SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – When you think of the “biggest” colleges in the country, chances are places like Arizona State and Ohio State come to mind, even if you live in the Bay Area. Those schools educate 70,000 and 56,000 students, respectively. They also have stereotypical “big” college things like fight songs and sports teams.

By contrast, one of California’s biggest academic institutions doesn’t carry those big college characteristics. Instead, it boasts a bigger student roster – 100,000 – and even bigger financial troubles.

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In fact, things have gotten so bad for City College of San Francisco that it could be shut down next academic year. The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges is expected to issue a report outlining CCSF’s prospects for the future later this week.

“Whatever happens, it would be really sad to see City College go away,” summed up Tannis Reinhertz, chair of the school’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Studies Program. “The college has expanded and looked to be all things to all people, I think that’s kind of what most educators would want to see. There’s a need, you want to fill it.”

“Maybe,” she continued, “we’ve not done that in the smartest way.”

KCBS’ Mike Sugerman Reports:

Indeed, costs skyrocketed and revenue wasn’t keeping pace in recent years. In short, the money started to run out, and instead of making the politically difficult decisions – specifically, cuts to programs and services and increased costs to students – the school’s trustees dipped into reserves.

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Six years ago, the Accrediting Commission told the school to gets its books in order. But that’s not exactly what happened.

“Because you have an administration that’s, in my opinion, asleep at the wheel, not doing what they’ve been put into the position to do, you know, puts it all at risk,” said CCSF graduate Alan Maffei, whose own child is now enrolled in the school

“It’s a larger issue than just City College of San Francisco,” countered Student Body President Shanell Williams, who doesn’t support any cuts to CCSF programs as a means of balancing the school’s books. “Our government’s not prioritizing what they need to prioritize, which is funding for public education.”

“When we look at the state…they’ve been cutting, cutting, cutting,” echoed Student Body Vice President Melany Ortanez.

State funding aside, it does appear that City College may not be spending – and saving – the way it should. Salaries and benefits for the college’s employees make up roughly 92% of the school’s budget – which is considered higher than average. The San Mateo County community College District, for example, spends 85% of its budget on employees. The Peralta District in the East Bay spends 83%.

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