Countdown to accreditation: City College makes changes despite criticism

Once lauded for being the largest community college in the nation, City College of San Francisco has recently come under fire in an accreditation crisis that threatens its existence.

Three months ago, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges put the school on “show cause” status, which orders a struggling school to prove it meets the commission’s educational and administrative standards in retaining its accreditation. To do this, a school must submit a series of reports over the course of a year or see its accreditation revoked, which often leads to closure.

City College submitted its first report last week, detailing a plan to meet the commission’s standards. The board has decided to close the Castro campus and Park Presidio instructional site and is planning to further consolidate programs to cut costs. The second report is due in March, and must detail how the school has progressed since implementing plan. The last report is also due in March, and includes preparations for the closure of the school if it’s unable to make a case to keep its accreditation.

This situation is not unique to San Francisco. For the past few years, California’s community colleges have suffered from a combination of high performance standards from the federal government and a series of state budget cuts. The same accreditation commission has also placed Redwoods and Cuesta College on “show cause” status. Though City College is larger than both these schools combined, the argument that the City College is “too big to fail,” has not been enough to convince the accreditation board.

Ever since the commission placed City College on “show cause” status in July, tensions between the board of trustees and the community have stalled progress.

The most recent clash occurred two weeks ago, at a board meeting at which the trustees voted to invite a state adviser to assist the school through the upcoming accreditation evaluation. Protestors stalled the decision for an hour before the board ultimately approved the appointment in a 6-1 vote. Naming a special trustee whose authority could override other board members’ came under attack from some in the audience for being undemocratic. The protest deepened the divide between the board and community, a situation City College students hope to address in the upcoming board election.

“If they don’t work together, this school is history,” Doretha Fuller-Evans, the lead custodian for Phelan campus’ Rosenberg Library, said of the board and the community.

The approaching election will feature 10 candidates vying for four open trustee positions, as well as a series of tax initiatives to increase funding. These items on the November ballot are only a few of the many choices City College will have to review the coming months.

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Read additional interviews with the City College community and ongoing coverage on the accreditation crisis from the Public Press via Storify.