Category: SF City College

Peralta Community Colleges Receive Accreditation Warnings

Teachers’ union warns of “rogue” accrediting agency

Culinary Arts at Laney College in downtown Oakland.

Culinary Arts at Laney College in downtown Oakland.

By Tulio Ospina

Laney College, Merritt College, College of Alameda and Berkeley City College – the four community colleges that make up the Peralta Community College District – have been issued warnings and imposed probations by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).

According to the accrediting commission, the Oakland colleges—which serve about 34,000 students in Oakland—must meet a variety of requirements before October 2016 to avoid losing its accreditation from the commission.

Berkeley City College

Berkeley City College

Colleges that are not accredited are not eligible to receive public funding and, as a result, are forced to shut down.

None of the problems that ACCJC has cited against the Peralta district colleges are related to quality of education or teaching standards.

Rather, the accrediting organization is finding fault with the colleges’ bureaucratic processes such as irregular course and personnel assessments, providing online distance learning without gaining proper approval and failing to give appropriate attention to long-term financial planning.

A number of organizations, however, including student groups and college teacher unions, have expressed concerns about the motives and methods of the ACCJC.

According to Edward Jaramillo, president of the Peralta Federation of Teachers (PFT), the teachers’ union is in support of faculty and administration’s efforts to work with the district to review the recommendations.

Merritt College in Oakland

Merritt College in Oakland

“On a larger level, we support the efforts of the California Federation of Teachers to push through legislation and bring more transparency and some guidelines to ACCJC’s process of accreditation,” said Jaramillo.

ACCJC is the organization that nearly revoked accreditation of City College of San Francisco in 2013, causing widespread protests of students, teachers’ unions and community members, ultimately resulting in a court-ordered suspension of the revocation.

While not as dire as City College’s circumstances were back in 2013, Peralta’s situation has brought many to question ACCJC’s interests and draw parallels between the two situations.

“The areas they’re both being attacked in have to do with record keeping and finances,” said Joe Berry, a retired teacher and member of AFT 2121, the faculty union at CCSF.

“Neither one has been about quality of education being delivered to students, whose benefit is the core mission of accreditation bodies in general.”

Berry helped fight against the ACCJC’s actions in 2013 and has noticed many community and junior colleges facing similar issues under their jurisdiction.

“Something is amiss. This is not the pattern anywhere else in the country. It at least wasn’t the pattern in this state until the present administration of ACCJC came to be,” said Berry. “They are engaged in imposing more sanctions in the institutions they are accrediting by a factor of ten than any other (accrediting organization).”

On Tuesday, PFT posted a letter on its website calling upon its members to “help reform the broken community college accreditation system” by calling their state senators and requesting they vote ‘yes’ on two pieces of legislation during next week’s Senate Education Committee.

“AB 1397, the California Community Colleges Fair Accreditation Act of 2015, will force the rogue Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) to have greater transparency, and restrict its ability to issue crippling sanctions like the one it imposed on City College of San Francisco,” says the letter.

Furthermore, “AB 1385, Ending Blank Checks for Accreditation Legal Fees, would prevent the ACCJC from billing community colleges for its mounting legal fees without a vote of the colleges.”

Jeff Heyman, a spokesperson for the Peralta district, confirms that the Peralta colleges are not unique in their accreditation status with ACCJC, referring to nearly 30 colleges that are on their list in some form.

According to Heyman, Peralta’s accrediting issues stem from “a fair amount of recent management turnover, so the institutional memory isn’t there.”

“The district is already addressing OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits) and the student assessments,” he said. “It’s been easy to look at the list of requirements, assemble the team and start taking it seriously.”

Meanwhile, Peralta Colleges remain fully accredited, offering all their classes, with every unit transferrable to other colleges.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 17, 2015 (

Growing Criticism of Community College Accrediting Commission

By Helena Worthen and Joe Berry

The Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), which has decided to terminate the accreditation of City College of San Francisco next July, is now itself either under review or the direct target of six different local, state or federal actions.

