City College Still Risks Losing Accreditation Even After Local, State Measures Pass

The passage of local and state education measures Tuesday added $11 million to the budget of City College of San Francisco for next year.

But the school still faces a loss of accreditation if it fails to balance its budget responsibly.

The school now must confront a $15 million budget gap, and according to state Proposition 30, also needs to meet an enrollment target. That’s going to be particularly hard, given the demand from the outside accreditation team that City College slash unusually high salaries and benefits.

Other instructions from the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, and from the state’s Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team, include improvements in governance, student learning outcomes and fiscal management.

City College’s Board of Trustees also plan to collect more student fees, revise policies and administrative structures and close of one of its child care facilities.

Thelma Scott-Skillman, Interim Chancellor at City College, said that in the last six months the school has taken “significant steps” toward naming a special trustee to help guide the enormously time-consuming task of restoring financial stability to a vast institution with more than 90,000 enrolled students.

Now that Proposition 30 passed, City College’s Board of Trustees can breathe something of a sigh of relief. It can now operate under the $186 million budget it already adopted for 2012-2013. But in order to receive the proposition’s funding — from a combination of higher taxes on the wealthy and sales tax — City College must meet the “base enrollment target” of 34,000 full-time equivalent students.

If the school does not meet this requirement, the college will lose a significant portion of funding. 

Proposition 30 does not alleviate most of the college’s need for continued fiscal and structural reform, said Larry Kamer, a spokesman for City College.

Kamer said City College still needs to resolve  its unsustainable spending patterns to satisfy the accreditors, and that means finding a long-term solution for its annual $15 million budget gap.

Scott-Skillman said another core spending challenge is employee compensation and benefits. Both the accreditation and fiscal crisis teams said the school could no longer spend 92 percent of its revenues on salaries and benefits. The accreditation team recommended reducing that level to no more than 80 percent.

Local Proposition A, another measure focusing on funding education, will provide $14 million to the college for the next eight years. The money starts flowing in fiscal year 2013-2014. 

Kamer pointed out that these propositions would not, by themselves, keep City College from going bankrupt

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