Leaders at City College of San Francisco are encouraged by two recent potentially positive advances in the fight to save the school's accreditation, and the developments could even boost sagging enrollment as soon as the fall semester.
Last week, an appeals panel called for a reassessment of the embattled school by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges before CCSF's accreditation can be revoked. That followed a Wednesday announcement from the ACCJC of a new policy proposal that could give CCSF two more years to come into compliance with accrediting standards.
However, the appeals panel also affirmed CCSF was "substantially out of compliance" with the ACCJC's accreditation standards in June 2012, when it was placed under show-cause status, and again in June 2013, when accreditation was terminated.
Further, the panel found that the alleged errors raised by the college in the appeal did not have any merit.
CCSF leaders nonetheless are encouraged by the Appellate Hearing Panel's finding. The school's summer session began Monday and the college has already begun enrolling for the fall semester, which will begin Aug. 18.
"We're going full steam ahead to let students know we're open," CCSF spokesman Jeff Hamilton said. "This is the earliest we've ever allowed for fall registration."
The school has engaged in a major marketing push to boost enrollment after the number of students dropped as CCSF grappled with losing its accreditation. In spring 2013, there were 30,257 students enrolled, compared to 25,005 this spring.
CCSF graduated 2,456 students this school year, an all-time high for the institution.
"We've lost a lot of students as a result of the accreditation crisis," Hamilton said. "But we've stabilized enrollment, and all of this news is only going to strengthen people's sense that City College is here to stay."
It remains to be seen whether the school will pursue restoration status, or when an assessment of CCSF would take place. The ACCJC proposal is undergoing a two-week public-comment period and would eventually need to be approved by the U.S. Department of Education.
Paul Feist, a spokesman for the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office, said the appeals panel delivered what CCSF had asked for.
"This means that the whole restoration policy perhaps isn't even necessary," Feist said.
Regardless of any recent developments, a judge has barred the ACCJC from taking any action on accreditation until a lawsuit filed by The City is resolved.
Losing accreditation would effectively force CCSF to close.
The trial over the lawsuit is scheduled to begin Oct. 27.