Education Department staff members have recommended that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges -- which evaluates community colleges in California -- be permitted to operate for another year, while it works on fixing problems that the department has identified. The recommendation may be accepted or rejected next week at a meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, which advises the education secretary on which accreditors to recognize. (Such recognition is crucial as students are eligible for federal student aid only if they enroll at institutions accredited by recognized accreditors.) The department notified the accreditor in August that it was out of compliance with many rules -- and that action cheered advocates for the City College of San Francisco. In July, the accreditor said that it would strip the college of its accreditation -- a decision that has led to intense scrutiny of the accreditor's review, which has been blasted by faculty unions and others as seriously flawed.
The Education Department's staff report says that there has been enough progress at fixing problems at the accreditation agency to give it another 12 months to improve, but it outlines areas of continued lack of compliance as well. Many of the remaining issues are broad and serious. Among them: "the agency must demonstrate wide acceptance of the agency's standards, policies, procedures, and decisions to grant or deny accreditation by educators" and "the agency must demonstrate that academic personnel, as generally defined by the accrediting agency and wider higher education community, are represented on its evaluation teams" and "the agency must demonstrate that it evaluates the appropriateness of the measures of student achievement chosen by its institutions." While these issues extend beyond the controversy over the City College of San Francisco, they relate to criticisms made of the accreditor's handling of that case.