Update, Wednesday 3:45 p.m.: City College of San Francisco will get up to two more years to fix its finance and governance problems, and will not be forced to close. The 19-member commission seeking to revoke the college’s accreditation by July released the policy change today under pressure from state lawmakers and federal education officials.
The commission is now giving the school two years to come into compliance with its accreditation standards. The decision ends two years of uncertainty at the school, which has seen its enrollment drop by thousands of students because of the issue. Because state funding is partly tied to attendance, the school has also lost a significant amount of money.
Original post, Monday:
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges says it will change its terms for terminating accreditation, but no one is quite sure what that means for the fate of City College of San Francisco because the commission hasn’t released any details yet about the changes.
“The commission took an action that appears to have changed the termination rules for accreditation,” CCSF spokesman Larry Kamer said on KQED Newsroom last Friday. “We have no idea what that is. We asked for a copy of that document. We didn’t get it. We’d like to know, because City College, the state chancellor’s office, the mayor’s office had nothing to do with it.”
The commission has indicated it will release its new conditions of termination on Wednesday. The ACCJC declined to make an appearance on KQED Newsroom.
The ACCJC is threatening to yank CCSF’s accreditation on July 31 if the college does not come into full compliance with a list of terms regarding issues of poor college governance and finance. And the commission has taken a hard stance against granting an extension past the July 31 deadline for the college to meet the commission’s demands.
“The accrediting commission is holding firm to this idea that they cannot extend the deadline for City College despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Education, accrediting experts, directors told me and told the state that they may do this, that they’re allowed to extend the deadline,” San Francisco Chronicle reporter Nanette Asimov said.
CCSF is about 95 percent of the way to meeting the commission’s recommendations, according to Kamer, but Board of Trustees member Rafael Mandelman said that, in meeting ACCJC recommendations, other problems have arisen.
“The fear that City College would close has precipitated a radical decline in enrollment, which has significant implications for the college’s finances,” Mandelman said. “So, for every problem that the folks at the college have fixed, there have been new issues that have been created by the way the ACCJC operates.”
Mandelman said the high-water mark for enrollment was about 100,000 students, but the specter of closure has possibly pushed down enrollment below 70,000.
CCSF won a reprieve last January when a San Francisco Superior Court judge granted City Attorney Dennis Herrera an injunction to keep the college open until a trial is held. The lawsuit alleges the ACCJC let political bias and improper procedures influence its decision to revoke the school’s accreditation. The trial is scheduled for October.
“The best-case scenario is we continue to fix our problems and we keep our accreditation. That’s the best-case scenario,” Kamer said. “The lawsuit is helpful in buying additional time, and it speaks to the unity of the city community, the elected community, all in support of City College.”
Last Friday, a rally was held during the semi-annual meeting of the ACCJC in Sacramento. CCSF professor of political science Timothy Killikelly was there to demand “the ACCJC rescind last year’s decision and send a team immediately to City College to show that City College is in substantial compliance with accreditation standards.”
“I’m actually shocked that the ACCJC continues to be so intransigent,” Killikelly said. “You would think that they would be getting the message over and over again. They need to change course. That has not happened as of yet. Thank god for Dennis Herrera and the lawsuit he has. The college is open. It will remain accredited. There will be a trial scheduled in October.”
“The morale of teachers is so low,” Killikelly said. “People are so frustrated. There is this uncertainty that hangs over all the students, the faculty and the staff. And the uncertainty needs to end.”
From KQED Newsroom’s June 6 Program:
KQED NEWSROOM is a weekly news magazine program on television, radio and online. Watch Fridays at 8 p.m. on KQED Public Television 9, listen on Sundays at 6 p.m. on KQED Public Radio 88.5 FM and watch on demand here.