Dennis Herrera

Dennis Herrera

For City College, the loss of accreditation would mean loss of access to local, state and federal funds, which would effectively shut the college down.

Locally, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has filed two lawsuits, one an injunction to keep the commission from carrying out the termination.

Herrera’s press release alleges political bias on the part of the ACCJC, unfair and unlawful business practices, and “retaliation for advocating the open access mission” of the California Community Colleges.

A second lawsuit charges that the Board of Governors of the California Community College “impermissibly delegated its statutory obligation” to regulate and evaluate community colleges to a “wholly unaccountable private entity.”

On Aug. 22, the SFCC District, the college’s administrative unit under Super-Trustee Bob Agrella, filed a request with the commission for a review of its decision. The specifics of this request have not been released, as the ACCJC has decided that all items submitted to it are confidential.

That same night, 26 students from the Coalition to Save City College were arrested for trespassing when they conducted a sit-in at Mayor Lee’s office demanding that the Mayor support the fight for CCSF against the ACCJC. Their court date will be Sept. 23.

At the state level, Senators Jim Beall, D-San Jose, and Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, co-chairs of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, directed the Bureau of State Audits to investigate the ACCJC, looking at the cost of accreditation and the impact of the ACCJC on the students and the people of the State of California.

This audit will result in a report with recommendations, and may take seven or eight months to complete.

In the meantime, the State Chancellor’s Office, at the request of a number of community colleges, formed an Accreditation Task Force to study the relationship between the ACCJC and the California Community Colleges generally.

This Task Force was formed last December, after the ACCJC’s “show cause” letter of July 2012. It will also result in a report.

On the federal level, the US Department of Education, following a complaint filed last April by the California Federation of Teachers, sent a letter to the ACCJC on August 13 charging ACCJC with lack of sufficient faculty representation on the accrediting team, conflicts of interest, and lack of due process.

In this letter the Department of Education said, “The ACCJC must take immediate steps to correct the areas of non-compliance identified in this letter” and made reference to the upcoming evaluation of the ACCJC by the D of E later this year.

No one at the ACCJC offices would answer questions about any of these matters.

Helena Worthen and Joe Berry can be reached at

Courtesy of the San Francisco Post, August 30, 2013 (


Students Call on SF Mayor Lee Join Efforts to Save City College

By Post Staff

Students rallied and 26 were arrested at City Hall this week, led by the Save City College Coalition, demanding that Mayor Ed Lee join with civic leaders and community organizations that are calling on the Commission of Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) to reverse its decision to terminate City College of San Francisco accreditation, putting the college’s future in jeopardy.

After a rally and sit-in on Tuesday of several hundred students, at midnight a group of students was arrested for occupying City Hall, after Mayor Lee refused to meet with them or support their demands.

City College students Sat in las Tuesday the Mayor's Office

City College students Sat in last Tuesday at City Hall.

According to the students, the mayor has so far refused to criticize the commission and its decision to close the school. He has backed the appointment Special Trustee Bob Agrella, who they consider a “dictator” whose job is to make cuts and enforce the changes the commission is calling for.

Mayor Lee has over the past month has ignored numerous requests of student leaders for a meeting, according to the students. “If the mayor actually supports City College and its students, he needs to demand the immediate reversal of the ACCJC’s decision to close CCSF,” said Lalo Gonzalez, a City College student and senator of the Associated Students at CCSF-Ocean Campus.

The student demands are: drop all ACCJC sanctions against CCSF, and  fire the special trustee.

Students arrested at SF City Hall protest

Students arrested at SF City Hall protest

Though the mayor does not have the immediate decision-making power to overturn the ACCJC decision, according to the student protesters, he does have the political and moral responsibility as the leader of San Francisco to throw his weight behind the effort to overturn the ACCJC attacks on City College.

