California Dumps Community College Accreditor after Fight over S.F. City College

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

San Francisco City College, facing sanctions and loss of accreditation since 2006, has overcome a key obstacle that threatened its existence. No, the school isn’t that much better, although it has reportedly made some progress.

The California Community Colleges Board of Governors unanimously voted this week to get rid of the accrediting commission that was giving the school a hard time and find someone more cooperative to review and assess the 113 schools in the system. The Los Angeles Times says that could take years and would probably need approval from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE).  

In the meantime, the private Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) is expected to move forward with its efforts to force changes at 80,000-student City College. Defenders of the school claim those changes are heavily influenced by politics.

The commission said in a 66-page report that the school needed to 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.

The criticism came after the school had already closed two campuses, laid off more than 40 counselors and support staff, and cut faculty salaries 7%.

A press release from the city attorney’s office, which sued the commission to block the loss of accreditation, said: “The accrediting body's political agenda—shared by conservative advocacy organizations, for-profit colleges and student lender interests—represents a significant departure from the abiding ‘open access’ mission repeatedly affirmed by the California legislature and pursued by San Francisco's Community College District since it was first established.”

City College has struggled to do well by its students. Until 2014, California community colleges suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in annual budget cuts that forced them to offer fewer classes, charge higher fees, enlarge class sizes, offer fewer services and cut corners where they shouldn’t be cutting.

A judge last year blocked the commission’s decision to revoke the accreditation July 31, 2014, and the Education Department moved to revoke the commission’s own accreditation.

The college Board of Governors indicated it would consider alternatives to the commission at a meeting next March. They based their decision on the findings in a 270-page task force report (pdf), which criticized the commission “in areas related to transparency, collegiality and consistency.”

But the task force recommended that the board “continue to work in a cooperative and proactive manner with the ACCJC to ensure the continuity of the accreditation process for all colleges with the system.”

If that’s a plea not to piss off the accreditation commission until it can be replaced, it may be too late. The San Francisco Chronicle said commission Chairman Steve Kinsella warned the board, “If you think you’re getting away from regulatory compliance, I think you’re mistaken.”  

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

College Accrediting Commission for California Ousted (by Nanette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle)

California’s Community Colleges Seek a New Accreditor (by Charles Huckabee, Chronicle of Higher Education)

Community College Leaders Call for New Accrediting System (by Carla Rivera, Los Angeles Times)

Beleaguered S.F. City College May Get 2-Year Reprieve from Death Sentence (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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