City College needs to remain open to serve all of San Francisco

The clock is ticking for City College of San Francisco to put its affairs in order so it can continue its mission of providing educational programs and services for a diverse community. Now is the time for that community to rally behind the institution and the services it provides.

With nearly 90,000 students at its nine primary campuses and nearly 200 neighborhood sites, City College is the state’s largest community college and one of the largest in the nation. But it is the very size of the college and the vast community it serves that has stretched the school almost to the breaking point, especially as state funding has dwindled over the years, leaving the college with little in its reserves.

Each of the state’s 111 community colleges is re-evaluated every six years on a rotating schedule by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. After this year’s evaluation of CCSF, which media reports have labeled as “scathing,” the school was ordered by the commission to show cause to have its accreditation renewed. The move, which could result in the college closing some of its locations, is the worst outcome for a college, short of having its accreditation revoked.

The commission listed 14 issues for the college to address, giving the school until March 15 to submit a full accreditation report and indicate how it would go about closing the college if that were the ultimate outcome of this process. Before then, the college must show it is taking steps toward demonstrating why its accreditation should be renewed.  

CCSF is not alone in being told to revamp or shut down — the College of the Redwoods in Humboldt County and Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo also were threatened with not receiving their accreditation, pending changes.
Over the past decade, three other colleges have received this warning and remained open, while one, Compton College, had its accreditation revoked, according to the Los Angeles Times.

City College was founded as a vocational and academic offshoot of the San Francisco Unified School District in 1935, and in 1970 it became a separate community college. Now, the college offers 66 associate degrees, 125 credit certificate programs, 84 noncredit certificates and other certificates of accomplishment. It serves students preparing to transfer to four-year universities as well as those looking for additional training to advance in the workforce.

But the college’s importance stretches beyond job training and preparation for four-year universities. CCSF also provides concurrent enrollment programs for SFUSD students and a Gateway to College Program, in which students who have dropped out of high school or are at risk of doing so can earn their diplomas while receiving college credits. Also, a majority of the students served by City College are minorities — more than 30 percent are Asian, 21 percent are Hispanic and 7 percent are black.

This combination of bridging the gap between high school and college, providing post-high school education and job training for a primarily minority student body, and providing low-cost education for students who may be unable to afford the California State University or University of California systems makes City College indispensable.

Fixes for what ails CCSF are not out of reach, but the entire community needs to understand what it stands to lose as the college moves ahead on the long and arduous road to keeping its doors open.

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