City College of San Francisco, staring into oblivion after being told last month it will lose its accreditation in a year, saw a glimmer of hope yesterday when the commission that whacked them was told by the U.S. Department of Education that its own accreditation was in jeopardy.
A six-page letter from the department outlined four areas where the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) violated federal regulations and warned that its own accreditation would be revoked if the problems were not addressed. The department conducted the review after receiving a 300-page complaint from the California Federation of Teachers and other groups complaining about how the commission treated the college.
Specifically, the education department said the commission violated four regulations. The commission did not have enough teachers on its evaluation team; it had a conflict-of-interest because the commission president’s husband was on the evaluation team; the commission did not give the school a clear, detailed report on its failings; and the school was apparently allowed to be out of compliance for years before being punished.
The teachers union said the letter meant that the commission would have to reverse its decision but the commission said it would simply comply with the recommendations and that would be the end of it.
At stake in the interpretation of the commission’s letter is the continued existence of California’s largest community college. The decision by ACCJC to pull City College’s accreditation puts at risk the continued education of 85,000+ students.
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.
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.
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%.