A Superior Court judge has handed City College of San Francisco a temporary legal win in its fight to maintain accreditation.

Judge Curtis E. A. Karnow issued a decision Friday morning saying that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) responsible for evaluating CCSF made it impossible for the school to get a fair hearing. The ACCJC voted in July 2013 to revoke CCSF’s accreditation.

“City College was deprived of an opportunity to respond in writing to findings of deficiencies in 2013, and to prepare for a hearing on those same deficiencies,” Karnow wrote in his ruling. “We do not know if the Commissioners would have exercised their discretion differently had City College been given an opportunity to address the additional findings in writing.”

Losing accreditation would likely force the college to close because unaccredited schools are ineligible for state and federal funding.

The decision stops short of restoring City College to full accreditation as the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office requested in its lawsuit. Instead, the commission must defend the findings that led to its decision to revoke City College’s accreditation and give the school an opportunity to defend itself before reaching a final decision.

Both parties have 15 days to file additional information with the court. The final trial court decision will be issued after that time.

“We are happy to say that the court agreed that there were fundamental and numerous violations of law, and we are extremely gratified by Judge Karnow’s ruling today,” said San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

But in a statement, Commission President Barbara Beno said the judge’s ruling showed the accrediting agency was out of compliance with only a small number of issues, and discounted Herrera’s accusations.

The lawsuit was one of two attempts by City College supporters to keep the school accredited and open. On Wednesday, the ACCJC announced that it voted to give City College two more years to comply with eligibility standards. The “restoration status” was specifically created to give City College a way to keep from closing down. The U.S. Department of Education, which oversees the commission, suggested the two-year extension in June.

Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) said that the state needs to examine whether the ACCJC is the “right body to continue the accreditation process.” Ting said that he will introduce legislation to better regulate the accrediting agency.


Judge: City College Did Not Receive ‘Fair’ Accreditation Hearing 16 January,2015Lisa Pickoff-White

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Lisa Pickoff-White

Lisa Pickoff-White is KQED's data reporter. Lisa specializes in simplifying complex topics and bringing them to life through compelling visuals, including photography and data visualizations. She previously has worked at the Center for Investigative Reporting and other national outlets. Her work has been honored with awards from the Online News Association, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists and SXSW Interactive.  Follow: @pickoffwhite Email: lpickoffwhite@kqed.org

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