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Panel moves to pull City College of San Francisco's accreditation

SAN FRANCISCO -- An accreditation commission overseeing the 85,000-student City College of San Francisco on Wednesday moved to revoke the institution’s accreditation effective July 2014, setting in motion a set of radical measures by stunned state and city officials hoping to rescue the institution.

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges last year had demanded that City College -- a multi-campus system that is one of the country’s largest -- “show cause” as to why it should remain accredited, citing a litany of financial, governance and other issues. That step is one below a loss of the accreditation designation crucial to awards of student financial aid and an institution's reputation.

Although officials over the last year have teamed with faculty and staff to revamp the institution, a damning five-page notice to interim Chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman on Wednesday said those efforts had fallen short in 11 of 14 areas.

The decision is not final: The school can now ask for a review and then an appeal of the decision -- a months-long process during which state and city officials are vowing to make necessary changes to persuade the commission to restore the school’s standing.

“I am extremely disappointed that the progress City College made was not enough to bring it into compliance with the standards of the accreditation commission,” California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris said in a conference call with reporters.

“My office is going to do everything in its power to make sure the college retains its accreditation,” he said, noting that a separate report last week by a state fiscal and crisis management team also showed "that the fiscal problems of the institution continue."

The most sweeping and imminent move, Harris said, will be to appoint a special trustee "with extraordinary powers" to effectively serve as the receiver of the institution, sidelining its elected board of governors.

“I’m concerned about the devastating impact that termination of its accreditation would have on our great city,” Mayor Ed Lee said in supporting the upcoming appointment. “We have to respond to this with more than has been offered in the past.”

Even if the school were to lose accreditation, Harris stressed, the state will ensure that the credits of students are honored at other institutions along with their degrees. For now, it retains its accreditation.

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