Threatened with losing accreditation, Pima Community College is expected to open admission to all students, reversing a policy that sent very poorly prepared students to alternative programs. Accreditors also criticized the Arizona college’s leadership problems, including mismanagement by past and present administrators, a “culture of fear” and an allegedly absentee governing board, reports Inside Higher Ed. In addition, Roy Flores, Pima’s former chancellor, has been accused of sexual harassment.
Eager for Pima to become a four-year college, Flores pushed through tighter admissions standards, arguing that students who test below the seventh grade in reading and math “have little chance of succeeding in a college environment,” Only 5 percent of students in remedial classes advance to college-level work, Flores wrote in the Arizona Star.
The accreditation team said that caused Pima to fail an accreditation test: The “institution’s mission demonstrates commitment to the public good.”
“The college’s decision to change its admissions policy despite community opposition conflicts with its stated mission of developing the community through learning,” wrote Sylvia Manning, the commission’s president, “and demonstrates a lack of understanding of its role in serving the public good in its community.”
In 2011, Pima began turning away students who scored poorly on a placement test, ACT’s COMPASS. The number of full-time remedial students declined by 30 percent that year, leading to a 28 percent cut in faculty slots.
The college’s leadership has recommended that the new admissions standards be dropped.
“The Trombone Clause says that in good times, when we have good budgets from the state and better economics, we can share that largess with our employees,” said Larry Kamer, spokesperson for CCSF. “But it retracts in bad times, which is where we are now.”
The American Federation of Teachers argues conditions haven’t been met to trigger the trombone.
City College has until March 15 to prove its financial viability to the Accreditation Commission, which criticized CCSF’s pay structure.
Community colleges will be accredited based on food, writes Jeffrey Ross in a Cronk of Higher Education satire. Colleges will be required to demonstrate how food fits into their “strategic visions, core values, mission statements, assessment plans, curricula and feedback loops.”
Research shows the importance of potlucks, said Dr. Tusk Manger, a reviewer and taste-tester for the Highbrow Learn-ed Commission.
. . . community college staff spend about 65 percent of their salaried work day preparing for potlucks, grazing, sharing recipes, emailing notifications about dessert needs at division meetings, chatting over hummus or quiche in the faculty lounge, planning bake sale fund raisers for partnering organizations and orchestrating classroom “cultural” studies which mandate at-risk eating activities. . . . hard-core paper plate beanie-weenie concoctions and crockpot food–especially at division meeting potlucks–may represent a significantly overlooked part of every community college’s curricula. Eating is the best practice at all community colleges.
“Potluck” appears in 41 percent of all email subject headings at one community college in western Phoenix, according to a study by Dr. Jeffrey Roz, Hamilton State University, and Dr. Jann M Kontento, Copperfield Community College.
. . . 37 percent of all the benchmarking college emails contain some reference to pies, cheesecake, left-over mushroom pizza, bagels, garbanzo beans, COM 209 ethnic awareness potlucks, donuts in the dean’s office or “almost-gone” sliced summer sausage and cheese snacks remaining from a governing board meeting.
Ross and Jann Contento are the authors of College Leadership Crisis: The Phillip Dolly Affair, a comic novel about the fictional Copperfield Community College.
Faced with a $15 million deficit and the threat of losing accreditation, City College of San Francisco‘s board has voted to “dismantle a decades-long system of faculty leadership,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Returning more than 60 department chairs to full-time teaching will save $2 million and streamline governance, trustees said.
“The accrediting commission made it clear as recently as yesterday that they are concerned we are not moving quickly enough,” interim Chancellor Pamila Fisher told the board.
City College has until March 15 to prove it should to stay in business. The accrediting commission has said one major problem is the college’s byzantine and costly governance structure – unparalleled among California community colleges.
More than 60 faculty members earn extra pay as department chairs. They are released from teaching to do administrative work, such as scheduling, that other colleges assign to deans. City College employs 11 deans. The chairs have their own labor union, work 10 months rather than 12, as deans do, and must have their classes covered by other faculty.
