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Why San Francisco City College Might Close

| July 5, 2012
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Students learn about solar panel installation in a class at San Francisco City College. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Students learn about solar panel installation in a class at San Francisco City College. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges put City College of San Francisco on notice Tuesday that it has eight months to address 14 serious management and fiscal problems or be decertified.

Schools must be accredited to receive public funding. In June, school trustees approved a $187 million 2012-13 budget to serve the school’s more than 90,000 students. About $97 million of that amount comes from the state and would be withdrawn if the school lost accreditation. If the governor’s tax measure fails in November, the school could be out another $10 million. Trustees also voted to place a $79 per parcel tax on the city’s November ballot, but even if approved, those funds would not be available this year. City College will not pass a final budget until September.

For now, the school must prove to the commission by Oct. 15 that it should retain its accreditation. Then commission representatives will visit the school to monitor progress.

“Since the loss of accreditation would likely cause San Francisco City College to close, during the ‘show cause’ period the College must make preparations for closure,” said Barbara Beno, the commission president in a letter to City College of San Francisco Interim Chancellor Pamela Fisher.

While the college has seen reduced funding in recent years, Beno said all schools in the state have faced similar problems, yet only two of the state’s 112 community colleges are in similar situations: College of the Redwoods in Eureka and Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo. Compton College closed in 2005 after it lost accreditation.

In a written response to the commission, Fisher said the school is “fully aware of the seriousness of the situation.”

“The report shows that clear, difficult choices must be made, immediately, and at anumber of levels. The ultimate responsibility rests with the Trustees, administration,faculty and staff to reinvent City College so that it can continue to achieve its important mission, but in a more cost-effective and efficient way,” she wrote.

One of the commission’s main concerns is City College’s lack of a permanent funding base. Salaries and benefits account for 92 percent of general fund spending, leaving only eight percent for all other operations and maintenance. Almost 2,700 people work at City College, supporting nine campuses and more than 100 “instructional sites.”

“The lack of self-examination and failure to react to ongoing reduced funding has caused the institution to reach a financial breaking point,” the commissioners wrote.

Commissioners also noted that City College does not have enough administrators for a school of its size, with only 39 administrative positions. Many of those positions, including the chancellor’s post, are filled by temporary employees who lack “the appropriate administrative structure and authority to provide oversight and leadership.”


Letter to San Francisco City College

Accrediting Commission 2012 Report on San Francisco City College

City College of San Francisco Responds to Accrediting Commission

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About the Author ()

Lisa Pickoff-White is KQED's Senior Interactive News Producer. Her work has been honored with awards from the Online News Association, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Society of Professional Journalists and SXSW Interactive. Lisa specializes in visual journalism, including photography and data. Reach Lisa Pickoff-White at lpickoffwhite@kqed.org.

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