(CN) - Facing a trial over its decision to decertify the City College of San Francisco, a regional accrediting organization said a proposed rule change may offer relief.
The Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges, a division of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges that decided last year to decertify City College, said Wednesday that it was "proposing a new accreditation policy."
"The policy would permit any postsecondary institution that has been notified of termination for failure to meet ACCJC standards to apply, prior to the effective date of termination, for restoration of its accreditation," the commission said in a statement.
With 80,000 students, City College is one of the largest community colleges in the United States but was faced with losing its accreditation at the end of July.
put that termination on hold until October, at which point a superior court trial will kick off to hear claims that political bias and procedural flaws caused the commission's revocation decision.
The City and County of San Francisco filed the suit
on behalf of the school last summer, claiming the commission had stacked the panel that reviewed the school with opponents.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera claims the commission was driven by a legislative and philosophical debate with City College over the purpose of California community colleges.
The city's complaint says that the commission was evaluating City College at the same time it was actively lobbying the California Legislature and the Board of Governors of California Community Colleges for policies that would eliminate what Herrera calls the "open access mandate for California's community colleges."
Based in Novato, Calif., the commission is charged with evaluating California's 112 community colleges.
Wednesday's announcement makes multiple, direct references to City College, indicating that the new rule is the commission's response to recent improvements by the school's administrators and to the effects a closure would have on students.
While remaining "steadfast in its decision" to yank accreditation, "the commission also recognizes the need to balance the impact of such a decision on students with its commitment to holding CCSF and all postsecondary institutions accountable in meeting core standards," the statement says.
"In response to this need, the commission has worked to identify a path forward that maintains the termination decision and holds the college accountable for addressing the standards, but would enable the college reasonable but limited additional time to come into compliance with ACCJC standards," the statement continues.
The commission said it would finalize the new policy soon after a two-week public comment period concludes on June 25. It must also receive U.S. Department of Education approval.
For now, San Francisco will press ahead with its lawsuit.
"We're still evaluating how this affects our claims," said Gabriel Zitrin, a spokesman for the City Attorney's office.
The commission had "papered over" criticisms in the past, Zitrin added, saying the proposed change to accreditation policy does not necessarily affect San Francisco's bias claims against the evaluation process.
San Francisco's suit specifically claims that the commission violated California's Unfair Competition Law and the Business and Professions Code, and functions as "a private entity with no public accountability and unfettered discretion."