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Feds Urge Renewal for Controversial Accreditor

February 16, 2017

The U.S. Department of Education has recommended a renewal of recognition for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a controversial regional accreditor of two-year colleges in California and other Western states. The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, a federal panel, is slated to review ACCJC's recognition and scope at a meeting next week.

The department had given the accreditor a year to fix several problems, including concerns about the consistency of its decision making, acceptance of its policies by academics and others, and its adherence to due process in the accreditation process. During its last review of the agency, the department also denied ACCJC's request to expand its scope to overseeing new four-year degree programs at California community colleges.

Much of the criticism around ACCJC had stemmed from the agency's longstanding feud over sanctions it imposed on City College of San Francisco. But last month the accreditor renewed City College's accreditation for seven years.

California's two-year college system has been working on a recommendation made by a state task force last year to either replace the accreditor or restructure it. And in a move some insiders see as evidence that the accreditor will be changed rather than replaced, Barbara Beno, ACCJC's controversial president, in December was placed on leave prior to her scheduled retirement.

The newly released department report, which NACIQI is to consider in making its call next week, said ACCJC largely had fixed the identified problems. It recommended extending the accreditor's recognition by 18 months and lifting the limitation on its ability to oversee four-year degree programs. For example, on due process, the report said the accreditor had "revised its commission action letters to reflect a clear delineation between areas of noncompliance and areas for improvement."

The department said it received more than 120 written comments on ACCJC's review. The majority of commenters are "associated with or in support of City College of San Francisco, such as students, faculty, San Franciscans and politicians," the department said. However, many of those comments were unrelated to ACCJC's current review or were redundant, according to the department.

(Note: This article has been changed from a previous version to clarify the relationship between the department and NACIQI.)

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Paul Fain

Paul Fain, Contributing Editor, came to Inside Higher Ed in September 2011, after a six-year stint covering leadership and finance for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Paul has also worked in higher ed P.R., with Widmeyer Communications, but couldn't stay away from reporting. A former staff writer for C-VILLE Weekly, a newspaper in Charlottesville, Va., Paul has written for The New York Times, Washington City Paper and Mother Jones. He's won a few journalism awards, including one for beat reporting from the Education Writers Association and the Dick Schaap Excellence in Sports Journalism Award. Paul got hooked on journalism while working too many hours at The Review, the student newspaper at the University of Delaware, where he earned a degree in political science in 1996. A native of Dayton, Ohio, and a long-suffering fan of the Cincinnati Bengals, Fain plays guitar in a band with more possible names than polished songs.

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