Sanctioning community colleges is growing beyond San Francisco,
however - 27 districts in California (25% of the state total) are
currently on the list. Two have "Show Cause" orders that threaten
closure, in addition to SFCC. The accreditation commission is not a
public agency, but a self-perpetuating private one, overseen by the
Western Association of Schools and Colleges. It is funded by
educational institutions, which have no input or oversight rights.
What gives its recommendations power is the U.S. Department of
Education, which will only fund financial aid at accredited
institutions. Particularly for community colleges, whose student
body is drawn overwhelmingly from working class communities,
accreditation therefore becomes a life or death issue. During the
Obama administration, the department has put pressure on
accreditation commissions to take a harder line on sanctions,
concerned that students aren't receiving an education that enables
them to get jobs and repay student loans.
CORPORATE EDUCATION REFORM HITS SAN FRANCISCO COMMUNITY COLLEGE
By David Bacon
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (3/18/13) - On March 14, the day before the
Trustees at San Francisco Community College District handed in the
report that may decide the life or death of California's largest
community college, student and faculty marchers headed downtown to
City Hall. A sinuous line of hundreds of chanting, banner-waving
people stopped traffic on Mission Street, the main artery through the
city barrio. Their mood combined equal parts of desperation at the
prospect of the closure of the school, and anger and defiance at the
kinds of changes that authorities are demanding to keep it open.
Shanell Williams, urban studies major and president of the Associated
Students at SFCC, told a rally at the march's starting point on the
college's Mission campus that the required changes are part of a
larger effort to turn students into commodities, and move towards the
privatization of education. "Next year students will be affected by
the Student Success Act," she warned. "Every student will have to
have an education plan, there will be repeat limits, and a 90-credit
cap on the Board of Governors fee waiver [that allows poor and
working class students to petition to waive tuition fees]. Now is
the time when they need more student services and support from the
administration, but they're cutting part time counselors and taking
other actions that will be even greater barriers."
Closing San Francisco Community College became a possibility last
spring when the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior
Colleges sent a team to San Francisco, as part of a 6-year
accreditation cycle. The district, the largest public school system
in California, had been warned earlier about deficiencies and knew
there would be problems. With 85,000 students and 1650 faculty, and
an annual operating budget of $200 million, SFCC had never been
sanctioned. But under the impact of cuts in state funding, last year
it had a deficit of $6 million.
In July, commissioners released a set of findings that found the
district deficient in 14 areas, and put it on "Show Cause" status,
the most serious sanction short of shutting down the college
entirely. The commission gave the college credit for a very diverse
faculty and high-quality libraries and counseling. Commissioners
said, however, the college's governance, planning and leadership were
inefficient, and that it had not documented adequately a set of
assessments called "Student Learning Outcomes."
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