Mayor Lee’s office did not return a call from the Post.

For more information go to

Courtesy of San Francisco Post, August 22, 2013 (

Community College’s Accrediting Commission Has Reputation for Aggressive Behavior

By Helena Worthen and Joe Berry

The Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), under the leadership Dr. Barbara Beno, has drawn national attention for extremely aggressive behavior in its evaluation of community colleges.

Robert Agrella

Robert Agrella

In July, the commission decided to withdraw accreditation of the City College of San Francisco, which would force the closure of the institution. The reasons for the ruling were not based on educational issues or financial malfeasance but primarily on the commission’s concerns about the college’s management and structure.

During the year ending June 2012, the commission issued 63 percent of sanctions issued by all accrediting commissions in the country.

Dr. Beno was at one time president of Berkeley City College (then Vista), part of the Peralta Community College District. In the East Bay.  In 2006, sanctions against the Peralta District by ACCJC under her leadership were withdrawn after the district threatened to sue.

The ACCJC itself is now under scrutiny because the Department of Education, in response to a complaint filed by the California Federation of Teachers in April, has found fault with how the commission t arrived at its decision to sanction City College.

In a letter received Aug. 14 the Department of Education found that the commission’s evaluation of the college showed conflicts of interest, had insufficient faculty representation and had changed its criteria from “recommendations” to “requirements” between its 2012 and its 2013 termination decision.

The criticism of ACCJC from the federal Department of Education will not affect the decision to close the college, according to Paul Feist, vice chancellor for Communication at the Chancellor’s Office.

It “doesn’t change the sanctions under which the college is living,” said Feist in a telephone interview.

He said the decision to appoint Robert Agrella as super trustee, with “extraordinary” powers to implement change at the college, was necessary because of the timeframe imposed on the college for getting the changes done.

“The decision to appoint the special trustee came about because the college does not have the luxury of time to address deficiencies and meet the standards for accreditation,” he said.

The timeframe, however, was set by the ACCJC. When asked if it was not therefore a product of a flawed process, Feist said that the appointment of the super-trustee was a decision of the Chancellor’s Office, completely separate from the ACCJC decision.

Some time between the arrival of the letter from the Department of Education and Aug. 19, the ACCJC determined that all documents submitted to the commission, including the letter from the Department of Education, were confidential.

However, many copies of the letter have already been distributed.

Helena Worthen and Joe Berry can be reached at

Courtesy of the San Francisco Post, August 22, 2013 (

U.S. Dept. of Education: Commission Evaluating City College Did Not Follow Federal Regulations

By Post Staff

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), which  is revoking City College of San Francisco’s accreditation next year, has itself not followed several federal regulations when it investigated the community college, according to a letter sent Tuesday to the ACCJC by  the U.S. Department of Education.

Barbara Beno

Barbara Beno

Krista Johns, JCCJC’s vice president for policy research, argued the letter would have no impact on the commission’s  ruling against City College.

“It is not affected by this letter,” she said. “This letter really examines the policies and procedures of the accrediting commission.”

But a leader of the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121, which represents faculty at the school, said she thinks the accrediting commission’s ruling should be overturned.

“I believe it means they need to reverse the entire decision,” said Alisa Messer, president of the teachers’ federation.

In the six-page letter, Kay Gilche, director of the Department of Education’s Accreditation Group, said the commission had not complied with a number federal regulations when it reviewed the school.

The commission’s evaluation teams, which were supposed to be made up of both administrators and teachers, had only one teacher.

In addition, the Education Department cited conflict-of-interest concerns because one of the evaluation team members was the husband of the accreditation commission’s president, Barbara Beno.

Courtesy of the San Francisco Post, August 16, 2013 (

CCSF Elected Leaders: “This Last Year Has Been Like Being Under an Occupation”

By Helena Worthen and Joe Berry

Shanell Williams, Dr. Anita Grier, Alisa Messer and David Campos are all elected leaders fighting to save SF City College, which has been threatened with loss of accreditation effective July 2014.

