The largest community college in California
is destined to meet a dire fate one year from now, if heroic efforts to save the school are not successful. City College of San Francisco
was recently notified by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges that it will lose accreditation by July 31, 2014. Although the school has few options left, extreme moves are in the works that could be the last hope for saving the failing school.
11 of 14 Changes Go Unaddressed
Problems for City College date far beyond the recent announcement of accreditation loss. San Francisco Gate
reported that the commission evaluated the school in 2012
, and made 14 recommendations for improvements that would save the schools accreditation status. Those 14 recommendations included:
- A revised mission statement for the school
- Use of the mission statement to allocate resources, with an increase of reserves
- An assessment of the college’s effectiveness
- Evaluations of all staff members responsible for student success
- Determination of whether there is sufficient staff to ensure student success
- Identification of priorities in class curriculum and effectiveness of current courses and programs
- Assessment of whether student support services are hitting the mark
- Development of an effective planning process
- Leadership training for all staff and faculty members
- Reporting of financial information through timely, accurate process
- Inclusion of building operating costs in long-term financial planning
- Development of plan for maintaining and updating information systems
- Improvement of governance structure for more efficient decision-making
- Adherence to bylaws and policies by college trustees
The college was placed on severe sanctions and given eight months to show why it should remain accredited. The commission cited a broken governing system at the time, as well as poor fiscal planning and management. The deadline for City College expired in March and the commission made their recommendations in June.
According to trustees overseeing the school, progress was being made on at least some of these recommendations. San Francisco Gate reports that pay cuts implemented by the board have resulted in a labor dispute that continues at the school today. Officials also reorganized the college leadership structure, which included the elimination of a faculty leadership system. Also eliminated was the ability of 46 committees formed by the college to obstruct the decision-making process by college leaders.
The changes were met with plenty of resistance by current college faculty and staff – and they still weren’t enough to satisfy the accreditation commission. The Los Angeles Times
reported that at the beginning of July, the commission sent a letter to Interim Chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman notifying her that the school’s efforts had not made the grade in 11 of the 14 key areas of focus. As a result, the commission plans to revoke the college’s accreditation in July of next year.
The Significance of Accreditation Loss
According to a report at the Huffington Post
, loss of accreditation could be devastating to City College of San Francisco. The move would mean students at the school would no longer be eligible for financial aid. It could also mean other schools might not accept credits from City College, leaving students without many options for furthering their education. Finally, the school would lose the ability to receive state funding, since California law prohibits unaccredited schools from receiving taxpayer dollars.
A loss of accreditation
would be a major black eye for the institution. Lack of funding may also lead to the likely scenario of the school closing its doors completely. In 2005, the Compton Community College District
also lost accreditation, which prompted an immediate partnership with a neighboring community college district. Although the school continues to work toward a reinstatement of its accreditation, it has still not achieved that goal many years later. Some worry the same fate could await City College, leaving more than 85,000 students hanging in the abyss.
City College of San Francisco places much of the blame for their current state on the accreditation commission. Tim Paulson of the San Francisco Central Labor Council was quoted in the Huffington Post as saying, “The actions of the ACCJC – an organization accountable to no one – have unnecessarily put at risk the livelihoods of the nearly 2,500 hard-working men and women at the college. What’s more, their move to deny CCSF accreditation has imperiled the future of San Francisco’s working people, who rely heavily on a CCSF education for workforce training, language learning, and a pathway to better futures for themselves and their communities.”
Faculty, students and supporters of City College have also organized protests against the commission’s decision. Some have said the commission has been no help in supporting the college as it has worked to make necessary changes. Others have voiced concern that there doesn’t seem to be a way to satisfy the commission at this point.
New Trustee Appointed
In a last-ditch effort to stop the revocation of accreditation next year, the chancellor of the California Community College system, Brice W. Harris, appointed a special trustee to try to resolve the problems facing the school. Harris told the Chronicle of Higher Education
that the college has failed to govern itself, and now must do “heavy lifting” to fix the problem. The special trustee, Robert Agrella, will replace the current governing board for the school, according to the Los Angeles Times
. Agrella is the former president of Santa Rosa Junior College.
Agrella does have some time to file an appeal with the commission, which could extend the time before accreditation is revoked. Time will tell whether Agrella can work a miracle for this large institution, or if students will have to begin looking elsewhere for their higher education opportunities in California.