The agency in charge of certifying the state's junior and community colleges has given City College of San Francisco two more years to comply with eligibility standards. For now, that decision -- made last week and announced Wednesday -- effectively ends a shutdown threat that has hung over the school for more than two years.
The vote by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (or ACCJC to its friends) to grant City College "restoration" status doesn't exactly amount to a clean bill of health.
The agency, which formally revoked CCSF's accreditation in 2013, has focused much of its scrutiny on the school's alleged administrative shortcomings and its financial condition. In a statement today, it noted that its most recent review of CCSF still finds the school out of compliance with standards in dozens of areas.
Nonetheless, the statement attributed to ACCJC Chair Steven Kinsella said:
“Although the evaluation team found 32 areas of continuing noncompliance, ACCJC’s judgment is that the College, assuming a concerted and good faith effort, has the ability to resolve these issues within the two-year [restoration] period. It has been the commission’s intent to help CCSF provide a quality educational experience to its students. CCSF has made progress and completed much work, and is focused on addressing the outstanding issues in time for its next review in two years.”
City College spokesman Jeff Hamilton told KQED's Zaidee Stavely the decision is "very welcome news" for the school, which serves about 80,000 students. "It affirms and acknowledges the tremendous progress we've made."
Asked whether two years is enough time to meet the ACCJC's requirements, Hamilton said, "We're already, depending on how you count it, between 85 percent and 95 percent compliant. So the remaining number of issues are fully within our capacity to complete within the two-year time frame."
Hamilton said that as part of the ACCJC's recent evaluation, City College has developed an action plan and timeline to address the issues the agency has raised. He said those issues include improving student development and further work on administrative functions and financial controls.
"This gives us a clear path forward, and it should remove the doubt that some people have had throughout this process about our ability to continue to serve our students," Hamilton said.
The restoration policy was specifically created to give City College a way to keep from closing down.
"Honestly, the commission created it in a way kicking and screaming. There was a lot of pressure, not only from faculty, but from Nancy Pelosi and other politicians," said San Francisco Chronicle reporter Nanette Asimov.
The U.S. Department of Education, which oversees the commission, suggested the two-year extension in June.
Some faculty and City College supporters are concerned that the extension could backfire, Asimov said. If the school does not meet the ACCJC's standards in all 32 areas in two years, then the college would lose accreditation without a chance to appeal.
Wednesday's announcement comes as a San Francisco judge prepares to rule on a city lawsuit challenging the ACCJC's decision to revoke City College's accreditation in the first place. If the judge rules in favor of the city, then the two-year extension is moot.
A preliminary ruling in the case is due by the end of the month.