When the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) announced recently announced the decision to remove accreditation, it complained that,  “Some constituencies are not ready to follow college leadership.”

These four leaders are saying their constituencies are not ready to accept “college leadership” if that means closing CCSF.

Shanell Williams

Shanell Williams

Shanell Williams was elected July 1, as student trustee representing all 85,000 students in the district on the CCSF Board of Trustees.  She also serves on the executive board of the statewide Student Senate.

However, she has been barred by the new college “czar” Bob Agrella from attending CCSF board meetings and was stopped by campus police when she tried.

Williams participated in the work groups that attempted to satisfy the demands of the ACCJC last year. “Everyone worked their butts off,” she said. “Everyone was trying to be compliant.”

However, when the committee assigned to develop the college mission statement was convened, she says, the mission statement had already been written.

Traditional non-credit missions like lifelong learning, civic engagement and cultural enrichment had been eliminated. “The last year has been like being under an occupation,” she said. “Even the Board – they were scared, they didn’t want to speak out.”

Dr. Anita Grier has been an elected member of the City College Board of Trustees for 12 years. She is one of two Black

Dr. Anita Grier

Dr. Anita Grier

members of the Board of Trustees.   She was elected by the whole CCSF district.

She and the rest of the board were all dismissed by Bob Agrella when he took over. She was told that she was not allowed to meet with other members of the Board of Trustees, privately or publicly.

“I am very saddened that I can’t represent the public, and I can’t do what I was elected to do,” she said.

On April 13, Dr. Grier received a message from the college that the chancellor of the community colleges, Brice Harris, would be giving a keynote address. Traditionally, members of the Board of Trustees would be introduced at this meeting.

She decided to go and see what would happen. “They had so much security. I thought maybe I would have been kicked out of the meeting – that would have been OK, too,” she said.

“We have been halted in our efforts to run the college,” she said.

Alisa Messer

Alisa Messer

Alisa Messer is president of the faculty union, AFT 2121, representing over 1,600 full and part-time teachers. Some of the demands by the ACCJC are cuts in faculty pay, job security and benefits, which are items that have to be negotiated between the union and the district.

The union has responded by proposing intensive marathon negotiations in which the union and the district meet day after day until the contract is settled. They also started “fishbowl” bargaining, which means that interested members may come and sit and watch bargaining take place.

This is both a demonstration of good faith bargaining by the union and a way to display what representing a constituency looks like.

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, about 100 members showed up in addition to the negotiating team.  So far, the district has agreed not to cut part-time faculty job security (“re-hire rights”) and the pay scale that makes teaching at CCSF a decent job even for part-timers.

However, no final agreement has been reached. The union was hoping to settle the contract before classes began, in order to allow faculty to concentrate on teaching and on dealing with remaining accreditation issues.

David Campos, member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, represents District 9, which includes the Mission campus where 8,500 students attend classes.

SF Supervisor David Campos

SF Supervisor David Campos

There are questions he says he cannot answer.

“I honestly do not know why anyone would want to shut down City College,” he said. He points out that under immigration reform, the demand for ESL classes, which are targeted for cuts, will surge.

His second question is about the position taken by Mayor Ed Lee:  “I’m still trying to understand what the mayor is trying to do.  He appears to be more behind the ACCJC than not. We would like to see the city government speaking with one voice to save City College in its present form, not gutted to the point where it is not recognizable. “

Phone calls and emails to Mayor Ed Lee’s office resulted only in a web link to a press release.

Helena Worthen and Joe Berry can be reached at

Courtesy of the San Francisco Post, August 16, 2013 (



Seeking New Students at SF City College

By Helena Worthen and Joe Berry

Students and others fighting to save San City College of San Francisco are going out into the community to find people who may want to take classes this fall.

They are leaving the new schedule of classes at locations throughout the city.

