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KCBS In Depth: Crisis At City College Of San Francisco

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City College of San Francisco. (CBS)

City College of San Francisco. (CBS)

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — City College of San Francisco is under threat of closure, after the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) recently announced the college will lose its accreditation in July of 2014.

Brice Harris, Chancellor of California Community Colleges, said that City College can absolutely regain their accreditation, but admitted it would take plenty of hard work. The state community college system is the largest in the nation, but according to the chancellor, budget cuts have resulted in shrinking classes, services, accessibility and even quality.

The college’s troubles date back to a 2006 study that showed many deficiencies at the time. Harris said that problem had only worsened, which caused the commission to put the college on “show cause” in 2012, meaning the college would have to prove that it is worthy of accreditation.

Finance and academic planning were at the center of the college’s woes according to Harris, but he added that facilities were outdated and that City College was out of compliance with all four accreditation standards.

By contrast, he said the teaching and learning at City College was, “still very good.”

Harris criticized the governing structure of the school and said there is plenty of blame to place at the management level. At a meeting last week, a special trustee with extraordinary powers was named, and the current board of trustees was stripped of its power.

Under this new power regime, Harris said decisions will be made more swiftly in regards to significant changes.

With a loss of accreditation, Harris explained that the institution basically ceases to exist. Credits earned by students would no longer transfer and the degrees would be meaningless. The loss would impact 85,000 students as well as faculty.

Two other colleges that were also on show cause status were able to get their finances back in order and another school in the same situation is up for review in January.

Meanwhile, Harris said for several months he has been working with Mayor Ed Lee, who called CCSF the largest work-force training engine in the Bay Area. Lee was said to also be concerned about the economic impacts such a closure would have on San Francisco.

“These are very challenging times in higher ed,” Harris said. “The last four or five years in California’s community college system have been devastating. We lost a $1.5 billion in funding. Any of our institutions have been under a great amount of stress.”

Harris considered restoring access to the community college system and improving success of students who are in their institutions as the two overriding issues California’s community colleges are facing.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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