staff members of high schools like Tiffanie Fung, the STEM Counselor and Pierce College Coordinator at Granada Hills Charter High School, believe that the courses are valuable to their students.

“It gives a lot of the students a taste of how college classes are ran. The professors travel very far to teach the classes and students are able to get credits outside of Granada for graduation purposes if they wanted or just for themselves if they wanted to,” Fung said. “I have students taking sociology and psychology just because they are interested in the course, so I think it’s good preparation for higher education and for students who want to see how a college class is ran.”

Pierce College has also expanded it’s Outreach courses during this Fall semester, going as far as Chatsworth Charter High School and is looking to make more agreements in the future.