Despite accreditation woes, CCSF gets high marks from public 

click to enlarge CCSF
  • Mike Koozmin/S.f. Examiner file photo
  • CCSF French language teacher Carol Reitan speaks with 23-year-old Leo Gonzalez while passing out fliers and school schedules at the Ferry Building in hopes of bolstering enrollment at CCSF.
Even after several years of turmoil, threats of closure and a court battle, City College of San Francisco is still a respected institution, according to polling and focus group findings obtained by The San Francisco Examiner.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents in the CCSF-commissioned survey view the school positively, and nearly 90 percent said CCSF has real “educational value.” And 82.13 percent slightly to strongly agreed that the school provides high-quality education.

As for its troubles, 47 percent of respondents were to some degree aware of the college’s accreditation issues, potential for closure and general issues, but few saw bad management – 3.8 percent – and financial problems – 7.3 percent – as concerns.

The survey and focus groups – which had similar findings – were commissioned by the college and state official because of worries about the impacts of growing negative impressions of the school on enrollment.

“[M]edia coverage has been persistent and ongoing, much of it less than positive,” noted the survey. “In addition, fall 2013 saw a troublesome drop in enrollment, leading to concerns that the college may be facing a crisis of confidence within its community, due to the accreditation issues.”

The survey went on to say: “In the absence of solid and compelling messaging from the college, it is likely that community members will turn to the news media, which has not been generally supportive.”

Other findings included a lack of concern for management and financial issues and a lack of understanding when it came to the school’s accreditation fight.

When asked about management, 36 percent of respondents held a positive view while another 36 percent had no opinion on the matter.

The focus groups found that most people hold a high regard for the school and were very aware of accreditation and closure issues, but falsely believed CCSF was going to close. Additionally, many people did not understand what accreditation means.

The focus groups consisted of high school students, working adults and business people.

Alisa Messer, president of faculty union American Federation of Teachers Local 2121, said the findings show that the school’s core mission – education – is well respected despite what outside groups and even CCSF’s own administration say about the college.

“What’s lovely about it is that it’s what we all know and feel in our hearts about the work that we do at City College. We know how valuable what we do is,” Messer said.

School officials were equally pleased with the results.

“Everyone who has seen the findings is happy for what they revealed,” said CCSF spokesman Peter Anning. “Some of the findings have already prompted changes. And because the surveys were handled by an agency outside of CCSF, respondents felt more free to say what they were thinking. Overall, it was a good thing for us to do.”

The $82,500 Interact Communications survey and focus groups, finalized in mid-December, were meant to help the school improve its messaging. They were paid for by the Foundation for California Community Colleges, which CCSF will reimburse.

The idea behind the survey was a joint effort by CCSF administrators and the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

Since November, when the poll was conducted, the school has spent $120,000 on marketing and recruitment campaigns.

The four-language – English, Mandarin, Cantonese and Spanish – phone survey was conducted from Nov. 20 to 30 and included 500 people. It consisted of 30 questions about the school.

In early January, a judge granted a preliminary injunction in a civil case filed by the City Attorney’s Office that accused the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of wrongdoing. No final action on accreditation can be taken until the trial is completed. Losing accreditation would effectively force CCSF to close.

The ACCJC voted in June to terminate CCSF’s accreditation by July 2014 if the school did not reform itself to come into compliance with commission standards and eligibility requirements. The termination vote was not linked to academics.

Rating City College

90% of respondents said CCSF has real educational value

82.1% of respondents slightly to strongly agreed CCSF provides high-quality education

47% of respondents were aware of CCSF’s accreditation issues

3.8% of respondents saw bad management as an issue

7.3% of respondents saw financial problems as an issue

Source: Foundation for California Community Colleges survey

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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