Last week both state and local officials in California moved to take action against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) in order to protect City College of San Francisco (CCSF) and the California community college system more broadly. In Sacramento the Bureau of State Audits will investigate the agency’s accreditation process at three California community colleges. Meanwhile, the City Attorney of San Francisco has filed a suit against ACCJC because they allege ACCJC’s accreditation process is tinged with political bias.
California State Senators Jim Beall and Jim Nielson of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee called for an audit of ACCJC based on concerns reported to them by AFT2121 and others, but also in reaction to a concerning meeting with ACCJC President Barbara Beno whose attitude toward transparency Senator Nielson described as a “huge red flag.” This audit will finally give a clear idea of the time and expense community colleges spend on responding to accreditation sanctions. ACCJC’s compliance with California’s open meeting laws will also be among the issues examined. Watch the meeting of the committee here (ACCJC audit is addressed around 2:30:00) which includes moving testimony from faculty and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano. The AFT2121 website has even more details.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a suit against ACCJC alleging the accreditation agency’s decision to strip CCSF of accreditation is inappropriately biased and disregards the longstanding open access mission of the community college district. This civil action is substantiated with details of the extensive financial and political relationships ACCJC has formed with private student loan lenders, representatives of for-profit colleges, and other advocacy groups that prioritize graduation rates and profits over open-access and student learning. In light of these relationships Herrera concludes ACCJC’s decision to withdraw accreditation was retaliatory, not based on appropriate measures of educational quality. Herrera also includes the same conflict of interest and evaluation procedures called out by the U.S. Department of Education in his filing.
Herrera will also bring a second, related suit against the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges, the public agency responsible for overseeing the state’s 112 community colleges and 72 community college districts, for improperly ceding their duties to ACCJC. According to a news release from the Office of the City Attorney the “legal challenge and rulemaking petition alleges that the state board impermissibly delegated its statutory obligations to set standards and determine eligibility for public funding to a wholly unaccountable private entity in the ACCJC.”
At the city, state, and federal level officials are taking action to address the lack of transparency from ACCJC and protect quality higher education. We appreciate their advocacy for a strong, truly open system of higher education at CCSF and beyond.