Saving City College

Disparate groups are coming together to help rescue the threatened institution. What are they up against?

Students and faculty engage with passersby in front of CCSF Mission campus during Sunday Streets Aug. 5 event.

CAREERS AND ED City College of San Francisco (CCSF) is fighting for its life, and that struggle has turned old enemies into new allies. Suddenly, past differences seem less important than the need to work together, bringing a new sense of unity and purpose to the troubled community college.

In June the school was sanctioned and ordered to "show cause" from the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges, putting it on the brink of losing its accreditation — certification necessary for the college's degrees to be worth anything and for the school to secure federal aid (see "City College fights back," July 17).

Twelve workgroups comprised of faculty, staff, administrators, students, and college board members are working feverishly to prove by October that the school is making major progress. Otherwise, it could face dire consequences.

While few people with any education or political background believe the school will actually close, there are serious consequences if its accreditation is revoked. A special trustee assigned by the state chancellor's office could assume the powers of the college's board or the school could be merged with another community college district.

The only college in California to ever suffer both of those fates was Compton Community College in 2006. Though the two colleges serve wildly different communities, many speak of their fates in the same breath. Its shadow hangs over City College like a ghost of what is to come.


The newfound sense of common purpose was displayed on Aug. 1 in CCSF conference rooms, where once-battling special interest groups and employees gathered to tackle problems that have plagued the school for years.

The feuds aren't just of interest to political geeks and college insiders. Infighting and a dysfunctional governance structure had stalled the school from tackling urgent issues, according to the accrediting commission.

"During interviews, criticism regarding the efficiency of the institutional governance process was revealed. The criticism centered on the length of time to reach a recommendation. It was also noted that there may be misunderstanding regarding the role of a recommending body versus a decision-making body," according to the commission's report.

That snippet of the 66-page critical report represents years of strife at the school, not only among the school's elected trustees but also between the board and other college groups on issues ranging from placement testing to school site closures.

The 12 newly formed workgroups — constituted by the Chancellor's Office and comprised mostly of faculty, administrators, and trustees — met to discuss issues and make recommendations to the system's decision-making authorities: the Chancellor's Office and Board of Trustees. One of the workgroups is in charge of evaluating that very decision-making system, with 14 people from different college constituencies hashing out a new style of democracy for the school.

At their first meeting, the members brought in stacks of papers to hand out — research on best practices and policies in college governments around the state and the nation. This particular workgroup discussed how an ideal student government should run, and how to enact those changes at City College.

The workgroups are brainstorming sessions, and each one has a different task ahead of it, including how to measure student learning, leveraging technology to streamline the school, facilities planning, and fiscal planning. Each workgroup acts independently, although some themes and members overlap.

The Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet and report on the progress of the workgroups on August 14 — the day before fall semester classes begin.


Reading this article, the issue of staff layoffs is the first issue addressed and takes up the largest amount of print.

To my mind, the primary stakeholders here are San Franciscans and CCSF students, CCSF employees.

This reversal of priorities that puts San Franciscans and recipients of city services last behind those special interests with more direct and economic claims on public resources is one reason why progressives have lost traction.

Posted by marcos on Aug. 07, 2012 @ 6:40 pm

The last people that should be getting involved in this are occupy types. CCSF has done an awesome job of educating people for careers or moving them on to other universities. This is the real world, not some bonged out occupy make believe.

What CCSF offers well, continuing education for adults, a cheap alternative to people moving onto four year schools, the one off "let me keep busy" class for adults. CCSF should stick to that, what it does really well.

Attempting to make CCSF an occupy/SEIU/PC utopia is counter to it's purpose and will just hasten it's demise.

Posted by matlock on Aug. 07, 2012 @ 7:32 pm

There are two separate stories on students, and another on a part time teacher...

Posted by Joe on Aug. 08, 2012 @ 8:04 am

This article showcases some of the issues that are dragging City College down.

1. Health benefits. Seriously health benefits for part time employees? Wow- must be nice.

2. Too many campuses- Seriously look at a map- you have several of the satellite campuses located very close to each other- i.e. Mission, Castro and Gough, Then Chinatown, Downtown and Civic Center. Two campuses in the Bayview- really?? Meanwhile you have a huge main campus over on Ocean-with empty classrooms.

3. Priorities. Seriously The priority needs to be on credit and vocational classes. A hard look needs to be taken at the non=credit classes. Having been a student at CCSF, I know full well that it is chock full of professional students taking classes to avoid real life and barely paying tuition. Perhaps a tiered tuition scale- i.e after 3 years it increases significantly.

Posted by D.native on Aug. 07, 2012 @ 8:14 pm

the city and so, if something has to be sacrificed, better it be this one. We can then focus investment in centers of excellence rather than centers of adequacy.

