Concerns about the accreditation of City College of San Francisco have been prominent in the news lately. When the story first broke this summer, the situation was initially presented as dire.
Cited with 14 violations to its accreditation status by the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, CCSF was told to meet the recommendations or else have its accreditation taken away.
As the largest community college in the State of California CCSF has a collective student body of over 90,000 providing credit and non-credit courses. This reporter had the opportunity to speak to John Rizzo, president of the Board of Trustees for CCSF. With regards to the 14 recommendations, "some are fiscal, some are administrative," he said. He noted that CCSF has a "middle management issue" which we are going to correct." Yet he emphasized that while CCSF is mandated to present its required academic and 'mission-statement' plans by Oct of 2012, "City College is not closing, we are not even on the brink of closing," he said.
Emergency meetings were held like the 'Town hall meeting' on July 9 where over 350 people showed up to express concerns. They gathered at the LGBT Center on Market Street to rally support for the college, which has been serving the educational needs of the City for more than 70 years.
San Francisco's Richmond District Supervisor Eric Mar helped to convene the meeting and told this reporter that he considers the situation very serious, even though the college has been through this once before back in 2006. The meeting on July 9 and "those follow up meetings that were held shortly thereafter were important, said Mar. "Because the college needs to be rallied in support and helped through this crisis," Mar said.
Mar noted that as a "vital bridge to four-year universities," City College must not let this threat of the loss of accreditation discourage students from pursuing their educational goals. To have this happen to City College would be a great loss. Mar also noted the students and the efforts of interim Chancellor Pamela Fisher are determined to get through this. And, Mar also pledged his support to do as much as he can to resolve the situation.
Rizzo commented further to this reporter, saying, "The State Budget has torn away more than 17 million dollars in funding last year. And, "the State is systematically de-funding public education."
Rizzo pointed out that while CCSF went out of its way to downsize to accommodate for a budget deficit by letting go of 25 percent of its administrative elements, the Accreditation Board (ACCJC) "wants us to spend more money on administration," and by that Rizzo clarified "executive administration."
He also wanted to clarify that the recent reports in the media such as in the SF Chronicleand Examiner, that City College is a dire situation and maybe forced to close, "they are wrong," said Rizzo. But Mar told this reporter he disagreed with Rizzo. As a former teacher at SF State University and a school board member, Mar said he is familiar with the accreditation process and the recommendations should be taken seriously. When this reporter contacted the ACCJC, representatives directed attention to the press release issued at the ACCJC web site. The accrediting commission insists that, "CCSF failed to demonstrate that it meets the requirements outlined in a significant number of ACCJC Eligibility Requirements and Accreditation Standards."
The accrediting commission from their point of view are simply carrying out the responsibilities set forth by the U.S. Dept. of Education. The press release and other material provided to this reporter indicated that, "the need for systematic instructional planning, provision of student and library services, and an urgency to undertake program review for all courses, programs, and support services to report and improve student success and strengthen institutional effectiveness," were found to be lacking. In 1995 City College was fortunate to receive funds to build a state-of-the-art library and resource learning center. In 2005 ground was cleared for more buildings to be built to meet the growing needs its studentssuch as the new student health center.
From an observing point of view, it is rather confusing to discern whether or not the accreditation is strictly hinging upon fiscal matters, especially when CCSF is well-known to strive to best serve the needs of students. The quality of education and the standards City College of San Francisco maintains is very high. Other sources this reporter has contacted indicated that the issue is not about the quality of the education or the dedication of faculty, it is about the budget.Talk of seeking more taxation through a parcel tax and other measures to be placed on the November ballot are being discussed.
As the largest community college in the state with over eight satellite campuses throughout the city, a bureaucracy and budget issue is always a concern. Yet the question perhaps to ask is "why so now?" And, why take such an extreme measure? Taking away accreditation would impact thousands of students and would only cause more hardship upon a very much-needed public education system.
"We are currently working on the recommendations that the Accreditation Board set forth, we will have a required plan in place and will by the Oct. 15 deadline have several items on the list completed," said Rizzo.
Rizzo is confidant CCSF will actually be ahead of schedule by that time.