IN THESE TIMES: Community College in the Crosshairs

Career College Central Summary:

  • On December 9, 2014, dozens of students and faculty from the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) packed into a courtroom to witness the conclusion of an unusual trial.
  • Since July 2013—when the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) announced it would revoke CCSF’s accreditation—the student-faculty Save CCSF Coalition has scrambled to demonstrate that the school deserves to remain open by appealing to public figures and organizing rallies and sit-ins. Loss of accreditation effectively ensures a school’s closure by disqualifying it from receiving federal money, including financial aid for its students.
  • But that day in December, CCSF wasn’t the one in the hot seat. Instead, it was the accrediting commission, accused by the city of San Francisco of illegal conflicts of interest that biased its decision against CCSF.
  • Chief among those alleged conflicts was ACCJC’s relationship with conservative groups and foundations that advance the agenda of for-profit colleges and private student-loan providers—such as the Lumina Foundation, a research and grant-making body that has close ties to private lender Sallie Mae (which until 2012 was a sponsor of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) Education Task Force). Notably, the ACCJC received a grant from the Lumina Foundation to help schools better assess “student learning outcomes,” or SLOs—a data-driven method of evaluation that critics believe are ineffective measures of student learning that can nonetheless be used to penalize faculty. Failure to adequately implement SLOs was one of the ACCJC’s reasons for sanctioning CCSF.
  • “Put simply,” the lawsuit explained, removing access to community colleges “pushes students into for-profit colleges and forces them to incur significant debt—to the benefit of for-profit colleges and private lending institutions.”
  • In fact, that's already happening. A U.S. Treasury report released in December 2012 found that state budget cuts to community colleges correlate with increasing enrollment at for-profit schools, which nearly 10 percent of students now attend. In many cases, the transition from public to private is fueled by a so-called reform agenda like the one advocated by the Lumina Foundation and ALEC. It promotes increased “productivity” in higher education through such measures as rigid performance metrics and an increased role for for-profit colleges.

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