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California's biggest community college loses accreditation

By Ronnie Cohen

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California's largest community college might be forced to close next year after regulators voted on Wednesday to strip City College of San Francisco of its accreditation.

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges cited a lack of financial accountability and a raft of other longstanding problems, including leadership and governance deficiencies, when it voted to stop accrediting the two-year school serving 85,000 students as of July 31, 2014.

Lost accreditation would trigger funding cuts that would shutter the 78-year-old school.

The college vowed to remain open, and the state chancellor, who oversees the community colleges, proposed appointing a special trustee to oversee the school and strip the local governing board of its power, City College spokeswoman Jennifer Aries told Reuters.

Aries said the college would request a review of the decision, and if necessary, appeal it. "In the meantime, the college is open, we are accredited, we are enrolling students and moving forward," she said.

Alisa Messer, an English instructor and president of the faculty union, also vowed to keep the college open.

"We've spent the last year turning ourselves upside down to meet the accreditation demands, and apparently it wasn't enough," she said. "It's destabilized an institution that's already in terrible straights because of funding cuts.

"We're vowing to ensure that the college remains open and accredited."

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee called the troubled college "an irreplaceable and valued institution" and pledged to work closely with college and city officials to expedite necessary reforms to keep the college's doors open.

He described City College as "central to our efforts to equip our youth and adults with the skills to compete and succeed in the 21st-century economy."

"Our city's economy depends on it," he said.

The U.S. Department of Education authorizes the commission to evaluate community and junior colleges every six years.

In a news release, the commission said the college had fully addressed only two of 14 necessary recommendations for change. The commission cited inadequacies in financial accountability, leadership and governance as the primary obstacles to turning around the school.

City College began operating in San Francisco with about 1,100 students in 1935. It has nine primary campuses, nearly 200 neighborhood sites and offers vocational training in nursing, culinary arts and aircraft mechanics.

(Edited by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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