Accreditation Commission Gives City College of San Francisco a Death Sentence

Friday, July 05, 2013

City College of San Francisco, the largest community college in California, has failed its biggest test and was officially informed this week it will lose the accreditation that is critical to its survival.

The school is appealing the decision by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), but a reversal is considered a long shot. The school can’t receive public funding under state law without the accreditation, putting at risk the continued education of its 85,000+ students. Revocation of accreditation is scheduled to take place July 31, 2014.

The commission has been threatening the school with sanctions since at least 2006, and last year gave it an ultimatum: fix 14 specific deficiencies or face the death penalty. In a press release (pdf), the commission said the college fully responded to just two of the problems and corrected very little.

Although the commission was unimpressed by the college’s effort, the school has taken steps in recent months to get on track. Two campuses were closed, more than 40 counselors and support staff were laid off, and the faculty took a 7% pay cut, according to the San Francisco Bay Guardian.  

A 66-page report issued by the commission last year cited a “veil of distrust among the governance groups” at the college and a “failure to react to ongoing reduced funding” among its complaints. More specifically, the report recommended the school add more classified staff and administrators, more efficiently operate and maintain existing facilities, secure its technology infrastructure, manage its finances better to avoid “excessive” short-term borrowing, improve assessments of student learning and achievement,.and do a better job of reporting its financial information.  

A state trustee, chosen by the California Community College Chancellor's Office, will take control of the school while it appeals the decision. The trustee, who has not yet been picked, will have full power to act without interference from the school’s board of trustees.

In the meantime, Chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman said the school will appeal the decision. “We are disappointed in the Commission’s decision. We will be filing a request for review and will do everything in our power to have this decision reversed.”

The California Federation of Teachers called the commission’s actions “the poster child for ACCJC overreach” and accused it of terrorizing community colleges throughout the state for very little reason. The federation said the commission used “linguistic sleight-of-hand” to change the rules for receiving accreditation between 2006 and 2012.

“The ACCJC’s response was to largely ignore the economic context, and then ding the college for too few administrators, outdated technology, and depleted reserves—in essence, for keeping the cuts as far away as possible from classrooms and student services,” the federation said in a statement.

City college offers a broad range of academic studies—in addition to vocational training in nursing, culinary arts and aircraft mechanics—at nine primary campuses and nearly 200 neighborhood sites.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

SF City College to Lose Accreditation (by Lisa Leff, Associated Press)

City College Loses Accreditation, Throwing Its Future into Doubt  (by Steven T. Jones and Joe Fitzgerald, San Francisco Bay Guardian)

California’s Biggest Community College Loses Accreditation (by Ronnie Cohen, Reuters)

Largest California Junior College to Lose Accreditation (by Pete Young, Bloomberg)

Panel Moves to Pull City College of San Francisco’s Accreditation (by Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times)

State’s Biggest Community College Calls Imminent Closure a “Teachable Moment” (by Ken Broder, AllGov)

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