City College in jeopardy of being shut down

July 4, 2012 10:35:36 PM PDT
A major community college here in the Bay Area is at risk of losing its accreditation. It all stems from the way it has handled its budget.

City College of San Francisco says this week the chancellor will appoint an "accreditation SWAT team" to hunker down and address the issues at hand, all of which seem to revolve around money, for example, budget planning, forecasting and how the college owns and manages its buildings. The school says the headlines of imminent closure are exaggerated.

"The doomsday speculation that was in the newspaper yesterday is probably more to the overheated imagination of some headline writer," said Larry Kamer, a City College spokesman.

Kamer was hired by the college last week to handle the media during this accreditation crisis. The board says it has been instructed not to talk.

The state Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges put City College on notice last week. It has until October to show progress on 14 major problems related to money management and until March of next year to prove it has solved them. Otherwise, accreditation, and the state finding that goes with it, goes away, effectively closing down the school.

"This is a very serious situation, there's no question about it, but we are just not going to let it happen," said Kamer.

The college is the largest community college in the state, with nine campuses, plus 200 instructional sites serving 90,000 students.

The accreditation commission told the college it has to fix leadership weaknesses at every level, failure to react to ongoing reduced funding, and correct spending 92 percent of its budget on salaries and benefits.

"92 percent is high, even among other community colleges and that is, I think, central to a lot of the other fiscal issues is attacking that problem," said Kamer.

Vincent Law, 20, relies on summer classes at City College to knock out general education requirements that would cost more at San Jose State, where he goes the rest of the year.

"The price is cheaper, compared to getting classes at state," said Law.

The college benefits from Bay Area philanthropy. John's Grill owner John Konstin just gave $60,000 to the hospitality program. He's now pinning his hopes on a $79 parcel tax measure before San Francisco voters this fall to help save the school.

"It ends up being 22 cents a day, which is cheaper than a newspaper, and it would raise $128 million and it affects 90,000 students," said Konstin.

Kamer points out the commission had nothing negative to say about the quality of instruction at City College.


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