In recent months, the conversation around City College of San Francisco’s enrollment woes has shifted from the damage that the accreditation crisis has caused there to the decision by the administration to reduce its class schedule.
While it is known that the college has lost a third of its students since the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges first threatened to revoke the school’s accreditation in 2012, whether the five-year plan to cut the course schedule by 5 percent annually will push students away is still up for debate.
CCSF administrators believe that it will not cause enrollment to fall, according to spokesperson Jeff Hamilton. Instead, the college is shrinking its offerings to match the smaller student population that remains in the wake of the accreditation crisis.
Faculty members, notably from the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121, believe on the other hand that the reductions are the latest factor to contribute to the decline in enrollment, said union head Tim Killikelly.
But Hamilton said the union’s focus on the cuts is “misleading,” because CCSF added courses this year while also reducing the class schedule and cutting classes. More students were impacted by the schedule additions than reductions, according to the administration.
“We can either keep classes with very few students in them, or we can provide more resources where there’s more demand,” Hamilton said. “But we can’t do both.”
The college cannot sustain its full class schedule because it is expected to lose $35 million of its $200 million budget next school year, when state stability funding expires.
“We have the decline in funding, but if we really came together as a college we would see ways to nip and tuck that aren’t about classes,” said Li Lovett, a union representative and academic counselor.
The division was visible at an on-campus meeting Friday afternoon, when the faculty union and students tried to turn over a large stack of petitions to Interim Chancellor Susan Lamb that called for an end to class cancellations. The union said the stack included more than 1,000 signatures.
But Lamb would not allow the faculty union to “take over” the monthly meeting, where she was gathered with department chairs, deans and others, and so she instead ended it. Lamb offered to meet with the group on another occasion, but said the protest created an “abusive environment.”
“We keep asking, ‘Why is our enrollment down?’” Lamb told the protesters. “And yet here we are now, during enrollment [for next semester] once again. Do you really think that this has no impact on our registration?”
A handful of department chairs who spoke with the San Francisco Examiner said their departments had already reduced their course offerings because of the accreditation crisis.
“We’re not having big cuts, because we’ve already done it,” said Gregory Keech, who heads the English as a Second Language Department.
Steven Brown, chair of Environmental Horticulture and Floristry, said he fought to keep three Floristry courses that the administration did not want to offer in the spring 2017 semester because of low enrollment, but could only keep two.
“The ACCJC damaged our program,” he said of the award-winning Floristry program, which attracts students from around the world.
Edgar Torres, who chairs the department of Latin American and Latino/a Studies, said his department has also had cuts because of low enrollment since 2012, losing three courses on issues such as being LGBT in Latin America.
“We would have really been hit hard if I had grown the department prior to 2012,” Torres said. “It was just … good luck.”