Local college in financial turmoil

February 11, 2008 2:23:14 PM PST
A local college is in turmoil over money issues. Students don't know when they can start classes and the faculty hasn't been paid for months. It's called the New College of California, located in San Francisco.

This is a case of best intentions that, for now, at least, have gone bad. A chain of events that began with bad record keeping has led to students not receiving federal student loans. It has prevented them from paying their tuitions and has led to their school going broke.

You know that saying about how all teachers are underpaid? At New College of California, it's worse. They have not received paychecks since last November.

The chair of the college's law school says that he is "living on credit at this point."

And if you think that's bad, imagine being a student who paid tuition who hasn't yet started Spring classes.

"We've had lawyers say 'well it's not like you went to Harvard or Yale, what do you expect?" says Dorothy Joo, student.

Since it opened 36 years ago, New College has never run with traditional schools, but now it's trying to weather a perfect storm of money problems. Bad investments, combined with record keeping issues, have threatened its accreditation and in turn, restrict student loans that would keep the place solvent.

"We cannot move forward until we know what the college's plans will be," says Ralph Wolff, Western Association of Schools.

"There have been grave financial administrative problems in the college as a whole," says Ed Roybal, Law School Chair.

In the media studies department, professors have told Mike Bare that they will resume classes next week. He is a student who has gone without financial aid since last Fall. He doesn't blame the school, but the Department of Education for being so bureaucratic.

"I had to go into debt on my credit card. I had to go into my savings," says Bare.

The fact that anyone remains here speaks to how students and faculty love this place. The law school remains in session -- on faith alone, apparently.

"We have students taking the Bar in July and we could not abandon them," says Roybal.

However, accreditation takes paperwork. Paperwork takes a registrar. The School of Humanities cannot afford to hire one, so it borrows Patricia Dennis from the law school. She hasn't been paid, either.

"It's tough right now. It's bad," says Dennis.

"Will the school survive?," asks ABC7's Wayne Freedman.

"Hopefully," says Dennis.

So, New College of California has a will, but $2 million dollars might show them the way.

The local office of the Federal Department of Education did not return our calls to explain the lack of funding. That department takes its accreditation cue from the Western Association of Schools. It will look at New College again, in two weeks.