CAPPS - Avocacy and Communication Professional Development

California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools

Preview of City College improvement plan

09/28/2012

San Francisco Chronicle - September 26, 2012

City College of San Francisco will hire new leaders, lay off faculty, close and lease out properties, and make enrichment classes a low priority as part of its frenzied determination to remain accredited and stay in business.

One new approach also reflects an astonishing reality: City College has allowed students to take classes without paying the required enrollment fees, causing the college to lose at least $400,000 a year.

On Thursday, interim Chancellor Pamila Fisher will offer a public preview of the college's plan for addressing the 14 major fiscal and managerial deficiencies identified in July by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges that jeopardize the college's future. The commission gave City College until Oct. 15 to produce a final action plan, and until March 15 to turn itself around.

"The college recognizes that clear, difficult choices must be made immediately," says the 48-page draft plan, which promises that "all goals will either be accomplished or a concrete process will be in place with measurable progress" by the March deadline.

One major change already approved by the trustees is to shift City College's main mission away from free enrichment classes like music appreciation and memoir writing, and focus instead on preparing students for transfer to a university, earning an associate degree, acquiring career skills and learning to speak English.

The key proposals

These are among the key proposals and savings identified in the draft plan, which have yet to be approved:

-- Consolidating or eliminating programs, such as enrichment classes. This would save $60,000 a year for each "full-time equivalent" instructor position eliminated, meaning jobs held by two or more part-timers.

-- Although the college is hiring some administrators, others would lose their jobs, with savings estimated at $180,000 a year for each position. The accreditation commission had said the school actually has too few administrators.

-- Laying off clerical employees.

-- Increasing the workweek of clerical staff from 37.5 hours to 40 hours to reduce overtime pay by $180,000 a year.

-- Hiring fewer students.

-- Eliminating paid sabbaticals to save $800,000 a year.

-- Imposing across-the-board salary cuts of 1 percent to save $1.57 million.

Another surprising bit of savings is revealed in a paragraph deep in the appendix of the proposal.

"(The) college currently 'writes off' as an expenditure $400,000 in unpaid student fees per year, a figure that will certainly increase in the near term."

The proposal plans for the college to collect those fees, which reflect enrollment costs of $46 per unit.

A single closure

The college acknowledges in the plan that it is unaware of what it costs to run each of its nine campuses and proposes to figure it all out.

There has also been speculation that some campuses would close. The plan proposes to eliminate only the Castro campus, which simply refers to about 25 night courses taught at Everett Middle School at 450 Church St.

At the same time, the plan proposes to lease out the college headquarters at 33 Gough St., "a prime location for development located one block off of Market Street."

The task for City College is huge, and the stakes high. Among the largest community colleges in the country, City College enrolls 49,000 students in its credit programs, and 36,000 in noncredit programs, including English language classes, across nine campuses.

The accrediting commission found that City College spends money it doesn't have, has nearly depleted its reserves, and can't track its finances or say how much each campus costs to run. The college spends a disproportionate amount of its budget - 92 percent - on salaries and benefits, while other colleges spend in the low 80s. There are too few administrators, and most are interim officials with little experience.

Tackling the problems

In response, City College sprang into action, perhaps more organized and trigger-ready than in years. Fisher - who arrived in May and leaves in October - established 14 groups of employees, trustees and students to tackle each problematic area identified by the accrediting commission.

One of the problems the plan takes a stab at is the college's approach to "shared governance," which at other colleges is an advisory system for faculty, employees and even students to influence the campus policies decided by administrators and boards of trustees.

At City College, however, the accrediting commission said there were so many squabbling cooks that little work got done.

In response, trustees, administrators, managers and faculty took lessons in how the process should work. And though they'll change the name from "shared governance" to "participatory governance," it's not clear how the system itself will be different.

Robert Shireman, a former Obama administration education official who now directs a higher education think tank in Oakland called California Competes, is an outspoken critic of the kind of muddy decision-making he says the state permits at community colleges.

While Shireman praised the City College plan for proposing that a "default decider" be appointed to break logjams, he said it isn't enough.

"What I do not see in the draft is a recognition that the accrediting agency will be looking for clarity that, when all is said and done, the buck stops with the trustees elected by the people of San Francisco," he said.

City College trustees meeting

The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. on the first floor of the multiuse building on the main campus at 50 Phelan Ave., San Francisco.

Online: To see the agenda for the meeting, go to: bit.ly/PUAJU1