CCSF hopes for accreditation reprieve

Faced with losing accreditation on July 31, San Francisco City College supporters hope a proposed policy change will lead to a reprieve, reports the Los Angeles Times. However, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges won’t release details of the proposed new policy till Wednesday.

The Novato-based accrediting panel, which oversees California’s 112 community colleges, moved last year to revoke the City College of San Francisco’s accreditation, citing long-running financial and governance problems.

. . . During a presentation behind closed doors this week, systemwide Chancellor Brice Harris and City College Chancellor Arthur Q. Tyler, among others, told commission members that the college has addressed 95% of the deficiencies cited by the panel and argued for more time to meet all standards.

The accreditation crisis has turned into a highly politicized game of chicken, according to Inside Higher Ed. “Neither side is backing down while the fate of the college, its 77,000 students and even a besieged accreditor hang in the balance.”

CCSF will be able to delay losing accreditation until a lawsuit by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera is resolved. The trial is set for late October. The college also has filed an appeal.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, the minority leader in the House, threatens to close down the accrediting commission if it doesn’t give her home-district community college a break.

“ACCJC’s faulty reliance on outdated analysis of the health of City College, and its pursuit of an unworkable policy that ends state and federal funding to CCSF and puts the students and faculty in academic limbo is professionally crippling and destructive,” Pelosi said this week in a written statement, which two other Bay Area members of Congress signed. “Should this failure of leadership persist, new leadership is needed at ACCJC. The U.S. Department of Education should also consider whether to recertify ACCJC as an accrediting body.”

Commission leaders have offered to rescind the termination decision if CCSF drops its accreditation and applies as a new institution, triggering a two-year “candidacy” status.

California: Time for a new higher ed plan?

Leaders of California’s three state higher education systems met this week with Gov. Jerry Brown to pledge cooperation, especially in helping community college students transfer to state universities, reports the Los Angeles Times.

In a rare gathering, University of California President Janet Napolitano, California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White and California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris said they want to break through some of the walls set up by the state’s 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, which established different roles and student enrollment criteria for each sector. Yet they also said they want to maintain the plan’s basic tenets.

“Transfer should be as streamlined as possible and as transparent as possible,” said Napolitano, as the three leaders appeared together at the UC regents meeting in San Francisco.

The challenge for the three systems, White said, is to strengthen the master plan “for the new economy for the next 50 years.”

The master plan, among other things, gave UC control over doctoral degrees and professional schools, allowed open access to community colleges and set higher admissions standards at Cal State and UC. Although many educators speak of it reverently, Brown described it as the result of a political deal in need of updating.

Napolitano pledged at the White House summit to improve diversity at the University of California by admitting more transfers from community colleges that “enroll large numbers of underrepresented and low-income students but send relatively few on to UC.”

Currently, only 20 percent of transfers are Latino or black compared to 24 percent of first-year students, points out Robert Shireman, director of California Competes. Latinos and African Americans make up 42 of the state’s population. CSU campuses are developing transfer pathways with the community colleges. UC has not participated.

California needs a new higher education plan and a statewide coordinating agency, concludes California Competes in Charting a Course for California’s Colleges. The California Postsecondary Education Commission was defunded in 2011. Since then, the state has no system of coordinated higher education leadership.

“For California’s continued economic growth, we must graduate 5.5 million degree and technical certificate holders who can succeed in the high-skilled labor market by 2025,” said Shireman. The state will fall short by 2.3 million, including one million four-year college graduates, without “consistent and coordinated leadership for our colleges and universities.”
Charting a Course
The report recommends creating an autonomous coordinating agency “independent from political influence, informed by data, focused on outcomes and effective in articulating its goals, and able to work with policymakers.”

“We can’t just transplant” a higher education governance model from another state, said Lande Ajose, author of the report and a deputy director of California Competes. But California could learn from Ohio, Washington, Illinois, Texas, Florida and other states, the report suggests.

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown called for the University of California and California State University systems to begin reporting performance outcomes, but it wasn’t clear who would collect and analyze the data, notes California Competes. The governor signed a bill calling for the state to develop postsecondary education goals, “but there was no guidance on who would monitor progress toward those goals.”

Speaker John A. Pérez, who serves as a UC Regent and a CSU Trustee, has introduced a bill establishing a new state oversight and coordinating body for higher education. AB 1348 passed the Assembly last year and will be considered by the Senate this year.

California’s higher education system is just average, concludes the Campaign for College Opportunity in Average Won’t Do.
Tuition (known as fees) at community colleges and state universities is relatively low: Community college fees are only 42 percent of the national average and many students pay nothing. Student loan debt averages a relatively low $20,269 per borrower. But fees and student loan amounts are rising rapidly.

California is below average on college readiness, according to the report. Only 68 percent of high school students earn a diploma in four years. Thirty-eight percent have passed college-prep courses that qualify them for state universities.

The college-going rate is relatively high, but the completion rate is average at state universities and well below average for community colleges.

