Capitol Alert

City College of San Francisco wins accreditation reprieve

Eighteen months after having its accreditation terminated, the City College of San Francisco has been granted restoration status by the regional accreditor and will have two more years to come into compliance with eligibility requirements.

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which voted to strip City College of its accreditation in July 2013 because of ongoing governance and financial troubles, announced Wednesday that it would place the school on the newly-created restoration status.

Though the commission noted 32 continuing problem areas, City College will remain accredited for the next two years and undergo a comprehensive evaluation in fall 2016. The accreditor will review the case in January 2017 and decide whether to reaffirm the school’s accreditation.

City College, “assuming a concerted and good faith effort, has the ability to resolve these issues within the two-year period,” commission Chair Steven Kinsella said in a statement. “CCSF has made progress and completed much work.”

The college welcomed the news and noted that it had already completed more than 80 percent of the changes the accrediting commission asked for.

“They had to, by their own criteria, acknowledge the extraordinary progress we’ve already made,” spokesman Jeff Hamilton said. He added that City College would “vigorously” pursue the remaining measures, which mostly concern student development and upgrading some academic programs, over the next two years.

But the faculty union called the restoration status a “deceptive policy,” because it could still allow the school to be shut down in two years without a right of appeal.

“It is a ticking time bomb for CCSF, not a real solution to the problems the ACCJC has created for us and our thousands of students,” Tim Killikelly, president of AFT Local 2121, said in a statement.

The decision comes amid a lengthy legal battle in which supporters of City College have argued that the school was improperly sanctioned. Loss of accreditation would make the college ineligible for federal financial aid and likely force it to close, displacing more than 80,000 students.

The commission voted to revoke City College’s accreditation only eight months after it was first cited for numerous leadership and fiscal issues. The California State Auditor last year slammed the commission’s process as being inconsistent and lacking public disclosure.

San Francisco sued to keep the school open, and the case went to trial last fall to determine whether the commission properly evaluated the school and gave it sufficient time to reverse course. An outcome is still pending.

The City College saga prompted several bills in the Legislature last session, including a new law restricting the ability of the California Community Colleges Board of Governors to assume control of a struggling college from its local trustees. State Sen. Mark Leno, the chairman of the Senate budget panel, also worked to keep the college open.

“With the funding stabilization we were able to facilitate in last year’s state budget, City College will have the necessary resources to sustain course offerings while enrollment again begins to grow,” Leno, D-San Francisco, said in a statement.

Editor’s note: This post was updated at 5:40 p.m. with statements from Hamilton, Killikelly and Leno.

Call The Bee’s Alexei Koseff, (916) 321-5236. Follow him on Twitter @akoseff.