Peralta Community College Taken Off Accreditation Probation

Peralta Community College Taken Off Accreditation Probation

“Substantial Progress” in All Areas of Education and District Leadership Leads to Reclassification by ACCJC

Peralta Community College District colleges, which includes College of Alameda, had its accreditation restored fully by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) on Jan. 27, according to a PCCD press release.

The commission voted to elevate the accreditation status of the Peralta Colleges as the district has demonstrated significant and consistent progress in reforming its finances and governance.

“Since last spring, the Peralta Community College District has shown considerable resolve and commitment to reform itself,” said Dr. Jannett N. Jackson, Interim Chancellor of the Peralta Community College District. “Today the ACCJC recognized the substantial progress the colleges and the district have made on 100% of their requirements and upgraded our status. None of the colleges received compliance requirements. We remain committed to actively pursue the tenet of continuous improvement to resolve all the remaining aspects of their recommendations.”

The change in status recognized the district’s significant progress in areas including financial stewardship; student financial aid; student and public safety on campus; streamlining and codifying internal controls and processes for more transparent management; and upgrading the district’s infrastructure to support these improvements.

“As someone who has been fully engaged in the ACCJC accrediting process, I’ve seen first-hand Peralta’s commitment to continuous quality improvement,” said PCCD Board of Trustees President Dr. Cindi Napoli-Abella Reiss. “I’m proud of the employees at the Peralta Community College District, who were able make such incredible strides addressing the Commission’s requirements while simultaneously providing outstanding education, job training, and support services to students amidst the economic and social challenges of the pandemic.”

The district had its accreditation put on probation in January 2020. In June 2019, the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT), an agency established and funded by the state to provide advice to districts facing financial problems, released an analysis report of the district’s finances. FCMAT’s June analysis gave Peralta a risk score of 69.9 percent. Anything above 40 percent is considered a high risk of financial instability, according to the analysis.

The analysis resulted in California Community College Chancellor Eloy Oakley assigning a fiscal monitor to watch the district and report back to the system’s Board of Governors.

The FCMAT analysis detailed various concerns and trends at the district. These included assertions that:
• Budgets aren’t monitored or developed properly.
• Facilities are not adequately maintained.
• The district has six vice chancellors, compared to an average of two or three in similar-sized community college districts. The FCMAT analysis called Peralta’s current structure “inefficient.”
• Enrollment has declined at each of the district’s four colleges since the 2014-15 academic year, with the sharpest drops occurring at Laney College and Berkeley City College. In total, the district’s full-time student enrollment fell from about 20,260 students in 2014-15 to about 17,600 students in 2018-19. The FCMAT analysis cited a lack of an enrollment management plan and poor marketing as among the reasons for the declining enrollment.

The struggles continued. After ACCJC put their accreditation on probation, the state of California threatened to take over the everyday operations of the district’s board. This has happened only twice in history, at City College of San Francisco in 2013 and Compton College in 2004.

To make matters worse, three district chancellors resigned in between 2019 and 2021 after conflicts with board leadership. Regina Stanback Stroud, a veteran of the community college system who resigned as chancellor of the district in July 2020, said Peralta is “a very difficult place to be,” in an interview with EdSource. After Stroud departed the district last summer, the president of Oakland’s NAACP chapter called the board’s actions toward those chancellors “demoralizing” to Peralta’s Black administrators, faculty and students. Stroud and her two predecessors are Black.

The Alameda County Civil Grand Jury criticized PCCD in its 2021 report. Soon after, the ACCJC decided to extend PCCD’s probation status on June 28, 2021.

ACCJC representatives Stephanie Droker and Sonya Christian stated in the report, “the purpose of this review was to determine whether the college continues to meet ACCJC’s eligibility requirements, commission policies, and accreditation standards.”

While describing progress made by the individual Peralta colleges as “exemplary,” the ACCJC provided a list of “compliance requirements” in its letters that must be met at a district level.

These requirements included:
• Appropriate internal control mechanisms
• Regular evaluation of financial management practices
• Effective oversight of financial aid programs
• Assurance of academic quality, integrity, and effectiveness
• Financial stability of the institution
• Adherence to policy for evaluation of the district’s CEO (Chancellor)
• Functioning as an independent, policy-making body
• Delegating authority to the Chancellor without board interference
• Clear delineation of responsibilities of the district from those of the colleges

“The progress ACCJC sought was met and they restored PCCD’s accreditation. This progress was the result of the work of the entire Peralta community, from the leadership of the Board of Trustees to the resilience of the administration, faculty, and staff coming together to make the changes needed to continue serving the students in our community,” said PCCD officials in a press release.

PCCD serves more than 30,000 students at its four institutions, College of Alameda, Berkeley City College, Laney College and Merritt College, both in Oakland. Each college was able to graduate students during the probationary period.