There are over 4,000 current juniors in San Francisco public schools. They are the next generation of San Franciscans, the predominantly working class young people of color who claim this city as their own. They are our future teachers, nurses, construction workers, lawyers, engineers, janitors, caterers, and elected officials, and it will be because we invest in their success, that our city will continue to be great. In two years, these students will leave San Francisco Unified School District; some will go on to four-year colleges and universities, some will join the labor force, and approximately 33% of SFUSD graduates will land at City College of SF, many of whom have already begun the road to matriculation to CCSF through orientation and dual enrollment.
The fact is CCSF has long been the destination for thousands of SFUSD graduates and San Francisco residents to incubate their dreams, to make success a reality. City College has always been our college, the school of the people. And, there have also been obstacles that get in the way of our students’ success. Less than 25% of African American, Latino and Pacific Islander students end up completing their degree or transferring to four-year colleges or universities. Policies like the placement test and lengthy course sequences lead to four and five year careers at this two-year community college for many students of color. And the voices of students, when they speak up about the need for transformation, are too often silenced.
It’s clear we have work to do to improve City College. But it is our college, and we are committed to fighting for it to be more equitable and accessible. It is our college, and we are committed to making sure the doors stay open for low-income and working class students of color, to move towards accomplishing their goals for higher education and beyond.
What’s At Stake
It is simply not an option to allow City College to lose its accreditation, close its doors, or be taken over by the state or another community college district. This college is too valuable to tens of thousands of students who depend on their counselors, teachers and resource staff to provide them with a quality education—and without this critical resource, we are shutting the doors of opportunity on thousands of students, largely low-income students of color who are looking to actualize educational and economic justice in their lives.
The truth is that City College is currently in a state of crisis. This is the moment for our forces—students, teachers, classified staff, community and administration—to unify, and ensure the security of this great institution. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of disunity among the City College community—and the reality is that this disharmony is jeopardizing the future of the college itself, and the future of the thousands of students depending on its existence.
At a Crossroads
In March of 2012, the Accreditation Commission visited City College of San Francisco for four days and shortly afterwards released their findings, which included fourteen key recommendations, eight of which were previously highlighted as critical for the college to address in its 2006 findings. In this moment, whether or not these recommendations are followed will determine if City College maintains its accreditation, which gives it the legal ability to issue degrees and certificates. While the Accreditation Commission and their agenda have been widely critiqued, the truth is that this body holds in its hands the fate of the college and each member of its broad community—and if these recommendations are not implemented, the future of the college is in jeopardy.
We are at a crossroads, which requires horribly difficult decisions that impact many sectors of the City College community. We do not pretend that the decisions made by the administration or the Board of Trustees are ideal. But in reality, if City College had made some of these key reforms years ago, we may not be in the precarious position that we are in now. A recent fiscal review of the college found what many have experienced for years—that many decisions made by former administrations were fiscally irresponsible, doing more to maintain the status quo than to serve the best interest of students and the fiduciary responsibilities of the college. The college community, and especially the students that depend on the college, are now feeling the repercussions of those decisions.
The Bottom Line: Save City College
This moment requires sacrifices. And anyone who knows Coleman’s work knows that we fight tooth and nail to make sure that resources stay in our schools and benefit our students first. Students paying higher fees, classified staff and counselors getting laid off: these are awful impacts to the CCSF community, as a result of the college’s significant fiscal challenges. But the financial reality the college faces currently includes paying back retirement benefits, rebuilding their reserve, and a declining student population that has led to $3-6 million in budget cuts just this year. If these issues are not fixed, our college will continue to struggle financially and is likely to lose its accreditation, leaving thousands of students in the lurch.