SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) –- San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking to stop the agency that certifies two-year colleges in the western U.S. from revoking the accreditation of City College of San Francisco.
In March, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges pulled the accreditation of City College of San Francisco, effective next year, if changes aren’t made in classes and governance.
Because unaccredited schools are ineligible for state and federal funding, the revocation would likely force the college of 85,000 students to close.
Herrera has asked the San Francisco Superior Court to block the commission’s action. His lawsuit alleges that politics, not performance, is behind the commission’s decision to sanction CCSF.
“The accreditation process involving City College has exposed bias, institutional flaws and illegalities in the oversight of the nation’s largest higher educational system,” he said.
Herrera’s suit argues the commission is punishing City College because of its open access model, offering many courses other than those that lead to a two-year degree. He said that in recent years, the commission had pressured the college to focus on a narrow group of students who were most likely to complete a degree.
But Herrera said that approach would potentially have left behind “non-traditional learners” such as English-language learners, seniors, and disabled and disadvantaged students.
The commission “used the accreditation process as a hammer on City College to squelch their political opposition,” Herrera said. “You can’t be an advocate and a judge at the same time.”
In the complaint, he also cited the ACCJC’s “multiple conflicts of interest, improper evaluation process and politically motivated decision-making” as “unfair and unlawful” business practices under California law.
In a separate legal action also filed Thursday, Herrera targeted the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges, and said it improperly delegated its authority to the commission for setting standards and determining colleges’ eligibility for public funding.
Herrera said the board “ceded its duties to a private entity wholly beyond the reach of public accountability.”
“It potentially affects 72 community college districts, 112 community colleges and more than 2 million students in California,” he said.
CCSF remains accredited in the meantime, and is appealing the accrediting decision and working to address changes recommended by the commission, including to its governance structure and finances.
The commission’s executive director, Barbara Beno, and other commission officials did not immediately comment on Thursday’s legal action.
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