Time to Roll up Sleeves at City College

Since the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) voted to revoke City College of San Francisco’s accreditation if it cannot right its course within the next year, there has been much posturing and finger-pointing over the commission’s judgment and the process it used in reaching its decision.

City College faculty has demanded the commission rescind its determination. The American Federation of Teachers has filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Education. City Attorney Dennis Herrera started a legal challenge to block the commission from doing its work. While these tactics may provide a temporary distraction for the status quo, they do not change the facts: City College’s system of governance and fiscal planning is broken and it must be fixed or our city will lose one of our most important higher education institutions and workforce development pipelines.

According to the ACCJC, City College must make serious reforms in order to keep its accreditation. These include some very basic and specific steps such as developing a staffing plan and equipment budget; hiring a comptroller; tightening financial controls; upgrading the computer system for payroll, finance and student records; and several other commonsense actions that are essential to any organization’s management.

When California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris met with the Chamber’s Board of Directors last month, he reiterated that the best path to maintaining City College’s accreditation is to follow the commission’s recommendations and make the necessary changes to keep the institution compliant and solvent. Robert Agrella, the Special Trustee appointed to change the college’s course, is also focused on meeting accreditation goals. State and local officials have made it clear that any other alternatives – such as merging with San Francisco State University or another Bay Area Community College – are not viable. The only solution is reform.

The loss of City College would be devastating for San Francisco employers and the economy. With over 85,000 students, City College is California’s largest public school. It is also the largest workforce trainer in San Francisco, delivering career training in 150 occupation disciplines ranging from automotive repair, to biotech, to culinary arts, to health services and many other professions. According to a study just released by the city’s Budget Analyst’s Office, at least at least $300 million in economic activity would be lost annually if City College were to close.

San Francisco needs a thriving and accredited community college. The future of City College now rests on the focused and diligent work of Special Trustee Agrella, City College faculty and staff, and our committed community of supporters across the city. It’s time to stop fighting the ACCJC and roll up our sleeves to meet accreditation goals and keep our city’s most critical workforce pipeline open and thriving for years to come.