California shifts toward new community college accreditation process

The California Community College Board of Governors Monday¬†approved plans to revamp the state’s two-year college accreditation commission and prepare to switch to a different accrediting agency altogether.

Cheered by a union representing college educators, the move would phase out the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges in hopes of aligning the 113-college system with four-year colleges and universities.

Geoffrey Baum, the board’s president, said in a statement:

“This change in accreditation, though it may take several years to implement, makes sense given that our colleges will start offering the bachelors degree and because our state’s four-year institutions are increasingly reliant on transfers from community colleges.”

The board decided in late January to open up competition for the accreditation of community colleges by removing language from their regulations that gave Novato-based ACCJC the exclusive right to accredit the state’s two-year colleges.

Before that decision, San Francisco Superior Court judge Curtis Karnow tentatively ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed by the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office against the ACCJC in response to the commission’s efforts to disaccredit City College of San Francisco.

Another blow was struck against ACCJC when the board followed up on their decision with a more than 90 percent vote in support of reforming ACCJC before moving to another accreditor.

California Community College spokesman Paul Feist explained that the board is supporting improvements to ACCJC that include:

“… enhanced financial transparency, reformed governance and leadership, better communication with colleges and better training.”

The ACCJC is not in compliance with federal standards and has already been warned by the U.S. Department of Education that it could lose its authority to accredit colleges, Feist said.

Ultimately, California Community College plans to transition to an accreditor that aligns it with other higher education intuitions in the western United States.

California Federation of Teachers president Joshua Pechthalt welcomed the decision, citing his organization’s constant battles in court for a more fair and appropriate accreditation system:

“Today California moved another step closer to reforming the broken accreditation system for California’s community colleges.”

Pechthalt added:

“While a number of individual college presidents had already gone on record regarding the need to move to a new accreditor, this vote shows that a remarkable, unprecedented consensus has now emerged.”

ACCJC officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

California Community Colleges’ board today also appointed Deputy Chancellor Erik Skinner as acting chancellor beginning April 2. He will replace retiring Chancellor Brice W. Harris on an interim basis.