Accrediting agency president placed on leave amid community college controversy
- Barbara Beno, president of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges has been placed on leave, just six months before her announced retirement date from the organization.
- Beno has been a controversial leader for the accrediting agency, receiving scrutiny for her aggressive appeals to revoke the accreditation of the financially struggling Community College of San Francisco, while the agency itself faces the possibility of having its accrediting authority revoked by the federal Department of Education.
- The commission, which last year was voted out by the state's community college Board of Governors and has been rebuked by federal lawmakers with ties to the city, was recently revealed to have overspent its budget by more than $600,000 in 2014.
This story shows that accrediting bodies are vulnerable to the same challenges faced by the institutions they standardize: political scrutiny, budgeting issues in the face of struggling economics and infighting. While it is unusual to see an executive removal for an accrediting body, it points to the delicate nature of higher education administration, and the struggle to balance standards with sinking financial support.
Beno may be removed, but many of the agency's issues will linger after her departure. For campus leaders facing turmoil among their accrediting agencies, the best move is to seek alternative accreditation or to begin the appeal process with the ED now, before students and finances are irreversibly impacted.
- San Francisco Chronicle Controversial head of CCSF accrediting group on leave