City College of San Francisco has reduced its class schedule to match declining student enrollment. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

CCSF reduces class offerings as fiscal cliff looms

With its accreditation in jeopardy and a fall from a fiscal cliff around the corner, City College of San Francisco has reduced its class schedule to match declining student enrollment.

The class schedule reductions — five percent a year for six years, unless enrollment increases — began at the start of the semester in August and were coupled with the cancellation of 94 courses because of low enrollment, according to the college.

The reductions and cancellations are meant to help balance the college’s budget as administrators prepare for the loss of more than $35 million in state stability funding next school year.

Stability funding has offset a steep decline in enrollment at CCSF since the accreditation crisis began there several years ago, when the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges almost revoked its accreditation. Early next year, the ACCJC will decide whether the college has met the standards necessary to remain accredited, including financial stability.

This semester, CCSF scheduled 2,867 courses compared to the 3,119 scheduled in last fall, according to the college.

While it cancelled 113 classes after the schedule was posted this semester, mostly because of under-enrollment, it also added 47 classes. According to the administration, the courses CCSF added served 780 students while the course cancellations impacted just 402.

Jeff Hamilton, a spokesperson for CCSF, said the Enrollment Management Plan is not meant to make class reductions but “to allocate resources where there is demand.”

“If you have a grocery story, and nobody wants to buy oranges, you have to buy apples,” he said.

CCSF has courses with just a handful of students enrolled while there are general education courses with wait lists, Hamilton said. To break even, the college needs to have at least 35 students in a course, while the average class at CCSF has 22.

Tim Killikelly, president of the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121, criticized the course reductions and class cancellations as “short-term thinking” by administrators.

While it might help balance the budget for now, Killikelly said, cancelling classes with even a few students will lower enrollment by pushing those students out of CCSF.

“Their whole approach to this has been wrong-headed,” said Killikelly, who would rather CCSF use stability funding to keep under-enrolled courses open. “Overall, they should not be taking classes out of the schedule.”

As it was during contract negotiations, the AFT is concerned about CCSF administrators setting aside stability funding for the future instead of spending it now to maintain programs, which the union believes would increase enrollment.

Board of Trustees President Rafael Mandelman said the reductions have to be done to bring the schedule in-line with the shrunken student enrollment.

“This is not anything that I think our administrators want to be doing or the board wants to be doing,” Mandelman said. “We’re not doing it all in one year because that would be awful and devastating.”

Beginning this semester, CCSF also implemented a policy that cancelled under-enrolled classes earlier than usual.

The union has criticized that policy for not allowing enough time for courses to fill up, while administrators contend that an earlier cancellation date means students have more time to enroll in another course instead of leaving CCSF after a class is cancelled.

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