Last week's announcement that City College of San Francisco will have its accreditation revoked in June 2014 shocked the city. "It's imperative City College stay open," Mayor Ed Lee said. "I'm concerned about the devastating impact City College's termination would have on our great city."
While it looks bad for the college (and makes the college look bad), it's worth remembering that CCSF has managed to remain open for the last seven years despite its ongoing accreditation struggle, and has at least one more year to go.
CCSF's prospects have seemed bleak for years. Since 2006, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges has prodded CCSF to make improvements in order to keep its accreditation. In addition to the commission's demands, CCSF has had to grapple with a massive depletion of resources. Years of budget cuts (CCSF has lost more than $53 million in state funding since 2007) and a policy of attrition that left only a few dozen key administrators managing an institution of roughly 85,000 students put CCSF in a position where it lacks adequate resources to educate its current student body. Last fall's revelation that CCSF spent 92 percent of its budget on salaries and benefits while its student employees were not earning San Francisco's minimum wage highlighted CCSF's difficult financial straits.
But despite its shortcomings and challenges, the college is still here. How has a school with such systemic problems managed to hang on for so many years?
CCSF's longevity is due to the lengthy accreditation appeals process, sheer determination, and, most surprisingly, the likelihood that the college may not be in such an awful position as the commission's reports make it out to be.
The back-and-forth between the commission's demands and CCSF's attempts at compliance has already given the college several years to improve, and CCSF's current appeal of the commission's decision is expected to take months.
Brice Harris, the state chancellor of California Community Colleges, is also stepping in to help, appointing a special trustee to oversee CCSF and attempt to bring it into compliance with commission standards. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education is investigating the commission itself, after a complaint by the California Federation of Teachers alleged misconduct in its evaluation of CCSF.
Although the situation is dire, the fight isn't over yet. So here's to the 2013–2014 school year, and, who knows? Maybe the 2014–2015 school year, too.