“Team visits” planned with each college next month

February 4, 2021

By David Rowe, Associate Editor

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) decided to defer action on a decision regarding accreditation of the four Peralta colleges at its January meeting. 

The Novato, CA-based organization is “an institutional accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education,” according to the Peralta web site. 

In letters sent to the presidents of Laney, Merritt, Berkeley City College, and College of Alameda on February 1, the ACCJC announced it will be conducting “team visits” with each of the four colleges this spring as part of a “comprehensive review.” Based on the information gathered during these visits, the ACCJC will make its decision on accreditation at a meeting on June 9-11, 2021. The letter also advised the college presidents that “the accredited status of the institution remains unchanged and continues during the Probation period.”

Peralta’s Interim Chancellor, Carla Walter, responded swiftly with a February 2 email announcement to the Peralta Community which was co-signed by the four college presidents. Walter revealed that the ACCJC team visits, which she referred to as “comprehensive review site visits,” will take place from March 1-4 and will be virtual rather than in-person.

Walter recapped the series of events that led to the current situation. “Back in January 2020, the ACCJC placed the four fully accredited Colleges on probation and requested special reports in November 2020 requiring the Colleges to address concerns about the District’s finances among other issues,” she wrote.

Walter expressed her appreciation for everyone at the district and colleges who contributed to the “very strong Special Reports in November 2020 and comprehensive Institutional Self Evaluation Reports (ISERs) in December 2020” that were submitted to the ACCJC.

She closed by expressing confidence “that the Colleges are on the right path to remove any concerns about accreditation, and…that each College will meet the standards of accreditation.”

Mark Johnson, Peralta’s Executive Director of Marketing, Communications & Public Relations, characterized the ACCJC decision as “good news.” In a February 3 email to The Citizen, Johnson listed three possible outcomes from the ACCJC January meeting:

  • Downgrade the colleges to “Show Cause” status, revoking our accreditation.
  • Upgrade the colleges to remove the current probationary status of the colleges.
  • Defer the decision to gather more information, leaving the colleges fully accredited while on a probationary status.

Johnson observed that “while we were hoping to hear that the probationary status had been rescinded, this is still good news. The four colleges remain fully accredited.”

The ACCJC referred to an “action letter” it sent to the colleges a year earlier. In that letter, dated January 27, 2020, the ACCJC stated “it is not evident from the special report that the College/District has addressed foundational issues which have bearing on its fiscal health.”  

Specifically, the January 2020 ACCJC letter listed six “foundational issues”:

  1. A continued structural deficit 
  2. Lack of adherence to Board policies and administrative procedures 
  3. Deficiency in reconciliation and financial control issues 
  4. Key staffing issues 
  5. Its OPEB (other post-employment benefits) obligations
  6. Ongoing unaddressed audit findings

The ACCJC letter suggests these issues will be a focus of discussion during the March team visits and continued progress on resolving them will be a key factor in their final decision in June. 

In a teleconference with student journalists on January 26, California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said his office is working with the ACCJC on the Peralta accreditation process “and we will be monitoring what happens there.”

When asked by The Citizen about a possible appointment of a special trustee to manage the Peralta district, Oakley said “at this point, we don’t see the need for intervention, but we continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure that the district can continue to carry out its obligations to its students.”