The recent announcement that City College of San Francisco could lose its accreditation next year means some of its 85,000 students may look to neighboring districts for their two-year degree.
The San Mateo County Community College District already faces high enrollment. That is a challenge for out-of-area students, along with transportation, which means transferring to the College of San Mateo, Skyline College or Cañada College may not be an easy option.
“The students are in a tough position,” said Barbara Christensen, director of community and government relations for SMCCCD.
Administrators from the San Mateo County Community College District were disappointed to learn that CCSF could lose accreditation next year. The district is waiting to see if CCSF will in fact be forced to close its doors next July before taking any steps to accommodate an influx of students, said Christensen.
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges announced July 3 it decided to terminate CCSF’s accreditation next year. CCSF is now appealing that decision. Some CCSF students may choose to attend a community college in San Mateo County in the future, but getting around will be difficult.
“The issue here is that there is not really good public transportation, whereas they could take BART to the East Bay” Christensen said.
The San Mateo County district is also pretty full.
“We just don’t have capacity to accommodate thousands more students from San Francisco,” she said.
The SMCCCD Board of Trustees is busy preparing for their own reaccreditation, said Trustee Dave Mandelkern, who feels for the CCSF community.
“My heart goes out to the students at CCSF,” said Mandelkern. “It’s a very serious situation.”
Mandelkern said the idea that surrounding districts would be able to take on 85,000 students is inconceivable.
“We pretty much have full capacity right now,” he said.
California community colleges have open enrollment, meaning San Mateo County community colleges already enroll students from outside of the county.
“Clearly students can make choices,” said SMCCCD Chancellor Ron Galatolo.
The district will do everything it can to accommodate students from anywhere, but resources are limited, he said.
“There’s only so much we can do,” he said, adding that the district serves 40,000 to 45,000 students per year. “We’ll do whatever we can within our power.”
Galatolo was shocked and disappointed by the accrediting commission’s decision on CCSF. He said the commission calling for the closing of a college overly aggressive.
“The outcome levied by the ACCJC was terrible,” he said. “The issues that the ACCJC raised don’t warrant terminating the institution, not even close.”
The students coming out of CCSF and into the workforce or other learning institutions in San Mateo County are capable and competent, he said.
“What’s occurring in the classroom is still effective teaching and learning,” he said.
“While CCSF has some issues, they’re just not that bad of an institution.”
The commission’s rate of placing sanctions — which are mostly warning or a “show-cause” sanctions — has been above 60 percent for the past decade, said Galatolo. The ACCJC’s rate of sanctioning is far above that of other regions in the nation which only sanction one to six percent of colleges each year, he said.
The ACCJC said in a press release that CCSF has only managed to address two of the 14 recommendations the commission made to college during the “show-cause” sanction period.
The commission said in the press release the main reasons for its decision were CCSF’s “lack of financial accountability as well as institutional deficiencies in the area of leadership and governance.”
“An institution that does not meet accreditation standards cheats its students and its community,” read a statement by Molly Corbett, president of the American Counsel on Education, which oversees the accrediting commission. “It is apparent that dramatic change is needed so that City College of San Francisco can better serve its 85,000 students.”
‘Ebb and flow’
The ACCJC’s decision was too severe, said Teeka James, president of the American Federation of Teachers Local 1493, which represents San Mateo County community college teachers.
“I think the commission’s decision to sanction CCSF at the ‘show-cause’ level was ridiculous. If anything, CCSF should have received a warning or other lesser sanction,” James wrote in an email to the Daily Journal. “To go from ‘all is well’ to ‘explain why you shouldn’t be shut down’ is unfair and harsh.”
James said she is not worried about the extra students that the San Mateo County district may need to take on if CCSF closes.
“We are nimble enough to adjust to the ebb and flow of enrollments,” she wrote. “But I do have concerns for the students in San Francisco. Transportation between San Francisco and San Mateo counties is expensive and cumbersome.”