Trustees also voted unanimously to close a preschool to save $84,000 a year, and to end summer hours at three other college-run child care centers. “City College spends $700,000 a year on the centers that serve as laboratories for child-development majors and as places where parents can learn alternatives to corporal punishment,” the Chronicle reports.
The board hired a “special trustee” who will have veto power on accreditation-related decisions and agreed to start collecting fees at registration. Uncollected fees cost the college district $400,000 a year.
City College of San Francisco will “hire new leaders, lay off faculty, close and lease out properties, and make enrichment classes a low priority” to remain accredited, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
One new approach also reflects an astonishing reality: City College has allowed students to take classes without paying the required enrollment fees, causing the college to lose at least $400,000 a year.
Pamila Fisher, the interim chancellor, previewed thecollege’s plan for addressing 14 major fiscal and managerial deficiencies identified in July by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. CCSF could lose accreditation, if it doesn’t meet its goal or make measurable progress by the commission’s March 15 deadline.
One major change already approved by the trustees is to shift City College’s main mission away from free enrichment classes like music appreciation and memoir writing, and focus instead on preparing students for transfer to a university, earning an associate degree, acquiring career skills and learning to speak English.
The plan calls for eliminating paid sabbaticals to save $800,000 a year and imposing across-the-board salary cuts of 1 percent to save $1.57 million.
City College of San Francisco could lose accreditation and close this spring, unless “those in charge make the tough decisions needed to right the ship,” writes Robert Shireman, director of California Competes: Higher Education for a Strong Economy, in the San Francisco Chronicle. But who’s in charge?
. . . CCSF has been part of a grand experiment in democratic management forced upon community colleges by an obscure rule adopted 22 years ago. While the original motivation for the shared-governance requirement was understandable, even laudable, in hindsight we can see that empowering everyone leaves no one in charge. California’s community colleges are capsizing as a result.
In the 1980s, “junior” college faculty wanted the status and power of university professors, Shireman writes. They got much more. The state Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges ordered community college trustees and chancellors “to defer to academic senates on a wide range of topics.”
CCSF went all-out in implementing the new state requirement. Today, an Office of Shared Governance manages 46 committees that develop policies that feed into a faculty Executive Council. Further, a petition process can put any issue to a full faculty vote. The CCSF Board of Trustees, elected by the voters of San Francisco to run the college, is required by the state to rubber-stamp the Shared Governance decisions (or indecision) or risk going to court to prove that the disagreement was “exceptional” and “compelling.” The result of this blurring of responsibility is predictable: Decisions don’t get made, no one is held accountable, and everyone blames everyone else.
Two independent reviews have offered stinging critiques of CCSF’s processes. The accreditor found “a veil of distrust among the governance groups” instead of clear decision-making roles. A fiscal review found the college paralyzed by a culture that undermines good management, preventing it from making the decisions that would stave off bankruptcy. Decision-making “appears to have been driven more by power, influence and political whim, than reason, logic and fairness.”
While a few exceptional chancellors have worked with faculty to adapt to difficult times, most community colleges are “stumbling along” without strong, clear leadership, Shireman writes.
The state board needs to end shared governance, argues. More urgently, the CCSF academic senate “should formally step aside to put the duly elected trustees squarely in charge so we all can hold them fully accountable.” A sinking ship needs a captain, not a committee.
Community colleges across California are facing accreditation sanctions “largely a result of the state cutting funding for several years as the federal government has stepped up performance standards,” reports AP. City College of San Francisco, College of the Redwoods in Eureka and Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo are one step from losing accreditation. Others are in earlier stages of the process. Here’s the full list.
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a division of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, has put 10 campuses on the midlevel “probation” status and another 14 on the low-level “warning” status. There are 112 community colleges in the state.
“The problems colleges have run into with accreditation are abnormally acute at this point in time in California,” said David Baime, a senior vice president with the American Association of Community Colleges.”The colleges in California have been subject to such savage budget reductions that it has placed institutions under a great deal of financial and administrative strain. I think that’s a big part of the issue for the colleges.”
.Colleges need accreditation to accept federal financial aid, offer courses with transferable credit, participate in league sports and award diplomas. Without accreditation, many schools would shut down for lack of students.
