Accreditors place City College of San Francisco on ‘enhanced monitoring’ for its dire fiscal status

Three years after City College of San Francisco emerged from an accreditation crisis that nearly shut it down, accreditors have placed the school on “enhanced monitoring” because its finances are in the danger zone.

City College scored in the lowest “at-risk” category in a financial analysis by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, which in 2017 renewed the school’s all-important accreditation for another seven years.

The new monitoring requirement imposed by the commission means City College has until Dec. 4 to explain how it will address six problems that are keeping the school financially unstable.

Not only did salaries eat up more than 92% of total expenditures in recent years, but there has been “multiple leadership turnover” and an audit showing severe financial losses.

The commission also found that over three years, deficits averaged $13.3 million, and cash plunged from $53 million to $575,000. Also, the college ran at a deficit of -8.3%.

Mark Rocha, who was hired as chancellor in 2017 after the five-year accrediting crisis came to an end, resigned under pressure in March after a series of debacles in which he both cut classes and tried to increase executive salaries with little to no public notice.

In her Sept. 23 letter informing interim Chancellor Raj Vurdien of the new status, Stephanie Droker, president of the accrediting commission, thanked Vurdien for his candor and the updates he has provided on the college’s fiscal condition.

“I have found our conversations to be very productive and I look forward to supporting your efforts… to address the institution’s fiscal issues,” Droker wrote.

In turn, Vurdien posted Droker’sletter on the City College website with a response he wrote intended to reassure the public.

City College “is confident it can address the financial issues outlined in this letter,” he wrote, adding that his staff will present several budget scenarios to the trustees at a special meeting on Oct. 8. He said the trustees will approve a final budget and five-year budget plan at their regular meeting on Oct. 22.

Vurdien also assured the public that the new enhanced monitoring status is not a sanction that threatens the school’s accreditation.

However, Droker noted in her letter, if the college misses the deadline for showing how it will address the six issues, that could change.

More than 55,000 full- and part-time students enrolled in City College last year. The spring semester saw a 24% drop in enrollment compared with spring 2019 — a loss of more than 10,000 students, to 31,443.

The $222 million college has five vacant leadership positions. Without raising more money and spending less, the college expects to operate in the red for at least five years.

Nanette Asimov is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @NanetteAsimov

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