Move on . . .

Posted by lillipublicans on Aug. 08, 2012 @ 2:03 am

The academics and job placement are pretty good. The problem is they haven't enough money to operate what they currently do and no one has addressed that problem for many years. They just kept cutting administrative jobs as the administrators retired so that no one was keeping an eye on the finances.

Posted by Sfsoma on Aug. 08, 2012 @ 8:05 am

We can't support every institution regardless of merit or quality.

Better to target funding by quality and have fewer, better institutions.

Posted by lillipublicans© on Aug. 08, 2012 @ 8:14 am

Actually, the accreditation agency had nothing but praise for the academic quality and the excellence of teaching. You can read the report yourself at the CCSF website.

Posted by Guest San Franciscan on Aug. 08, 2012 @ 6:51 pm

M. LittleRepugnicon---
You are a mouthpiece of fascism. Go away...

Posted by Obo on Aug. 11, 2012 @ 9:08 am

Yes, when a part time instructor with a PhD, teaching 6 classes per year, makes a maximum of $32K, having health insurance is not just "nice," it's a necessity.

Posted by Guest San Franciscan on Aug. 08, 2012 @ 6:49 pm

Seriously, a phD at CCSF is over qualified. And 3 classes a semester is not exactly a big workload.

Posted by D. native on Aug. 08, 2012 @ 9:33 pm

Actually, CCSF has many PhDs. That's one reason why CCSF's academic standards have never been questioned. Your assumption that community college students don't deserve instructors with PhDs sounds like elitism to me.

Posted by Guest San Franciscan on Aug. 09, 2012 @ 12:56 am

Where did I say CCSF students don't deserve PhD level instructors??? My whole point is that PhD's are over-qualified to teach at the community college level. simple as that.

I went to CCSF. Got a great education at a great price. Maybe the PhD likes the idea of being able to just teach and not worry about research and getting published, etc. The fact is that a PhD is still doing the job that someone with a Master's or a LIFE credential could do.

Posted by D.native on Aug. 09, 2012 @ 7:51 am

Go figure. An elitist "in over his(or her) head."

lillipublicans©, impostered but never equaled

Posted by lillipublicans© on Aug. 09, 2012 @ 9:12 am

They already tried charging fifty dollars a unit for student who already have BAs. The night classes were empty. People go to city college because it is cheap. It should stay cheap.
I gueass the concept of education for it's own sake is a fading thing. We will get stupider and stoopider. This is a poor recipee for a functioning Democracy.

Posted by Guest ethan davidson on Aug. 09, 2012 @ 4:00 pm

at San Francisco has a nice ring to it. The only way to wrest control away from the incompetent trustees elected by SF is to have it taken over by another district. This is too valuable a resource to be trusted to the machine controlled sheeple voters of SF. These trustees have sat by and watched as this accreditation problem got worse and worse. No promotions for the up and comers like Mr. Wong who are trying to use this as springboard to BOS. In fact, vote out all the incumbents if district not taken over.

Posted by Sfsoma on Aug. 08, 2012 @ 7:24 am

Based on your logic, the only way to wrest control of our country away from our incompetent president/congress/senate (fill in blank here) is to have it taken over by another country?? I don't think so. The way to wrest control is to elect a better board, thank you.

Posted by Guest San Franciscan on Aug. 09, 2012 @ 1:01 am

Say what you will about the article, but on what evidence do you say City college is easily the worst institution in the city?

It costs $46 a unit, compared to SF State which is in the range of $300 a unit, and private schools like the Academy of Art which will have you owing $190,000 in tuition at the end of your degree.

The culinary department has an 80% job placement rate, which is unheard of in higher education. It's X-Ray program beat out John Hopkins university, John Hopkins!, to be the best DMI program in the country. It has small class sizes where instructors know your name, unlike the 100 person plus lecture hall of higher learning elsewhere. If you go to USF, you rub shoulders with richie rich kids that while well meaning, have little life experience, but as an 18 year old freshman at CCSF you can meet Veterans, adults who have established careers, and people from every economic stripe.

City College trains aerospace technicians, sheet metal artists, digital software skills, nurses, police officers, filmmakers, and careers of every stripe, often for free, and alternatively cheaply.

Let me ask you again, on what evidence do you say they're the worst institution?

Posted by Joe on Aug. 08, 2012 @ 7:31 am

but overall if it wwere meeting business needs, like Stanford does, then business would be putting in funds.

If that's not happening, and it's just a drain on the public purse, then better to put the poor thing out of it's misery.

