S.F. City College Wins a Begrudged 2-Year Reprieve from Death Sentence

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Embattled San Francisco City College received a two-year extension of its accreditation on Wednesday, averting an immediate shutdown and perhaps easing political tensions, at least, for awhile.

The private Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) has been threatening the college with sanctions over serious deficiencies since around 2006 and was poised to take measures last July that would have closed the school for more than 80,000 students.

That didn’t happen.

Politicians like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, made a lot of noise, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sued and the U.S. Department of Education challenged the accreditation of the accrediting commission. The department suggested that the commission rewrite its rules to allow colleges to apply for accreditation restoration before their revocation date and let them take two years to comply with accepted standards.

That sounded good to the commission, which granted the two-year reprieve and started the clock ticking as the college fixes up 32 areas of deficiency. The school needs 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.  

In July 2013, shortly after the commission announced its intention to de-accredit the school in a year’s time, California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris replaced the elected board of trustees with Robert Agrella, a special trustee (pdf) “with extraordinary powers.”

Agrella picked Arthur Q. Tyler as City College chancellor. He credited hard work for the two-year reprieve. “We had mountains to move and we moved them,” he wrote in a prepared statement. 

Critics of the commission acknowledge that City College has a lot of problems. But there is a sneaking suspicion that the school’s accreditation was put in jeopardy by a political disagreement. City Attorney Herrera described it this way:

“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.”

That difference of opinion might not be going away in two years, when the college comes up for a do-or-die accreditation assessment.

But by then, President Obama’s 10-year, $60-billion plan for making community college free will have sailed through Congress and changed the education game.

Or not.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

SF City College Shutdown Averted with Two-Year Extension (by Nanette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle)

CCSF Granted Restoration Status in Quest to Remain Accredited (by Laura Dudnick, San Francisco Examiner)

San Francisco College Granted Two More Years of Accreditation (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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