Los Angeles Mission College President Monte Perez had shut off his smartphone and sat down for a late afternoon movie when he had a bad feeling about the accreditation of his campus.
He stepped out of "The Heat" on the eve of the Fourth of July holiday to discover a state accreditation commission had not only pulled the plug on City College of San Francisco, it had placed warnings -- its lightest sanctions -- on L.A. Mission and L.A. Valley colleges as well.
"They were a little sneaky, because the San Francisco thing is huge," Perez said of the late Wednesday online announcement. "I suspected we might get sanctioned.
"I saw that we had gotten a warning and said, 'It's doable -- we can fix this in a year.' "
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges sanctioned the Los Angeles schools and others after they'd submitted self-evaluations and had undergone peer reviews in the spring.
Earlier, three of nine campuses in the Los Angeles Community College District had been at risk of losing accreditation, including one with a warning and two on probation.
After the commission's late July 3 announcement, a third of district schools were still being sanctioned, but with less severe warnings.
Of the three San Fernando Valley community colleges reviewed, L.A. Mission and L.A. Valley colleges were warned, while Pierce College was in the clear. In addition, L.A. Southwest College, which had been under probation, was downgraded to a warning.
The colleges can reaffirm their accreditation in a year by fixing such commission recommendations as better budgets, college planning and student learning outcomes, officials said. Or they can lose it in two years if they don't.
A loss of accreditation could deny student transfers to four-year schools and their ability to get federal student loans.
"These are colleges that have received recommendations for improvement," said Yasmin Delahoussaye, LACCD vice chancellor for education programs and institutional effectiveness. "Given the track that they're on, we are confident that these issues will be resolved during the time period.
"There are signs of progress," said Steve Veres, president of the LACCD Board of Trustees. "But we're not satisfied until we reach the highest standards of accreditation."
On Monday, the state's community college chancellor appointed a special trustee Monday to run City College of San Francisco, whose accreditation was stripped by the commission last week pending an appeal. The multi-campus school of 85,000 students had been operating under a show-cause sanction, the highest.
At L.A. Valley College, the Novato-based accreditation commission was concerned about its budget deficit, roughly 1.5 million in the red for fiscal-year 2012-13. A commission letter to the Valley Village school listed eight recommendations for improvement, including "management and control mechanisms needed for sound financial decision-making."
"Imbedded in our work is our unwavering commitment to student success," said President Susan Carleo, in a Tuesday letter to faculty and staff. "With our new mission statement and educational master plan as our guide, I know that our students will continue to succeed."
At L.A. Mission College, the commission was concerned about its collegial governance and decision-making. A letter to the Sylmar school listed 14 recommendations, from better student learning outcomes and online education to improved teaching styles.
"I think they were fair, I really do," Perez said of the recommendations. "They gave us two years, but I want to get it done in a year."
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