Saving City College

Pub date July 10, 2012

By Chris Jackson

Although a recent accreditation report levels a long list of criticisms of City College, some of them legitimate issues that need to be addressed, the real problem is the state’s defunding of public education and its disinvestment in our community-college system.

There’s no question that everyone is going to work to keep City College open and serving our communities.

City College of San Francisco serves more than 90,000 students each year, trains (and retrains) our workforce, teaches English to our immigrant populations, fosters lifelong learning, and provides affordable, accessible pathways into all of higher education’s opportunities. But five years of drastic cuts in state funding has resulted in shrinking programs and overflowing classes; skyrocketing costs to students and families; employee furloughs, pay cuts, and givebacks; shutting the doors on far too many students who are unable to get the classes they need; and an increasing sense that community college education and its mission are wholly threatened for our city’s diverse students.

Overall, if you read the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior College’s report, the commission is asking City College to shrink its mission of providing a high quality, affordable education to all who come to its doors. The ACCJC wants City College to step away from its San Francisco value of “chopping from the top” — cutting administration instead of teachers.

Let’s be clear, the buck stops with the elected Board of Trustees. We as a board are going to work together with the entire City College family to save the college and its accreditation and look at and resolve all of the issues brought up in the accreditation report.

With that said, it’s important to understand that California’s institutions of higher education have taken huge cuts during our historic recession and subsequent unemployment — a time when more and more people have come to use our educational resources to help in their quest to find jobs.

Over the past four years, the state has cut more than $1 billion from the community college system. That includes a $17 million cut to City College last year — and this year, we’ve worked to close an additional $14 million budget deficit. Last year, more than 10,000 students were unable to attend City College due to lack classes.

While students are scrambling for classroom seats, the commission is arguing that City College has too few administrators. But we’re proud of the fact that every available dollar continues to go to saving City College classes and student access.

City College has spent the last year planning to place a parcel tax on this November’s ballot — to raise funds specifically to address many of the problems cited in the report. If the City College parcel tax and Governor Brown’s tax both pass, City College will have the money to restore many of the classes, services and liabilities that we’ve been unable to address.

As the largest community college in California, our mission and values are to serve all that come to the doors of City College, and let this be clear to our communities: We will never shrink away from that mission.

Chris Jackson is a member of the San Francisco Community College Board of Trustees