See the San Francisco Chronicle, "City College of San Francisco on brink of closure":
The poorly run City College of San Francisco has eight months to prove it should stay in business, yet must "make preparations for closure," evaluators ordered Tuesday.More at the link.
The stunning verdict by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges could result in the closure of California's largest college and a fixture of higher education in one of the nation's wealthiest cities. It has 90,000 students.
Only accredited colleges can receive public funding under state law. But City College's failure to fix serious, long-standing problems of leadership and fiscal planning means that the accrediting commission could vote as early as next June to yank the school's all-important certification, said Barbara Beno, commission president.
My first thought was "no way!" This is a campus with almost 100,000 students, about a third full-time, which makes it one of the largest colleges in the United States. Indeed, the report at Inside Higher Ed says CCSF is too big to fail, "Something Has to Give: Accreditation crisis hits City College of San Francisco":
The shuttering of California’s largest college would be a five-alarm fiasco. With a total enrollment of about 90,000 students (33,000 full-time) and 12 campuses and sites around San Francisco, City College is probably too big to fail. Most of those students would have no other local option, and the rest of the state’s community colleges could hardly absorb them, anyhow, given that the system will turn away an estimated 200,000 students this year because of financial shortfalls.You can guess what happened. Gross financial mismanagement has placed the college's survival in doubt.
As a result, City College’s closure is unlikely, observers say. But the college has its work cut out for it. The commission didn’t blink in 2005 when it shut down Compton Community College because of fiscal mismanagement. In that case, however, the much smaller college was consumed by El Camino Community College, becoming a campus center, where enrollment is actually up.
The commission’s fix-it list is long and the timeline is short. The college is also dealing with further budget cuts, which will get worse if voters don’t pass a tax hike this fall...
Here's the accreditation report from the ACCJC: "EVALUATION REPORT: City College of San Francisco." And two sections from the summary stand out:
All segments of the college staff expressed and demonstrated a genuine commitment to being a student-centered college. Despite the unified commitment to the college mission, there exists a veil of distrust among the governance groups that manifests itself as an 5 indirect resistance to board and administrative decision-making authority. The chancellor, Academic Senate leaders, vice chancellors, deans, faculty, department chairs, Board of Trustees, classified staff, and student leaders have designed and implemented an elaborate shared governance model. However, the team did not find evidence of clearly delineated roles and authority for decision making, thereby hindering timely communication, decisions and results. Based on this behavior, and coupled with the large number of classified and administrative staff vacancies and expenditures that do not match existing revenue, the team is concerned that the roles, responsibilities and decision-making authority of leadership and the governance structures are not clearly defined.And:
The team was impressed by the documentation provided in the self study and in the voluminous, yet organized evidence provided in the team room. However, during the course of the team visit additional information was required to reconcile differences between evidence provided in the CCSF Self Evaluation Report and statements made in response to team inquiries. Furthermore, gaining access to some evidence related to technology, finances and human resources was not easy. Additionally, after the visit, the team chair received correspondence, which raised suspicion about the integrity of the institution. Furthermore, the college has not made progress to address a long-standing pattern of late financial audits and deficit spending, which harm the financial integrity of the institution. The college must take steps to restore trust and institutional integrity.Sounds sketchy.
And continue reading at the report, especially Standard III on college resources. The college is radically understaffed, with personnel "overtaxed" in their efforts to perform the duties and services of the institution. The report notes that these human resources deficiencies do not inform the fiscal planning process effectively, which means that money is not being apportioned to serve the essential needs of the school. And scroll down further to Standard IV, especially the sections on "Findings and Evidence" and the "Conclusion." The college appears to have both high levels of internal institutional distrust --- with threats of retaliation made against those serving on key reporting committees --- and of corrupt decision-making processes --- and that's on the Academic Senate side of things, as well --- that have raised questions about the honesty and integrity of the entire self-evaluation and reporting requirements to the ACCJC.
The college has been running budget deficits for three years and has dipped into financial reserves to survive. This is not a new situation statewide, as budget cuts have hit community colleges hard since at least 2008. But checking back over at the story at Inside Higher Ed, the union president (no surprise) blames the budget crisis (not decision-making) for the school's problems:
So how did the situation at City College get this bad? The answer, it seems, is one of culture.Notice the part about how the college takes "open access seriously." I can guarantee you the college's remediation rates are hitting close to 90 percent if not more, which is why they are moving to abolish placement testing for incoming students (sounds familiar). And being perhaps the most diverse community college in the state, it's a safe bet that the college's staffing and administration practices are equally exotic. It would be thought "racist" to say it (but here goes anyway), but community colleges sometimes get less-than-spectacular teachers and administrators. (That's a nice way of saying grossly unqualified.) The so-called culture of diversity at such colleges works to create an affirmative action system that combines with some old-fashioned patronage politics for badly inefficient institutional outcomes. And I'm talking in the general sense here. No doubt those on the inside at CCSF would be able to report on some abject levels of corruption that contributed to the college's fiscal train wreck.
People take open access seriously in San Francisco. No college in the state has a deeper attachment to its mission of serving as many students as possible. And City College also prides itself on a decentralized decision-making process, which allows plenty of experimentation at the department level. But those traditions aren’t particularly helpful while a college absorbs a flurry of budget cuts.
City College “has a long history of delegation,” which “was a good thing for long time,” said Scott Lay, president and CEO of the Community College League of California. But “that doesn’t actually work with several years of budget austerity.”
The report failed to fully acknowledge the role of state funding cuts in causing problems at the college, said Alisa Messer, an English instructor at City College and president of the local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, the college’s primary faculty union. And she defended City College for sticking to its mission.
“We’re trying not to close the door to our students,” she said, adding that “these are truly contradictory and impossible times.”
Messer also defended the college’s stripped-down approach to administration, which she said has been a deliberate attempt to serve as many students as possible in tight times by “trying to maintain people in the front lines.”
Frankly, it would be a political bombshell if the college were to indeed close, and we'd be hearing cries of racism until the cows come home. That's why I doubt that CCSF will go belly up. It might get taken over and placed in some kind of receivership by the state, and then perhaps merged with another district on a temporary basis. But I seriously doubt a college of this magnitude would up and close its doors on the nearly 100,000 students it serves. See the San Francisco Chronicle for more, "City College vows to resist closure, takeover."
More on this later, for sure...
PHOTO CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons.