CCSF faces uphill battle in pending lawsuit


(L-R) Friends of City College Co-Founder Tracy Wheeler and City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees member Rafael Mandelman stand by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s side, Jan. 6, 2014, at the college’s Chinatown/North Beach campus as Pelosi speaks in support of the San Francisco college during its accreditation crisis. (Courtesy of Santiago Mejia The Guardsman)

By Careesa Campbell | News Editor

It is business as usual at City College of San Francisco as the fall 2014 semester gets underway.

Meanwhile, the struggle over its accreditation status rages on.

In 2012, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges said it would revoke the City College of San Francisco’s accreditation, effective July 2014.

This threat has sparked uneasiness at community colleges across California, including Citrus.

However, after much backlash including a pending lawsuit set to begin Oct. 27 against the 2012 accrediting commission, CCSF still remains accredited pending the outcome of that litigation.

The ACCJC could possibly grant CCSF “restoration” status, which could mean a two-year reprieve for the college to meet accreditation standards.

If CCSF’s application for restoration is denied, its accreditation will be stripped without the option to appeal.

But at a hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. this morning, the judge could make a final decision based on the evidence provided, said Santiago Mejia, editor-in-chief of The Guardsman, CCSF’s student newspaper.

CCSF, which educates approximately 80,000 students, has been struggling to reform itself in the wake of alleged financial and organizational mismanagement.

ACCJC, one of three accrediting branches of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, sends teams to visit community colleges in six-year intervals in order to determine if an institution’s accreditation should be renewed. These teams consider the entire institution’s mission, goals and objectives as well as programs and services available to students, quality of education and reputation of faculty to ensure that student needs are being met.

Currently, Citrus faculty and administration are going through the self-evaluation phase of the 2015-2016 accreditation process. The report is due in July 2015, to be followed by a site visit from an accrediting team in October 2015.

Arvid Spor, vice president of student services and accreditation liaison officer of Citrus College, Ed. D., said that the self-evaluation details the ways in which the college meets the accrediting commission’s four standards.

At Citrus, the four standards are split into 11 sub-categories, each managed by members of the faculty.

Each assigned group evaluates its sub-category by conducting interviews and research to verify that the college is taking steps to meet ACCJC’s standards.

The results are then submitted to the accrediting co-chairs for further evaluation.

Spor said that the college will also hold an open forum in March 2015 at which members of the public may read, discuss and address any questions they may have about the self-evaluation process.

“The main idea is we want it to be transparent,” Spor said. “We want to make extra certain…that we provide all the evidence that is easy to access for [the accrediting team] and, if they have any questions, address them before they leave.”

Following the 2009-2010 accreditation cycle at Citrus, the visiting accrediting team identified six areas Citrus should improve.

Spor has said the college has made significant process in addressing the recommendations, which include using data in program reviews, planning, budgeting and decision-making; developing Student Learning Outcomes; Assess the effectiveness Student Services; Update documents regarding recruitment and hiring policy; Demonstrating its commitment to continuous quality improvement; Publishing the final budget with more transparency.

Citrus College received a six-year Reaffirmation of Accreditation in February 2010, which is the highest rating possible given by an accrediting commission.

“As a college you always want to see that you are reaffirmed without a sanction,” Spor said.

Roberta Eisel, faculty co-chair for accreditation since 2008, explained that reaffirmation of accreditation means it is known by the accrediting team and the Federal Department of Education that the units offered at Citrus are college level, the courses – along with the faculty who teach them – are appropriately prepared, the college is financially stable, there is effective leadership, and the use of resources is adequate.

“It generally means that there is no concern the community should have about the quality in everything it takes to be a community college,” she said.

The consequences of losing accreditation are severe.

In addition to the fact that tens of thousands of students could be forced to enroll in another institution, the college also loses access to federal aid and grants, consequently bankrupting the college and losing the students who need those funds.

The last California community college to lose its accreditation was Compton Community College in 2006 after years of financial troubles.

The institution never regained its accreditation and has since merged with the El Camino College district.

Spor, who has been through three accreditation cycles, was working at El Camino College during this crisis.

“A lot of success has been made, but [Compton College] still isn’t ready to seek out its own accreditation,” he said.

Eisel said because Citrus administrators and faculty have familiarized themselves with the standards and expectations of accreditation, the college is not as susceptible to falling victim to the accreditation process like CCSF and Compton College.

Though there is some mild nervousness among the faculty prior to the commission’s visit, Eisel said, effective preparedness is key so “it will be unmistakable to that visiting team just how brilliant and wonderful we are. I think we have a strong level of confidence in the quality of the institution.”

Spor said that the outcome of the evaluation cannot be determined prior to the commission’s visit to Citrus.

“You never really know what exactly is going to occur until you see what the commission has printed up when they send their letter in the following February,” he said. “Some [of the faculty] are happy and some are cautiously concerned.”

Spor said that Citrus is meeting the standards but there is always room for improvement.

“We don’t believe that we are not meeting the standards in any one place,” he said. “We’re always looking for ways to be a little bit better.”

Eisel said that accreditation serves as a reminder that there is always an ongoing self-examination of quality and the preparation for this evaluation never really ends.

