Commission Votes to Terminate CCSF Accreditation

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by Jon Brooks and Lisa Pickoff-White

CCSF (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)
CCSF (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

Citing slow progress in enacting recommendations to correct deficiencies, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges has voted to terminate City College of San Francisco's accreditation effective July 31, 2014. However, the college can ask for a review and has the right to appeal. Should CCSF fail in challenging the decision, it would no longer be able to receive public funds and probably be forced to shut down.

For now CCSF, which services more than 85,000 students, remains accredited. Almost 2,700 people work at the school, which consists of nine campuses and more than 100 instructional sites.

The school was put on notice a year ago that it would lose its accreditation unless it addressed 14 serious fiscal and management issues. From the Chronicle today...

[The commission] cited a broken system of governance and fiscal planning in which a skeletal crew of administrators and bickering employees failed to make necessary budget cuts, even as state funding dried up. Over the years, the college constructed sparkling buildings while neglecting such basic needs as computers and campus maintenance, the commission said.

But the commission today said the college had "addressed just two of 14 recommendations for change and corrected few of the deficiencies" cited in its dictate to the school to "show cause " why accreditation should not be withdrawn.

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Brice W. Harris, the chancellor of California Community Colleges, said during a teleconference that he'll appoint a special trustee to run the school as it appeals the loss of accreditation. The trustee will have the power to close or consolidate CCSF's nine campuses.

"The trustee does have the ability to look at facilities and program reduction and collapsing centers one to another. And I think in order for this college to match up its expenses with its revenue streams, some of those things are absolutely going to have to happen," Harris said. "I think probably the most important thing to acknowledge is that the college is still open, accredited and accepting students for the fall term. This process of review and appeal is a long one. And the students of San Francisco need to know that while we're going through this process, they have a place they can go to college."

Harris said the college would work to address the remaining problems concerning the commission and then appeal the revocation.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said that the college will need assistance from the state.

"I think state intervention is going to be absolutely necessary," Lee said. "I don’t think that our City College got into this predicament overnight, and I don’t think given the time that we have – several months – of the continued effort here the same structure is going to be able to do it."

CCSF Interim Chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman said during the call, "I'm not surprised by too much of anything, but I am deeply concerned. ... It (is) going to take more time to address all of the items that were cited as deficiencies."

The Chronicle is quoting John Rizzo, president of the City College Board of Trustees, as saying the decision is "shocking and outrageous, given the massive changes we've made."

"We've reorganized every level of the management structure, in every department. We've cut pay. We've funded the reserve for nine years. This is really bad for San Francisco."

Alisa Messer, president of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2121, which represents CCSF faculty, said "We will ensure that City College will survive and be available."

KQED's Joshua Johnson talked to CCSF engineering instructor Wendy Kaufmyn this morning, before the decision was released. "It's to the disadvantage to the communities that we have traditionally served," she said. "We have served immigrant communities, poor communities, communities of colors, workers. These are the people that really need us, and they are being shut out."

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee echoed those comments today in the conference call, saying it was "imperative that City College remain open for business."

"Those students are not just ordinary students -- they're special students," Lee said. "They're returning veterans in the military. They're also people in their mid-careers trying to catch up in our economy."

Students at CCSF were surprised to hear the news.

"I'm really upset about it. I'm glad that I'm taking summer classes and getting my prerequisites out of the way," said Felicia Colon. "I'm worried about it. How am I going to do it? I'm in nursing."

Just last week, the Chronicle speculated that CCSF would not suffer the ultimate fate in the accreditation crisis, based on the college's dropping of its crisis spokesman. The only other public community college in California to lose its accreditation was Compton College in 2006.

Press Release: Commission to Terminate City College of San Francisco's Accreditation