Posted by lillipublicans© on Aug. 08, 2012 @ 8:16 am

You can't possibly be that stupid... but apparently you can...Stanford was endowed by a millionaire who by the way made his money by stealing it from the federal government... They weren't called the robber barons for no reason.

But on a practical perspective CCSF has never had any significant fundraising activity unlike Stanford who continually and constantly fund raises in spite of being financially sound and charging many times as much tuition.

Perhaps CCSF should become a for profit college like the University of Phoenix so it can collect $5500 a year per student in Pell Grants, but of course it would have to drop those messy expensive programs where no one gets jobs like EMT, fire fighting, biotech, medical imaging, chemistry and so on.. Oh yeah and it would have to cut it's student completion rate in half...

Posted by Guest on Aug. 09, 2012 @ 8:31 am

Dependency on a decreasing public sector is not a path to success any longer.

Posted by Anonymous on Aug. 09, 2012 @ 11:06 am

I've read the text of the parcel tax, but I'm still not satisfied that the voters in San Francisco know the answer to a basic question: For what would CCSF use the money from the parcel tax?

Posted by GuestTax Payer on Aug. 08, 2012 @ 8:13 am

and tens of "working groups" to solve the problem. CCSF has a very simple task ahead: meet the requirements of ACCJC. The lives it changed don't matter, its placement rates don't matter - it has to meet the requirements of the club to which it requires membership and that means meeting arbitrary standardization requirements which CCSF may have problems with. That's CCSF's issue - no one else's issue. This is not a conspiracy involving urban districts or anything else - we're in this situation because CCSF has failed and it needs to correct that, and quickly, or it's going into receivership.

Posted by Troll II on Aug. 08, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

The whole point of the workgroups is to find out how to implement the changes they know they have to do... for instance, they know they need student learning outcomes, but which set of outcomes do they use? Which standard? They know they need to pare down shared governance, but what does that look like? What forms do they use to assess that a decision has gone through the proper channels? The workgroups hash out specifics, the nitty gritty.
Like knowing that you have to build a skyscraper doesn't mean you have any idea of how you're going to furnish it, or just how tall, you know?
The idea of "just doing it," or "just doing it quickly," could mean making the wrong decision. For instance, in combining campuses, at this point, they don't know if that would lose them money or make them money. Its ridiculously hard to calculate. So if you "just combine them," you could end up losing millions of dollars.

No one should "just do anything" when dealing with a roughly $200 million dollar budget, with 90,000 students and nearly 2,000 employees. That shows a lack of logical thinking.

Posted by Joe on Aug. 08, 2012 @ 2:47 pm

The simplest answer is usually the correct answer. It's laughable that 12 working groups are needed to "save CCSF." Which isn't in danger of going extinct BTW - simply of changing form.

Posted by Troll II on Aug. 08, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

The simplest answer is usually the best? With complex multilayered hundred million dollar budgets? No, actually it's not. If the simplest solutions were best, there'd be no need for accountants and tax specialists.

Do you go to a brain surgeon and tell him to not bother with the details, just cut that chunk out near the front? Go to a surgeon and say "the simplest answer is usually the best." see what they tell you.

Posted by Joe on Aug. 08, 2012 @ 3:54 pm

CCSF's in danger you know? We must "save" it. From itself apparently.

Posted by Troll II on Aug. 08, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

Well said, Joe!

Posted by Guest San Franciscan on Aug. 09, 2012 @ 1:03 am

I have a PhD. When I was a part-time instructor at CCSF until a year ago, I earned a princely salary of $32K, with yes, health insurance. People who say that part-timers are overpaid and don't deserve health insurance, please try living on $32K without insurance. And those of you who are criticizing the QUALITY of education at CCSF, please read the accreditation report, which is available on the CCSF website. The accreditors had nothing but praise for the high level of instruction, and the excellence of its programs.

Posted by Guest San Franciscan on Aug. 08, 2012 @ 6:47 pm

This whole accreditation thing is bullshit.

If you have a PHD and you make 32,000, like a lot of the peasants do, then you should have taken some classes better suited to your sense of monetary entitlement.

So tired of people who think that their life choices lead to some sort of entitlement. This post is like the guy you saw on Haight St. ranting, the guy who saw Led Zeppelin with a dinosaur and a dodo bird in 1915. I have a PHD in who fucking cares?

Posted by matlock on Aug. 08, 2012 @ 9:32 pm

So sorry that you think of yourself as a "peasant." Hope you're at least growing organically. LOL!

Posted by Guest San Franciscan on Aug. 09, 2012 @ 12:13 am

Especially with health cover.

Seems the real problem is that he wants to live on 32K pa in a place where it takes three times that fiscal power to live.

The dude needs to move.