Tarik Farrar

Tarik Farrar

This is part of the effort by the SaveCityCollege Coalition to boost enrollment for fall classes, since loss of enrollment can trigger a downward spiral in state funding, which is based on how many students took classes the previous year.

“The Coalition quite spontaneously got the idea of saturating the city with course schedules. They were sitting there in boxes, doing nothing – thousands of them, “said Tarik Farrar, anthropologist and chair of the African American Studies Department.

“People started going in and picking up these boxes and delivering them to every library, coffee shop, supermarkets – everywhere. It was absolutely remarkable, the efficiency and energy with which people were doing this.  This is our response to this catastrophe.”

The July 3 decision by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) to close City College in July 2014 has scared many people into not signing up for classes.

Farrar warns that under-enrolled (less than 20) classes will get cancelled, leaving students without choices and faculty without jobs. He explains:

“If there was an actual agenda to downsize City College, this will do it.  Even if the school is not closed, the message that was sent was that City College is finished, and students will choose to go somewhere else or not go anywhere at all.”

Nevertheless, City College is open and accredited, and classes will transfer. The San Francisco Giants are going to flash “City College Is Open” during the game.

“As far as African American students go, we’re not the hardest hit,” said Farrar.  Even so, our enrollment is about 10 – 15 percent lower than they should be at this point.  When we see the figures for Aug.t 5, 6 and 7, we’ll have a sense of what is going to happen.”

Helena Worthen and Joe Berry can be reached at

Courtesy of the Post News Group, August 8, 2013 (


Why Enroll at CCSF in the Middle of the Crisis?

By Helena Worthen and Joe Berry

The news that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges has decided to terminate accreditation for City College of San Francisco in July 2014 may make some people hesitate to enroll in Fall 2013 classes.

They may fear that their classes won’t transfer and they will be left high and dry in the middle of progress toward a degree or certificate.

City College supporters are saying the opposite: the college is still accredited, classes will transfer, and enrolling will actually help keep CCSF alive.

Why is this?

City College of San Francisco

City College of San Francisco

The answer: Enrollment is the basis for bringing in state funding. When enrollment, drops, state funding drops.  To keep state funding up and keep CCSF standing when this crisis has cleared, City College supporters urge people to enroll.

Tuition, at $46 per credit, does not cover the real cost of an education at City College. What a student pays per 3-credit course covers about the price of one day’s work for a single City College non-teaching employee.

Some of the rest of the cost of education comes from local property taxes, the special parcel tax, grants and borrowed money from bonds. However, over half of the cost of a City College education comes from state funding.

Enrollment is measured in Full Time Equivalent Students, or FTES, which means 15 credits per semester or 30 credits per year.  Every FTES brings in about $5,000 to the college.  Every time a student pays $138 for a 3-credit class, the state kicks in $167.

During the last year, total enrollment at CCSF has dropped 15 percent, from about 30,000 FTES to 25,500 FTES. (The overall headcount figures, which include students who may be taking only one or two classes, are 105,000 and 85,000.)

This drop has cost CCSF about $5.5 million for the 2012-2013 school year out of a total budget of $150 million. Since the funding rate for one year is applied to the funds received for the next year, state funding for 2013-2014 will be even less.

When state funding drops, faculty and staff get laid off, class size expands, more classes get cut, and whole programs may disappear.  Once classes, and especially whole programs, are gone, they are very difficult to resurrect.

The faculty and staff people go elsewhere and find other jobs. Students leave for other schools and/or give up their education. The years of work that went into the creation of classes and programs can’t be done again.

You do not have to live in San Francisco to attend City College. Many people come from down the peninsula and across the Bay.  Non-credit classes, which also capture state funding but at a different rate, are free.

City College will survive in some form. What form it survives in will depend on decisions made during the upcoming months.  The public can influence these decisions in many ways. One of the most effective right now is to enroll in classes.

