San Fran City College Gets Two-Year Extension for Improvement

The City College of San Francisco received a warning from its accreditor in June of 2012 saying that if its organizational mismanagement and financial issues didn’t improve then it would be shut down. When things didn’t improve the accreditor scheduled the campus to close this July, writes Kevin Carey in The New York Times.

However, the faculty union filed a complaint with the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, challenging its right to stay open and another lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial later this year.

Last month, the college was granted two more years to improve by the independent panel appointed by the commission who considered the appeal from the school. While they backed the initial decision to close the school, they felt the college had made enough progress to reconsider, reports Inside Higher Ed.

“CCSF was not in substantial compliance with accreditation standards and eligibility requirements as of June 7, 2013,” the panel said. “However, for the reasons discussed above, … there is ‘good cause’ for a consideration of CCSF’s achievement of compliance with accreditation standards and eligibility requirements though January 10, 2014 and up to and including the end of the evidentiary hearing sessions on appeal (May 21, 2014).”

While this decision was well received by the school and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who represents San Francisco, experts are skeptical of the broader impact, reports Jim Carlton for The Wall Street Journal.

While City College clearly has room for improvement, attention should also be brought to the commission based on results found by State Auditor Elaine Howle. The audit examined five years of the commission’s actions that included a large amount of shortcomings, reports SF Gate.

“The commission’s deliberations “lack transparency,” the report said. Its processes for sanctioning colleges are inconsistent and discourage public trust. The report also found that the composition of the commission’s evaluation teams created the appearance of a conflict of interest and didn’t have accurate faculty representation.”

The report supports many of the criticisms that City College officials have stated about the accreditation board and asks the state to let community colleges have a say in choosing an alternative accreditor.

The accreditors are put in a difficult situation because they don’t have any form of punishing underperforming schools except for “stern warnings”, which are essentially just slaps on the wrist, that more than half of California’s community college received since 2003, or the alternative it to close the college.

So, they either let underperforming schools continue to stay open or they shut down schools putting thousands of students out, with no guaranteed alternative to affordable education.

City College has made strides toward improving, but needs pressure from government officials without the fear of the commission shutting them down, so that it doesn’t slip into further mediocrity.