“We are already committed to respectful integrated planning and cooperative leadership,” she said. “Accreditation just gives us an opportunity to refresh that and express it in a new way each time we go through the cycle.”

Former Associated Students of Citrus College vice president Alejandra Morales, 22, said her role in the accreditation process was to ensure there were no gaps in faculty’s assessments.

“Accreditation means the degree is invaluable,” she said. “Everyone is very dedicated to the students and to the school. It makes Citrus a great place to be.”

Eisel said that being enrolled in an accredited college like Citrus should give students peace of mind.

“It should mean that there is no question that the units they take here will lead to a degree and transfer at another institution,” she said. “They are at an institution where there is a real commitment to that level of quality.”

Western Association of Schools and Colleges, sends teams to visit community colleges in six-year intervals in order to determine if an institution’s accreditation should be renewed. These teams consider the entire institution’s mission, goals and objectives as well as programs and services available to students, quality of education and reputation of faculty to ensure that student needs are being met.

Currently, Citrus faculty and administration are going through the self-evaluation phase of the 2015-2016 accreditation process. The report is due in July 2015, to be followed by a site visit from an accrediting team in October 2015.

Arvid Spor, vice president of student services and accreditation liaison officer of Citrus College, Ed.D., said that the self-evaluation details the ways in which the college meets the accrediting commission’s four standards.

At Citrus, the four standards are split into 11 sub-categories, each managed by members of the faculty.

Each assigned group evaluates its sub-category by conducting interviews and research to verify that the college is taking steps to meet ACCJC’s standards.

The results are then submitted to the accrediting co-chairs for further evaluation.

Spor said that the college will also hold an open forum in March 2015 at which members of the public may read, discuss and address any questions they may have about the self-evaluation process.

“The main idea is we want it to be transparent,” Spor said. “We want to make extra certain…that we provide all the evidence that is easy to access for [the accrediting team] and, if they have any questions, address them before they leave.”

Following the 2009-2010 accreditation cycle at Citrus, the visiting accrediting team identified six areas Citrus should improve.

Spor has said the college has made significant process in addressing the recommendations, which include using data in program reviews, planning, budgeting and decision-making; developing Student Learning Outcomes; Assess the effectiveness Student Services; Update documents regarding recruitment and hiring policy; Demonstrating its commitment to continuous quality improvement; Publishing the final budget with more transparency.

Citrus College received a six-year Reaffirmation of Accreditation in February 2010, which is the highest rating possible given by an accrediting commission.

“As a college you always want to see that you are reaffirmed without a sanction,” Spor said.

Roberta Eisel, faculty co-chair for accreditation since 2008, explained that reaffirmation of accreditation means it is known by the accrediting team and the Federal Department of Education that the units offered at Citrus are college level, the courses – along with the faculty who teach them – are appropriately prepared, the college is financially stable, there is effective leadership, and the use of resources is adequate.

“It generally means that there is no concern the community should have about the quality in everything it takes to be a community college,” she said.

The consequences of losing accreditation are severe.

In addition to the fact that tens of thousands of students could be forced to enroll in another institution, the college also loses access to federal aid and grants, consequently bankrupting the college and losing the students who need those funds.

The last California community college to lose its accreditation was Compton Community College in 2006 after years of financial troubles.

The institution never regained its accreditation and has since merged with the El Camino College district.

Spor, who has been through three accreditation cycles, was working at El Camino College during this crisis.

“A lot of success has been made, but [Compton College] still isn’t ready to seek out its own accreditation,” he said.

Eisel said because Citrus administrators and faculty have familiarized themselves with the standards and expectations of accreditation, the college is not as susceptible to falling victim to the accreditation process like CCSF and Compton College.

Though there is some mild nervousness among the faculty prior to the commission’s visit, Eisel said effective preparedness is key so “it will be unmistakable to that visiting team just how brilliant and wonderful we are. I think we have a strong level of confidence in the quality of the institution.”

Spor said that the outcome of the evaluation cannot be determined prior to the commission’s visit to Citrus.

“You never really know what exactly is going to occur until you see what the commission has printed up when they send their letter in the following February,” he said. “Some [of the faculty] are happy and some are cautiously concerned.”

Spor said that Citrus is meeting the standards but there is always room for improvement.

“We don’t believe that we are not meeting the standards in any one place,” he said. “We’re always looking for ways to be a little bit better.”

Eisel said that accreditation serves as a reminder that there is always an ongoing self-examination of quality and the preparation for this evaluation never really ends.

“We are already committed to respectful integrated planning and cooperative leadership,” she said. “Accreditation just gives us an opportunity to refresh that and express it in a new way each time we go through the cycle.”

Former Associated Students of Citrus College vice president Alejandra Morales, 22, said her role in the accreditation process was to ensure there were no gaps in faculty’s assessments.

“Accreditation means the degree is invaluable,” she said. “Everyone is very dedicated to the students and to the school. It makes Citrus a great place to be.”

Eisel said that being enrolled in an accredited college like Citrus should give students peace of mind.

“It should mean that there is no question that the units they take here will lead to a degree and transfer at another institution,” she said. “They are at an institution where there is a real commitment to that level of quality.”

 

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