 Helena Worthen and Joe Berry can be reached at


Charges, Counter-charges as SF Community College Faces Shut Down

 By Helena Worthen and Joe Berry

The explosive news came on July 3 when the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges announced that it would withdraw accreditation from City College of San Francisco in one year, effectively shutting the college down.

In response to charges leveled by the accrediting commission, the California Federation of Teachers and AFT 2121, the union of City College faculty filed a 280-page complaint against the commission at the end of April.

Barbara Beno

Barbara Beno

The complaint was sent to the accrediting commission and filed at the Department of Education, which is scheduled to review the work of the commission.

The commission says the college must adopt a streamlined management system and stop using its financial reserves to cover operational costs. The Save City College Coalition charges the commission with operating in secret and trying install its own model of top-down management at the college.

Here is some of what both sides are saying:

Charges Against City College

Interestingly, the main concerns raised by the commission in their evaluation were not whether the education provided to students is good quality or whether the credentials awarded to graduates are accepted as legitimate by employers and universities. There is no debate about that: the college is doing a good job.

The commission says the college should not use its financial reserves, grants or contracts to cover operational costs to keep its doors open.  This is even though the people of San Francisco voted for the Prop A parcel tax in fall 2012 specifically to keep classes open.

The college has too few administrators and should stop relying on regular faculty elected to do administrative work.

The college should hire consultants to streamline its decision-making, which involves too many people and too much discussion.

The college should create detailed lists of student learning outcomes (SLO’s) for every course or program.

In addition, public resistance has also become an issue for the accrediting commission. In the July 3 letter announcing the decision to terminate accreditation, the commission focused on this resistance.

Because of it, said commission President Barbara Beno in the letter, City College would never be able to move fast enough toward meeting the commission’s demands, making termination inevitable.

“City College of San Francisco would need more time and more cohesive institution-wide effort to comply with accreditation standards, “Beno wrote. “While some groups work to make needed changes others militate against change. The acrimony is evident in behaviors at governing board meetings and other venues.”

The protests “indicate that not all constituencies are ready to follow college leadership to make needed changes in a timely manner,” she wrote.

It is true that street demonstrations, testimony at board meetings, creation of a Save City College coalition and other actions have drawn national attention.

 Charges Against the Commission

The complaint filed by the California Federation of Teachers and AFT 2121, the faculty union, charges that commission operates with a lack transparency, lack of accountability and lack of fairness or due process.

The commission has abandoned the real mission of accreditation, which is to ensure that students get a good education.

The commission operates in secret. It requires a pledge of non-disclosure of discussions and proceedings from its board members. It appoints its own appeals panel, so that no outside appeal is possible. Its meetings are closed to the public.

The commission explicitly rejects educational standards accepted by government agencies, the legislature or other organizations such as the faculty union.

It has not taken time to educate itself or its members in scientifically based studies of what makes good educational practices.  It relies on discredited measures of education quality such as requiring teachers to create and document SLO’s (Student Learning Outcomes).

Many faculty believe that student progress is best judged by tests and assignments and that final grades are the most accurate way to communicate that students have satisfied course requirements as stated in the catalog. Thus SLO’s are viewed as redundant, phony busy work.

The commission is trying to impose its own top-down management model.  It intimidates faculty and administration of colleges that it reviews, using threats of sanctions to coerce cooperation.

It tries to interfere with legally binding agreements about job security, pay and benefits that have been negotiated between administration and the faculty and staff unions.

On May 31, the accrediting commission responded to the April 30 complaint with a letter saying, “We appreciate your effort in sharing this information with us.”

Helena Worthen and Joe Berry can be reached at

 Courtesy of the San Francisco Post, July 26, 2013 (


If City College Shuts Down, What Will San Francisco Lose?

By Helena Worthen and Joe Berry

The Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) has made a decision that could result in shutting down City College of San Francisco in July 2014 by withdrawing accreditation, which would mean a loss of access to public funding.

