Many California Community Colleges Face Accreditation Woes
August 17th, 2012
By Jacqueline Foster, Editor
While much of the media attention has been focused on City College of San Francisco’s recent accreditation troubles, a significant number of other two-year colleges in California are facing similar accreditation difficulties from the region’s institutional accreditor, the Western Association of Colleges and School’s Accrediting Commission for Junior Colleges and Schools, according to the Sacramento Bee.
The commission has placed 10 of these institutions on accreditation probation, and 14 campuses have been issued accreditation warnings, the Bee notes. While probation status is a more serious concern than warning status, both are indicative of violations that have the potential to lead to complete loss of accreditation if the institution involved does not make changes that bring it into compliance with the commission’s accreditation standards.
A root cause of much of the accreditation troubles for these schools is the severe budget cuts they have sustained in recent years as state appropriations to public community colleges have been slashed, higher education leaders have noted. For many schools, this has led to dwindling financial resources, and cuts in staff. This in turn has helped lead to accreditation violations in areas such as financial stability and deficiencies in administrative leadership for institutions who have not weathered the funding cuts effectively. Having fewer staff members has also made it more difficult to track student learning outcomes, which is a requirement for accreditation, because related documentation requires both faculty and administrative hours.
Three colleges — City College of San Francisco, College of the Redwoods (in Eureka), and Cuesta College (in San Luis Obispo) — have received accreditation sanctions more severe than other community colleges on their accreditor’s radar. City College of San Francisco’s accreditation troubles are tied to financial concerns, such as deficit spending, as well as not retaining enough administrators. College of the Redwoods’ troubles are tied to not keeping student records secure, deficiencies in employee evaluation and professional development, and problems tied to the tracking of student learning outcomes. Last but not least, Cuesta College’s accreditation troubles are also linked to financial concerns, along with "lack of planning and evaluation in technology infrastructure and student learning," the Bee notes.
The threat of the loss of accreditation at these institutions is significant, as all three have been advised by the accrediting commission to draft plans to shut down operations in the event that accreditation is lost. The potential impact on students if accreditation were to be lost could be huge, as City College of San Francisco alone serves 100,000 students each year through its nine campuses and other educational sites. At present, however, all three institutions remain accredited as they take action to meet their accreditor’s standards.
All three colleges offer online or distance education courses to better serve their student body.