College president fired for making decision

After unilaterally deciding to adjust the thermostat by one degree in a heat wave, Frank Eastermann was fired as president of Border Cross Community College, reports Jeffrey Ross in The Cronk of Higher Education, which publishes satire.

Board Chief Val Hamilton said the ousted college president violated Board Policy #6601:

No decisions are to be made by college administrators without careful analysis by faculty, administration, students, staff, parents, key constituents, independent consultants, related committees and all three institutional governance councils.’”

“Not only did he ignore our committee process—he was also insensitive to possible input from our 17 representative employee groups and he did not consider the Employee Potluck Union, stakeholder focus groups, or even the Higher Learn-Ed Commission,” said Hamilton.

The Student Justice Club reportedly has issued a grievance against the trustees for making a termination decision without seeking consensus from the same groups identified in Policy #6601.

City College of SF will lose accreditation in 2014, unless …

City College of San Francisco will lose accreditation on July 31, 2014 — unless a special trustee appointed this week can resolve financial and governance problems, reports the Los Angeles Times. With 85,000 students at multiple campuses, CCSF is one of the nation’s largest two-year institutions. Special trustee Robert Agrella, former president of Santa Rosa Junior College, effectively will replace the school’s elected governing board.

City College will appeal the decision, said interim CCSF Chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman.

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges voted to revoke accreditation because City College had fully addressed just two of the commission’s 14 major recommendations and corrected only a few of the many deficiencies cited, the commission said in a statement. College officials tried to satisfy the commission, but “likened the effort to changing tires on a speeding car,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

College officials unilaterally cut pay and entered into battle with angry faculty in a labor dispute that has yet to be resolved.

They reorganized the management structure against the will of department chairs. To fix the college’s tangled decision-making structure, college trustees also dismantled a decades-long system of faculty leadership over the strong objections of employees.

The trustees also eliminated a multiheaded hydra of 46 committees that often served to obstruct and control decision-making. They also pumped up reserves and established a nine-year fiscal plan.

“Essentially, the loss of accreditation would be the death penalty for City College, said California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris in videotaped remarks. Students wouldn’t be able to transfer credits or qualify for financial aid and state funding would be cut off. “We simply cannot allow that to happen.”

The decision was “outrageous,” said faculty union president Alisa Messer, an English instructor. City College was making progress, she told the Chronicle of Higher Education. Faculty governance ensured cuts were made outside the classroom, she said. The college’s choices “were a reflection of our San Francisco values.”

But the faculty protected “an abundance of noncredit courses, which employ faculty members but generate less revenue,” according to Raymond R. White, an instructor in biology who is critical of the union.

(Robert) Shireman, a former top official in the U.S. Education Department, said the City College’s broad course catalog in part reflects its unusual role as a designated provider of adult education in San Francisco, a function handled in most cities by the elementary and secondary schools.

But over all, he said, the union has been part of a divisive leadership structure at City College, in which faculty members have been overly fearful of community colleges’ focusing too tightly on job training. Some faculty members have suggested that is (accreditation commission chair Barbara) Beno’s real agenda, with the commission part of a conservative strategy to narrow the mission of publicly financed education.

Beno publicly supported a new California law that gives registration priority to students who are progressing toward transfer to a four-year institution or a vocational credential. City College faculty members oppose the law. “A lot of our students don’t fit that narrow path, that narrow definition of what a lot of people think students are,” said Wendy S. Kaufmyn, an engineering instructor.

Broad missions need to be financed, said Shireman. “There are broader discussions about the extent to which community colleges can do just whatever they want whenever they want, with taxpayer money, versus having some method of prioritizing what to fund and what not to fund,” he said.

California Competes challenges faculty veto

California’s community college faculty wield too much power: Regulations which let academic senates veto decisions by elected boards are invalid and illegal, complains a legal challenge by California Competes, a nonprofit group of business and civic leaders.

Robert Shireman, the group’s executive director, said that the regulations create a tangled, dysfunctional  bureaucracy that does not respond to the needs of students. “It creates a situation of gridlock instead of cooperation,” he said.  “In order for any large organization to move forward, somebody ultimately has to make a decision.”

Under the proposed changes, local governing boards would be required to seek input from the faculty, staff and students prior to policy decisions. However trustees would have the final decision-making power.

Divided governance has given California’s community colleges a  “national reputation for dispute and dysfunction,” said Shireman.

City College of SF starts downsizing

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 SF faces closure threat

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.

Success Institutes set in Washington, Texas

Trustees and presidents of community and technical colleges will meet this summer in Washington state and Texas to discuss college governance and student success.  The Association of Community College Trustees and the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas is sponsoring the Governance Institute for Student Success program with funding from the Gates Foundation.

The Washington institute will be held June 26 to 28 at the Suncadia resort in Cle Elum, Washington in conjunction with the state’s Trustee Association of Community and Technical Colleges‘ annual meeting.

The Governance Institute for Student Success-Texas is set for July 31 to August 2 at the Dallas-Fort Worth Marriott.  Trustees and presidents from 23 community and technical colleges are invited to participate.

Go here for information and registration.