Posted by lillipublicans© on Aug. 09, 2012 @ 8:02 am

Most part time instructors at CCSF do not get health benefits.. Part timers have to work 2 years and carry more than 7.5 units per semester to get benefits. Most part timers carry 7 units or less so get no benefits at all, aside from paying into retirement which by the way costs the school less than it would if it contributed the employers portion of social security.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 09, 2012 @ 8:45 am

Seriously- 32K a year for part time work with every holiday, plus very long winter and summer breaks, plus a week in the Spring, and health insurance? Not a bad deal.

Posted by D.native on Aug. 09, 2012 @ 7:53 am

Thank you for the article about CCSF and also for the great cover that really shows the diversity of its students. I want to clarify the remark by Trustee Ngo which stated that non-credit ESL classes have a “hop in, hop out” structure to their lessons.

Non-credit ESL classes last 18 weeks. Most of these classes are 10 hours a week. They follow a curriculum and have stated learning outcomes just as credit classes do. In addition to English grammar, classes cover speaking, listening, pronunciation, reading, writing, and vocabulary as well as American culture and customs. Besides creating their own materials, instructors use books that cover these topics and are designed for use over many months.

Non-credit classes are open entry and open exit. This means that a student can join or leave a class at any point during the semester. Most students do this because of work (they get a new job or their work hours change), childcare problems or health issues. Non-credit students also aren’t required to come to school every day which works well with their work schedules and life’s demands.
A couple of other things about non-credit ESL students: Many have had no or very little formal schooling in their native countries. Many have absolutely no or very little command of the English language. Many need English for the most basic of reasons – to be able to call 911 in an emergency, to talk with a doctor, to write a note to their child’s teacher, to speak to their grandchildren, to communicate with their co-workers. For all these reasons, and the above-mentioned situations, they are not able to take the more academically-oriented credit classes. Additionally, new immigrants often enroll in non-credit courses within days or weeks of immigrating to the U.S. Not only would they have to wait for the semester to start in order to take credit classes, they would have to live here for one year in order to pay resident’s tuition. (Non-resident fees are prohibitive for the majority of new immigrants.)

Posted by ESLTeach on Aug. 10, 2012 @ 9:56 am

subsidize classes for what even you admit are low-ranked, low-achieving students?

Investing excellence elads to excellence.

Investing in the lower echelons typically leads at best to a mediocrity that doesn't give as good a return on capital.

In the end, this is about money, and as noble as CCSF is, the money just doesn't get the same return there.

Posted by lillipublicans© on Aug. 10, 2012 @ 10:25 am


Posted by Obo on Aug. 11, 2012 @ 9:14 am

... err... I mean sometimes... *is*... Troll.

lillipublicans©, impostered but never equaled.

Posted by lillipublicans© on Aug. 11, 2012 @ 10:10 am

and they spend 184 million of that on salaries? That's crazy. Out of 200 million dollars they spend only 16 million on student services? Let's see, 90000 students and 16 million dollars compared to 2000 employees and 184 million dollars? What a joke! City College cares about students? Yeah right! There is your one-percent.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 13, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

Perhaps you went to the wrong college if you think that teaching faculty and staff are supposed to work for free because they don't provide services for students.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 13, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

I think the central problem with saying that 92 percent of the school's budget going to faculty and staff salary is the argument that its a disservice to students.

I mean seriously, what do faculty do? They teach.... students.

When you have lots of faculty, it means you have more classes. The reason there is so much pay for CCSF instructors is because the school did EVERYTHING it could to shave off everything BUT providing classes. Peter Goldstein, Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance, used to call it P P and P, Pens Paper and Power. They even went to as much detail as rationing power usage in the school to avoid cutting classes... and even with that level of detail and work, they still ended up having to cut over 113 classes when the state knocked over $17 million out of their fund mid semester.

Bottom line is, its all for the students. The questions are, what works, and which students are you talking about?

Posted by Joe on Aug. 13, 2012 @ 2:00 pm

I love CCSF after having taken several courses there. The instructors are of the highest caliber.

CCSF damaged its fengshui by the new buildings on Phelan Avenue and should consult a fang shui mancer / consultant to correct the problem.

Before those buildings were constructed, all the energy of the Pacific Ocean freely flowed up the hill to the front door of the Sciences building. That immense positive energy is now blocked by said buildings.

There may be a solution that does not involve tearing down the buildings that destroy this force.

This is no joke.


A CCSF student.

Posted by GP on Jan. 26, 2013 @ 10:19 pm

United efforts is what our college needs. It's such a necessary institution in a community like ours. Our children stand a better chance for higher education because of it, that's why I am an active supporter in this project.

Posted by nursing degree on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 7:07 am

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