CCSF accreditation crisis heads to trial

A city judge denied community college accreditors exemption from state law last Friday, upholding the Oct. 27th trial that will determine validity of its sanctions against City College of San Francisco (CCSF) .

Both sides called for a summary judgement hearing Sept. 10 and argued the grounds of San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s lawsuit, which accuses the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)of having conflicts of interest and an inappropriate evaluation process of City College under Caliafornia’s business and professions code.

“The big issues that were discussed today seem to be around ACCJC’s larger argument that basically says you cannot sue them because they are not a commercial enterprise,” American Federation for Teachers Local 2121 President Tim Killikelly said at the Save CCSF Coalition meeting after the court session.

According to the City Attorney news release, presiding Judge Curtis Karnow further accepted their argument that accreditors “violated controlling federal regulations” by including just one academic representative on the 2013 evaluation panel, granting an early victory for Herrera.

Following the ACCJC’s decision to revoke City College’s accreditation, Herrera filed suit in August 2013. Karnow subsequently ruled that the college could not be stripped of its accreditation until the court determines if the commission’s actions were lawful.

The ACCJC filed a motion to halt proceedings in July following the creation of their new policy that allows colleges on the verge of losing accreditation to apply for restoration, which City College swiftly complied to.  

“They came up with this restoration policy out of thin air, we don’t even know what it means. We aren’t guaranteed any pathway to accreditation,” CCSF Student Trustee Shanell Williams said. “It was really the only option to exhaust just to show that the administration has tried every avenue they can to address the issue.”

Under California law, colleges require accreditation in order to receive federal funding. Without federal funding and financial aid eligibility, City College would effectively close.

CCSF was the top feeder school for SF State transfer students in Fall 2013, according to the 2014 SFSU Data Book. Though the college’s doors remain open, the accreditation crisis that has spanned over two years is ongoing.

“My last year there was when the whole accreditation thing started,” Judith Valdovinos, a former City College student who now studies psychology at SF State. “I’m still worried for other people. I don’t know what the situation is right now, but it’s pretty scary.”

The ACCJC holds a sanction rate of roughly 53 percent, compared to 12 percent total by the other six regional accreditors comprising the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), according to a June 2014 California State Auditor Report.