A request was approved by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) for the Bureau of State Audits on Aug. 21 to investigate the costs and accreditation process associated with California Community Colleges more in-depth. A total of three districts will be selected by the state auditor, as a total of 2,700 hours worth of work is expected to be completed over a seven month period.
Sponsored by California Community College Independents along with Assembly member Tom Ammiano, the need for the audit comes at the request of Senators Jim Nielsen and Jim Beall. According to Senator Nielsen’s website, they argue that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), who oversee community college’s campuses and programs, have manipulated outdated regulations and have overreached their authority, and have not been forthcoming in the decision-making process.
“Any entity that uses taxpayers’ monies must be accountable and transparent in its transactions,” said Nielsen, as mentioned on his website (www.cssrc.us/web).
The audit will determine whether or not the accrediting commission exceeded its authority by distributing numerous sanctions to the state’s community colleges in comparison to other states’ community colleges, whether imposing costs and invoking unnecessary policies without Legislature approval, and using limited student services resources to fund directives for new administrative functions and positions were violations and a blatant disregard of State law.
Senator Jim Beall, who co-requested the audit along with Senator Nielsen, noted that the ACCJC has operated with little oversight or supervision, yet the decisions they make can impact or influence over two million students.
“The public and the Legislature deserve to understand how this commission makes and arrives at decisions that affect the futures of so many Californians,” said Beall. (www.cssrc.us/web)
Additionally, the audit request comes in the wake of the ACCJC’s decision to revoke the accreditation of the City College of San Francisco (CCSF). According to a report done by the US Department of Education, several regulations were violated by the ACCJC, including the addition of ACCJC President Dr. Barbara Beno’s husband to the team that performed its evaluation on CCSF. This was and seen as a conflict of interest and perceived as arrogant behavior.
As the actions of the ACCJD raised some eyebrows, members of the evaluating teams were then instructed to destroy documents pertaining to their reviews of community colleges, an act that was deemed “outdated” and “unacceptable”.
“Instead of serving the needs of college students, the commission is busy manipulating outdated regulations and shredding documents to prevent their disclosure,” added Nielsen.
JLAC audits, otherwise known as “discretionary audits”, evaluate any school, city, county, state agency, or special district. Any member of the legislature may request an audit through two ways, by way of request to the JLAC, or through legislation.
Once the audit request is approved, the auditing process begins as soon as funds become available. While the reports and findings of the audit will eventually be made public once the audit is completed, the California State Auditor is prohibited from discussing or disclosing details of the audit during the auditing process. From there, the California State Auditor will request auditees to submit implementation reports at 60 days, six months, and one year to check on progress being made and to see if improvements as recommended by the auditor have been met.
“The audit itself is not likely to have an effect on students,” said California Community College Vice Chancellor Paul Feist.
Feist also acknowledged that the findings of this audit will eventually be made available to the public, though it is impossible to predict what changes will be made prior to the completion of the audit.
More information can be found at the California State Auditor’s website at http://www.bsa.ca.gov/.