City College of San Francisco: The Egalitarian College?

In 1856, San Francisco’s leaders had the foresight to offer trade skills, clerical training, night high school, and teach "English for Immigrants". They brought together a diverse group, formed a community, and gave everyone a chance. 

Over 100 years later, Clark Kerr wrote the Master Plan for Higher Education. He abolished “junior” colleges and created “community colleges.” He recognized the educational needs for adults go way beyond the first two years of a university education.

In 2003, 2.9 million community college students marched to keep the doors open and fees low.

The California Education Code states the Comprehensive Mission Statement of the community colleges is “ provide opportunity and success to the broadest possible range of our citizens, and shall provide the following: (a) Access to education, and the opportunity for educational success, for all qualified Californians.” (66010.2.).

So, how are the community colleges doing right now? Student indebtedness has never been higher. Enrollments are down, especially among African American males, for the first time ever in an economic downturn. We are abandoning the “Egalitarian” community college and replacing it with the pyramidal model of rotating administrators who are sheep without innovation.  The courted target is the full-time, fresh out of high school, transfer goal student. The banks have won on this model promoted by foundations and CSU graduate schools of education and the students have gotten screwed by having more indebtedness than mortgage holders. Having completely exhausted this pool of students’ ability to go into debt, they are now targeting the 24-54 year olds to see if they can get them to sign on the dotted line.

We need to immediately get back to our egalitarian roots. We cannot abandon the educationally needy in San Francisco or across the state. What options would they have without us? We truly are on the edge. San Francisco has always been an enlightened city and City College of San Francisco (CCSF) has been a fundamental piece of that enlightenment since the beginning in 1856 when our leaders had the foresight to offer trade skills, clerical training, night high school, and English for immigrants. We brought together a diverse group of arrivals, formed a community, and gave everyone a chance. 

CCSF even had the second lowest overhead costs. How did we do that?

  • We had 43 administrators for 100,000 students. During bad economic times we frequently had one chancellor with two vice chancellors, combining Academic and Student Affairs;
  • We relied on department chairs who basically pay for themselves with their teaching load to “administer” their departments;
  • We relied on department chairs to innovate curriculum, student recruitment, and professional relationships in the community and the profession;
  • We had campus deans instead of college presidents to “manage” the buildings and community outreach, expanding student recruitment by putting classes out in every neighborhood, frequently getting great spaces for low rent which the State reimbursed us for;
  • We incorporated community outreach for market saturation, strong branding, i.e. word of mouth, and monopoly power, by not letting stand alone, unarticulated, single curriculum educational institutions into the market;
  • Excellent marketing with course schedules  sent to every home, and counseling outreach conducted at all city events, fairs, and markets;
  • An extraordinary reputation was built for high quality education and opportunity for generations.

CCSF has always stood for hiring full-time faculty. Although the FON doesn’t include noncredit courses, CCSF treats noncredit faculty equally and noncredit is the gateway to credit for so many students. San Francisco has also always treated part-timers equitably and gave generous benefits to both full- and part-time faculty.

CCSF should be the model for all community colleges. Our colleges must be accessible to every single adult, regardless of their educational background, age, gender, ethnicity, orientation, impairment, or their goals. CCSF’s administration is in over their heads, driving down enrollment (revenue), and increasing costs (overhead). CCSF is letting the city down, deceiving the taxpayer, and closing the doors of hope for the most needy.

I recommend CCSF take the following actions immediately:

  • Restore the fall 2019 schedule;
  • All hands on deck for recruitment and registration;
  • Course schedules should be provided to every household;
  • Work with a Salesforce professional to fix the registration system allowing for the full course;
  • Upload the schedule online;
  • Turn faculty into recruiters.

The State and Federal Government are flooding money to community colleges to enroll students. We need to utilize this funding. 

I am also concerned that the recent Fiscal Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) report raises issues relating to CCSF’s finances, but ignores the root causes of the financial troubles—lower enrollment, lack of recruitment, and a dysfunctional online registration system. Additionally, while the FCMAT report suggests CCSF spends too much money on salaries, it completely ignores that City College is bumping up against the 50% law and further reductions of faculty will not only inhibit enrollment growth, fiscal stability, and service to San Francisco residents, but will also push CCSF to the wrong side of the 50% law. Finally, the FCMAT report attacks CCSF for paying faculty at the higher end of the salary schedule and ignores the fact that San Francisco is the second most expensive U.S. city. A reasonable solution would be regional COLA’s that reflect the differences in costs found in different areas of California.

We need to bring back the egalitarian community college now. We cannot let the greedy, ambitious, and ignorant destroy what we have spent our lives creating. We have the power within us to stand together-- to stand up for all Californians and their constitutional right to a community college, not junior college, education. 


FACCC blog posts are written independently by FACCC members and encompass their experiences and recommendations.
FACCC neither condemns nor endorses the recommendations herein.

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Comments on "City College of San Francisco: The Egalitarian College?"

Comments 0-5 of 2

Denise Selleck - Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Thank you for writing this clear description of the situation at City College of San Francisco. Please help us out by writing letters to the Board of Trustees. You can do that here:

Sally Winn - Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Wow! This is an excellent overview of some of the problems facing City College of SF. As a retired faculty member, I have been dismayed to see the mishandling and dismantling of what was once described as one of the top ten community colleges in the US by the New York Times. I urge everyone to contact legislators and join FACCC's activism to convince the powers that be to properly and fairly fund our state's community colleges and retreat from the junior college model currently being promoted. Our state, our students, deserve better.

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