Another View: Accrediting commission is helping colleges

Assemblyman Phil Ting argues that the failings of California’s college accreditation system require the Legislature to support his “reform” legislation (“College accreditation agency is unfair, rife with conflict,” Viewpoints, June 15).

The facts do not support his bill, but show it as unnecessary. Accreditation assures the quality of higher education. Accrediting agencies are membership organizations; colleges agree to established standards and a periodic comprehensive review. Accrediting agencies themselves are periodically reviewed and approved by the U.S. Department of Education.

Ting asserts that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges gave Heald College a “passing grade” in 2012, the same year it found City College of San Francisco to be failing. In fact, we did not evaluate Heald in 2012. Heald was reviewed by another agency, which approved its accreditation in 2012.

Ting states that a recent court ruling found ACCJC “plagued by conflicts of interest and lack of due process.” Rather, the court concluded: “No evidence … established that any of the Commissioners had a conflict of interest or that there was an appearance of a conflict of interest.” The court also found no conflict of interest on the peer-evaluation team or in the ACCJC staff.

Also, Ting argues that a state auditor survey of colleges found that ACCJC was inconsistent in its actions. ACCJC commissioners work diligently to assure that standards are evenly applied; 84 percent of respondents found the expertise and quality of the evaluation teams to be appropriate, and 88 percent thought the recommendations were reasonable.

Ting’s assertion that the colleges at which commissioners work seldom receive sanctions is inaccurate and specious. Some commissioners’ colleges have received sanctions. There are also many colleges that have never been sanctioned and have never had staff serve on the commission.

Ting argues that the ACCJC’s accreditation deliberations should be made public. In fact, all accrediting agencies deliberate in private to ensure candid, careful reviews. To make such discussions public would insert political influence and have a chilling effect.

Our decisions have saved many colleges from decline and even collapse, and have stimulated continued quality improvement and responsiveness to changing student needs. By upholding strong standards, fairly administered, ACCJC serves the interests of students and the public.

Steve Kinsella is chairman of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges and president of Gavilan College. Barbara A. Beno is president of the commission.