The federal government now requires colleges to show “learning outcomes” to earn accreditation, notes AP. As expectations have gone up, state funding has declined by 12 percent in the last three years. It will fall another 7 percent if voters reject a tax increase on the November ballot.
California community colleges charge low fees compared to the rest of the nation, even with recent increases, and grant many fee waivers to low-income students. Completion rates are low.
Facing the threat of closure, City College of San Francisco has cut 700 classes to balance the budget, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The new mission statement will drop ”lifelong learning, life skills and cultural enrichment” from the college’s list of primary goals.
With tuition soaring and state budgets dwindling, the U.S. needs to control college costs. But how? American Enterprise Institute education research fellow Andrew P. Kelly and Kevin Carey of the New America Foundation have commissioned eleven new studies on ways to produce more college graduates without spending more money. Strategies include:
Make cost containment a central tenet of existing institutions by emphasizing responsible debt financing, prioritizing faculty’s teaching duties over research, and leveraging the expertise of external business consultants to identify potential avenues of cost savings.
Identify the unique functions colleges perform, such as providing academic content and a marketable degree, and offer them to students separately. There is now an array of companies that provide pieces of the college experience for a fraction of the cost. One common example is the growing number of online courses offered.
Allow newer institutions to enter the higher education marketplace, rather than protecting the revenue structure of existing schools. Under the current system, new schools face very high barriers to entry due to rigorous accreditation regulations.
While City College of San Francisco‘s accreditation woes have gotten all the attention, two other California community colleges also are facing takeovers, writes Paul Fain on Inside Higher Ed. College of the Redwoods in rural Humboldt County and Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo also must fix a list of problems or face closure, takeover by another community college district or intervention by a “special trustee.”
Community College Chancellor Jack Scott said a special trustee can be invited in by a college’s board of trustees or appointed by the state.
The special trustee can have a range of powers, said Scott. They might serve more of an advisory role, or can assume much of a board’s responsibilities. The trustee can also strengthen a college’s hand in “getting to financial stability” by making unpopular program cuts.
The accrediting commission found that state budget cuts exposed management problems at the three colleges. California’s 112 colleges have been hit hard in recent years. “It is tough in tough times,” Scott said.
Cuesta, which was put on probation in 2010, must improve financial planning, strategic planning and technology infrastructure, according to the commission’s February report.
Like CCSF, College of the Redwoods has failed to adequately track and assess student learning, according to the accreditation report. The college also is working on improving strategic planning and record keeping.
Plagued by weak leadership and budget deficits, California’s largest community college, City College of San Francisco, may lose accreditation and face closure in eight months, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The “show cause” order by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools is more serious than probation. Without accreditation, City College’s 90,000 students wouldn’t be eligible for federal financial aid, causing the nine-campus college to fold.
College leaders vow to stay open, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. But they’ll have to balance the budget — the college has been running deficits for three years — in a year of high financial uncertainty. While many blame state budget cuts for the CCSF’s problems, only two other community colleges in the state face similar financial troubles, the commission said.
The accrediting team said the college’s problems were structural: failing to live within its means, ignoring a growing retiree health obligation, and paring administration to skeletal levels.
To improve budgeting and planning, City College needs more administrators, the commission found. With only 39 administrators and more than 1,800 faculty members, City College finds it hard to make decisions.
“There exists a veil of distrust among governance groups that manifests itself as an indirect resistance to board and administrative decision-making authority,” says the report, which points to a confusing structure in which everyone – chancellor, vice chancellors, faculty, staff and students – has a say.
“The team did not find evidence of clearly delineated roles and authority for decision making, thereby hindering timely communication, decisions and results,” the report said.
City College’s “shared governance” system includes faculty, administrators, staff and students in advisory roles, reports the Chronicle.
“Let’s say I have an idea to change the grading system,” said math instructor Hal Huntsman, former president of the Faculty Senate. “I have to start four or five levels down from where the decision gets made. The authority is at the Board of Trustees. But down from that, there are councils. Down from that, there are committees. Then subcommittees.”
City College “is probably too big to fail,” predicts Inside Higher Ed. “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.”
But nobody’s sure the trustees will remain in charge if they can’t turn around the college by next spring.