While City College of San Francisco prepares to receive a team of evaluators who will decide if the college keeps its accreditation and stays open, the impact of what’s at stake has spread beyond the campus, bringing into sharper focus a push for higher standards at community colleges.
“If CCSF goes down, then accrediting issues will become a very big national debate,” said Patrick McCallum, president of the College Brain Trust, a Sacramento-based consulting firm whose clients include some of the state’s largest community college districts, but does not represent City College of San Francisco. “It’s going to be the shot heard around the country with enormous consequences, not just for the students and staff of City College. There are a lot of colleges we work with that are very nervous about that.”
Faced with a number of severe fiscal, structural and governance problems – some of them dating back to a 2006 accreditation review – City College was placed on “show cause” status in July by the regional accrediting commission. A “show cause” order is the most severe sanction the commission can hand out, short of yanking a college’s accreditation – which is what the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) could do at its next meeting in June if it determines that City College hasn’t fixed its problems. Such a move would close City College and require neighboring districts to take over management of the college and its academic programs in order to continue serving the students.
City College isn’t alone on “show cause” status. At its meeting in January, the accrediting commission imposed the sanction on the College of the Sequoias and at the same time removed College of the Redwoods and Cuesta College from the “show cause” list. But with more than 90,000 students and nine campuses throughout San Francisco, City College is the largest community college in the state and is among the largest two-year colleges in the nation to face having its accreditation withdrawn.