Officials at City College of San Francisco are striving to convey the news that their school is “open, accredited and enrolling.” That message is essential because CCSF's enrollment matters if it is to remain the institution that students remember.
City College enrollment had dipped even before the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges instructed school officials to prove why CCSF should remain in operation. After numerous changes, the commission voted in June to terminate CCSF's accreditation in July 2014 because it was out of compliance with commission accreditation standards and eligibility requirements.
Although new CCSF credits will still count toward a degree, enrollment has plunged since the crisis began. Enrollment for the fall semester, which begins Aug. 14, is down 16 percent compared to last year.
Even CCSF manages to keep its accreditation following a review and appeals process, the declining enrollment will have severe consequences for the institution. The lower the school's enrollment, the less money it will receive from the state to fund the programs, centers and teachers so many are pushing to save.
City College receives roughly $4,600 for each student who takes 15 units or more in both the fall and spring semesters. Such sums are prorated for students who take fewer credits. A loss of full-time students could have a huge impact on the budget.
“California community colleges are enrollment-driven institutions,” special Trustee Robert Agrella said recently. “Your financial base is on that enrollment. When your enrollment goes down, your state appropriation — state funding you receive — goes down in a corresponding manner. So, enrollment is key and critical.”
City College will get $149 million in funding for enrollment this year, but if more students don't enroll, that money will be lost in the 2014-15 school year.
“We may not have the enrollment to fully hear that $149 million given the numbers so far,” said Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration Peter Goldstein. “But we'll have it for one year. Next year, when the cycle starts again, if we don't generate enrollment we will lose dollars.”
Because of that correlation, City College officials have pushed a marketing campaign to encourage students to enroll, with the short and simple tag line “open, accredited and enrolling.”
“It's short, sweet and says it all,” said Jennifer Aries, CCSF's marketing consultant. “We are all concerned, but it's important to know we are still here. That phenomenal instruction is still happening, everything is accredited.”
Enrollment ads are popping up on billboards throughout The City, in movie theaters and even on Pandora, an online radio service. Aries said word of mouth is the best way to spread the word and that includes getting faculty, staff and students as well as members of the board of trustees, Board of Supervisors and state Assembly members talking about it.
The cost of falling enrollment
full-time students for the 2012-13 school year
full-time students for the fall 2012 semester
full-time students CCSF is missing so far
in lost funding