The clock is ticking for City College of San Francisco to preserve its status as an accredited school.
With nine months left until a controversial accrediting agency decides whether CCSF has met each of its accrediting standards, college leaders are still trying to improve the school’s financial stability and government structure, among other requirements needed for CCSF to retain its accreditation.
On Monday, the school secured a much-needed financial boost that will ensure it receives nearly the same level of state funding it has in previous years despite challenges CCSF has faced since almost losing its accreditation three years ago.
Following the near loss of CCSF’s accreditation, the some 35,000 to 40,000 full time equivalent students enrolled in the college dropped around 30 percent to 23,000 full time students, the San Francisco Examiner previously reported.
Such a drop could amount to the loss of millions of dollars in state funding, but a June 2014 Senate Bill gave special stabilization funding to the college for the next few years, as long as CCSF met five benchmarks to keep its finances in order.
“The biggest problem with the accreditation commission is what they’ve done to the students and community of San Francisco,” said Tim Killikelly, president of the American Federation of Teachers 2121. “We have lost almost a third of our students, and there’s no evidence that they’ve gone anywhere else.”
CCSF remains open and fully accredited today. The move to revoke its accreditation was blocked first by a lawsuit against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges and then when the ACCJC created a new policy called restoration status.
That policy gives CCSF until January 2017 to meet all of its accrediting requirements.
On Monday, the state’s Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team determined that CCSF has met the benchmarks required for the school to maintain its stabilization funding for another year. That means the college in the 2016-17 school year will receive 90 percent of what it would have received if its enrollment were at the 2012-13 enrollment level.
CCSF’s budget for next school year includes $26.5 million in stability funding, according to FCMAT.
“That’s a significant chunk of funding for us,” said Rafael Mandelman, CCSF’s board president.
Money was a key area of concern for administrators addressing the school’s progress toward meeting all of its accrediting requirements at a March 24 Board of Trustees meeting.
Among the areas in which CCSF was found noncompliant is unequal distribution of student support services — including counseling, tutoring, library and financial aid services — across its campuses in The City.
The college has since begun hiring specialists to balance services with those offered at its main campus on Ocean Avenue.
Another concern is more than half of CCSF’s top administrative positions are interim or vacant. Of 19 positions, six are vacant and four are interim, including the chancellor herself, according to a college organizational chart.
With Baby Boomers retiring and the uncertainty of CCSF’s accreditation status ahead, Interim Chancellor Susan Lamb said it has been difficult finding permanent administrators.
“We have stabilized the management structure as much as could be wished for considering the situation,” Lamb said at the March meeting.
CCSF is also reaching out to the San Francisco Unified School District to boost its enrollment.
Later this month, the college is expected to pump out a draft of its final self-evaluation, which the ACCJC will use in January 2017 when considering taking the college out of restoration status. The ACCJC will also review the results of an upcoming onsite evaluation of the college.
“My concerns are less about what we are doing,” said Mandelman, but, “how are we going to be evaluated by the ACCJC, because we have a bad history there.”
The ACCJC is facing its own scrutiny as well. The commission was recently found to be out of compliance with federal education standards and has until next year to prove it has met every standard, Acting Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. ruled in January.
And last month, both the California Community Colleges Board of Governors as well as superintendents and chancellors from across the state voted to find a new model for accrediting community colleges in California.