The college has been working with the accrediting commission but has not succeeded in meeting the commission’s requirements.

Science building at San Francisco City College

Science building at San Francisco City College

If City College shuts down, what does San Francisco lose?

Students: Over 100,000 students typically attend City College at centers all over the city. Since the controversy over accreditation started in July 2012, enrollment has dropped to 85,000.

If the college closes, these and other potential students will have no good alternatives. The San Mateo Community College District (Skyline, College of San Mateo and Canada) is already at capacity, and there is no good public transportation to the campuses. The Peralta District is across the Bay.

Affordable higher education: The cost per credit at City College is $46. The cost per credit at private colleges is many times that. Currently, City College students graduate burdened with minimal debt.

Employees: Over 1,600 faculty work at City College. About 758 of these faculty jobs are good, full-time jobs with benefits. The 827 members of the faculty who are part-time can also earn enough to live on, have access to health benefits and some job security, which results in much less turnover than at most colleges.

Both full-time and part-time faculty are represented by a union, AFT 2121, and have a contract that is among the best in the nation. Over 1,800 taff and administrators work at City College.

While some of these are management jobs, the majority are decent working-class jobs.

Staff at City College is represented by SEIU 1021. If City College is shut down, nearly 3,000 jobs will be lost.

An educated citizenry:  City College has historically served the broad mission of community colleges. It offers over 50 educational programs that lead to transfer to universities and over 100 career technical programs, ranging from website development to infant care to culinary arts.

CCSF also offers free adult education classes at locations throughout the city in English and Spanish. These include GED prep, ESL, citizenship classes, yoga, local history and basic computing. City College can take some credit for San Francisco’s creative, dynamic and progressive activist culture.

Employers:  Graduates of the career technical programs in fire, police, emergency services, healthcare, construction, business, technology and over 100 other programs provide the staff for public and private workplaces throughout the city.

Of the students who completed a CCSF career technical program, 42 percent found jobs, and 74 percent of those found their job within 6 months of graduating. If City College is shut down, employers will have to recruit outside the city.

Diversity: The students at City College reflect the diversity of the city. Nearly half are between 25 and 49 years old. They are 29 percent Asian, 26 percent White, 20 percent Hispanic, 9 percent African American, 6 percent Filipino and 8 percent of mixed or unknown race.

Minorities do well at City College: of the African American students who came prepared for college level work, 82 percent completed a degree.

Figures on those who came “unprepared” for college work, meaning requiring them to take remedial classes, reveal success at an even tougher challenge: 35 percent of African Americans, 36 percent of Hispanics, 47 percent of white and 71 percent of Asians who came to college despite being “unprepared” managed to stick with it and complete a degree.

This is not only a greater challenge for students; it is a greater challenge for teachers.  Providing a ladder to achievement for underprepared students is at the heart of the community college mission.

Services for Veterans, Health services: Among its many special outreach programs is the Veterans Services Office, providing help with GI benefits, career planning, retraining and psychological assistance. The student health service offers emergency care, mental health, preventive care and special women’s health outreach.

Legacy: City College was established in 1935 in the heart of the Great Depression to answer a need for education.  Until 1971, it was part of the San Francisco Unified School District.

Generations of students, faculty and administration have poured their careers and lives into building a school that belongs to and reflects the city. Their free gift of support and loyalty is at risk if City College is shut down.

Hope: For most people, education is the path of hope. If City College shuts down, hope will be destroyed for many youth, which can only lead to more drug use, crime and other self and socially destructive behaviors at just the time when the next generation is needed to pick up the mantle of leadership.

 Helena Worthen is Professor Emerita of Labor and Employment Relations, University of Illinois, and long-time community college English teacher and union activist. Joe Berry is a retired City College teacher (History and Labor Studies), union leader and researcher on higher education and its workforce. They can be reached at

Courtesy of the San Francisco Post, July 18 2013 (