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California community colleges discuss adding accreditors

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Beth LaBerge/2012 S.f. Examiner file photo
Community colleges like CCSF are able to offer four-year degrees under a new program.
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The accrediting body that voted to strip City College of San Francisco of its accreditation last year may not be the state's only community college accreditor for much longer.

On Thursday, the Consultation Council — a group of representatives from schools statewide, including California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris — met to discuss a recent recommendation by State Auditor Elaine Howle for the Chancellor's Office to remove language from its regulations naming the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges as the sole accreditor for schools.

The commission has been named in the Chancellor's Office regulations since at least 1983.

While no action was taken on the topic at the Consultation Council's meeting, Harris can use the information discussed to decide whether to recommend a policy change to the Board of Governors at its next meeting in November, said Paul Feist, a spokesman for the Chancellor's Office.

“Nothing would change in the short term, but if there is another accreditor who wishes to be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit community colleges in California … our office would have the flexibility of selecting among whoever has been designated as able to accredit community colleges,” Feist said.

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There are currently no other such agencies authorized to accredit the state's 112 community colleges.

The ACCJC has been under fire from state lawmakers and college officials following its June 2013 decision to revoke CCSF's accreditation, effective this past summer. However, the school remains open and fully accredited as it prepares to be evaluated for restoration status, which would give it two more years to meet accrediting requirements.

“It's pretty commonplace that people view them as a horribly run commission,” said Jim Mahler, president of the California Federation of Teachers Community College Council and one of the 18 members of the Consultation Council.

The state auditor's report released June 26 widely criticized the ACCJC, saying the commission acted inconsistently, lacked transparency and could have given the school more time to meet accrediting standards.

It also recommended the Chancellor's Office improve monitoring of issues that could endanger the accreditation of California's community colleges, and identify other potential accreditors for schools.

But the commission pointed out in a June news release in response to the report that the report found no violations of state law by ACCJC and failed to include “much of the factual information and perspective that the ACCJC provided.”

Meanwhile, a trial between the ACCJC and the City Attorney's Office is scheduled to begin Monday.

Losing accreditation would effectively force CCSF to close.

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