Accrediting panel rejects City College of San Francisco's appeal

Accrediting panel rejects City College of San Francisco's appeal
Students enter the science hall at City College of San Francisco in San Francisco in 2012. The school is fighting to stay open and keep its accreditation status. (Liz Hafalia / The Chronicle)

Another evaluation, another thumbs down. So it goes for City College of San Francisco after a private commission Monday rejected an appeal to continue the school's accreditation.

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges moved last year to pull the school's accreditation as of this month, citing inadequate financial stability and mismanagement, among other problems at San Francisco's sole two-year college, which educates nearly 80,000 students on several campuses.


The commission's own appeals panel, however, ordered a new evaluation to determine if City College had made sufficient improvement to overturn that decision.

After reviewing new testimony and documents, the panel found that the two-year school still failed to comply with accrediting standards.

"There were a significant number of standards that were not met," commission President Barbara Beno wrote to the school's new team of administrators, who were put in place to help resolve many of its issues. "CCSF's evidence indicated it would take more than a year to achieve compliance in a number of these areas, including adequate student learning support services at each Center, data analysis capability, internal control systems, and finance."

The decision by the accrediting panel is disappointing, said Paul Feist, a spokesman for the system-wide community college chancellor's office.

"We continue to believe that City College has made tremendous progress in the past year and is focused on its recovery," Feist said.

The appeals rejection does not mean an end to the storied institution, which is among the largest community colleges in the nation. Loss of accreditation would force the school to close. As it is, enrollment has declined sharply, even though administrators note the accrediting had little negative to say about academic quality.

But college officials argue that the Novato-based accrediting panel failed to follow proper procedures in its original decision, gaining the support of lawmakers such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco).

In August, San Francisco City Atty. Dennis Herrera sued the accrediting panel to block the termination, alleging political bias and conflict of interest. A trial date of October 27 has been scheduled and the termination is on hold pending the outcome.

Last week, a Superior Court judge rejected the commission's request to delay the lawsuit.

Faced with a barrage of criticism about its own standards, the panel seemingly has offered City College an out, adopting a new policy that would allow the school to apply to restore its accreditation and be given up to an additional two years to fix problems.

The school must submit its application by July 31, an action  Beno urged college administrators to take Monday.

"We hope that CCSF will ... be successful in attaining compliance with standards," she wrote.

Feist said the college will weigh that and other options.