RPT-Fitch: San Francisco Comm. College Entering Uncharted Territory

Thu Jul 11, 2013 8:40am EDT

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July 11 (Reuters) - (The following statement was released by the rating agency)

The appointment of a special trustee could help the San Francisco Community College District make reforms needed to retain its accreditation. However, the threatened loss of accreditation is unprecedented for a district of its size and raises uncertainty about its future, Fitch Ratings says.

On July 3 the Western Association of Schools and Colleges' Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) announced the district will lose it accreditation in 2014. Following the announcement, the board of governors of California's community college system appointed a special trustee to lead the district's efforts to retain accreditation over the coming year.

The 85,000-student district has nine campuses and is among the largest in the U.S. There is little precedent for this type of transition, particularly of this size. Compton Community College in Los Angeles County came under the direction of a state-appointed trustee in 2004 and lost its accreditation in 2006. It operated a single campus with 5,000 students.

The ACCJC took action based on the district's continued inability to meet accreditation standards and failure to adequately address numerous accreditation recommendations dating back to 2006. The district will cease operations next year unless the ACCJC's decision changes. We expect the state-appointed special trustee to seek a reprieve of the ACCJC's decision.

Fitch anticipated the potential loss of accreditation and will evaluate the transition of the district's operations to a neighboring community college district or other entity as events unfold.

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