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CCSF’s accreditor faces federal scrutiny

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The agency that nearly revoked City College of San Francisco’s accreditation two years ago could find itself out of compliance with certain federal accrediting practices once again.

Staff with the U.S. Department of Education have recommended that the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, which helps establish criteria for recognizing accrediting agencies, not allow CCSF’s accreditor to expand its scope of authority to accredit four-year schools, and strip the agency of some of its power, including limiting the accreditor’s current recognition of baccalaureate programs.

The recommendation, which will be heard at the NACIQI’s meeting Wednesday in Alexandria, Virginia, also calls for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges to be granted another 12 months to demonstrate its compliance with current accrediting standards.

The meeting comes amid a recent push by the California Community College Board of Governors for state education officials to establish a new model for accrediting California’s 113 community colleges.

The ACCJC came under fire by city and state leaders after it sought to strip CCSF of its accreditation in 2013. That move was blocked first by a lawsuit against the commission and then when it created a new policy that gives CCSF until January 2017 to meet all accrediting requirements, and CCSF remains open and fully accredited today.

More than 30 state education supporters, including two CCSF trustees, are expected to speak out against the ACCJC at Wednesday’s meeting.

“The ACCJC has to go – they should not be an accreditor,” said Tim Killikelly, president of CCSF’s faculty union who is also planning to speak Wednesday. “They are not credible. They acted outrageously and abused their authority.”

California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris also planned to speak Wednesday, likely highlighting a state task force report on accreditation that recommended the ACCJC be replaced. In a September letter to federal education officials, Harris noted that the report found the ACCJC “is structurally incapable of meeting the needs of our colleges that are increasingly aligned with and connected to senior institutions.”

The ACCJC in 2013 was found to be out of compliance with 15 sections of criteria for federal recognition, and was instructed to submit a compliance report on each section. However, because an appeal by the ACCJC of findings in two sections remains pending, Wednesday’s hearing will focus on other noncompliance issues and whether the ACCJC should accredit four-year institutions.

In response to pressure for the ACCJC to be more transparent, the commission in October pledged to increase public involvement at its meetings.

Barbara Beno, president of the ACCJC, wrote in an e-mail to the San Francisco Examiner that the staff report is merely a recommendation, and not yet final.

“[The] ACCJC will make its case at the NACIQI meeting for why we believe our standards and process for review meet the federal requirements and if necessary, will again request expansion of scope in the future when we have made the changes that NACIQI decides are necessary,” Beno wrote.

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