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Los Angeles Southwest College is put on probation

School officials plan to appeal the accrediting agency's move, which they say left them 'completely perplexed.'

August 03, 2008|Jeff Gottlieb | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Southwest College has been placed on probation by the regional accrediting agency, an action local college officials call unwarranted.

Mark Drummond, chancellor of the nine-college Los Angeles Community College District, said Friday that the move by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges "was an overreaction. We think this is a strong institution."

Jack Daniels, president of Southwest, and Gary Colombo, the district vice chancellor of institutional effectiveness, are scheduled to fly to Novato in Northern California on Aug. 18 to plead their case with the head of the commission.

"It's completely unprecedented to put a college on probation where there was no previous indication the college was in trouble," Colombo said. "We're still completely perplexed why the college was singled out."

Commission officials declined to discuss the findings.

Daniels was appointed president of the two-year school in May. He had served as interim president since August 2006.

Drummond said Daniels was not to blame. "He's done a very good job as far as moving ahead on lot of different fronts," he said.

Daniels was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

The accrediting commission placed Southwest on probation at its June 4-6 meeting. Students are not directly affected when a college is placed on probation.

Colombo said probation was primarily given to colleges that failed to respond to accreditors' recommendations from previous visits.

"Clearly, that is not the case with Southwest," he said.

The two-year college has been on probation before, in the late 1990s, Drummond said, "but we've put a lot of time, money and effort into strengthening it."

Southwest opened in 1967, at Imperial Highway and Western Avenue, just east of Inglewood. It began with 600 students and now has about 7,000.

Among the criticisms by the accreditation commission was that Southwest had not responded to the increase of Latinos in the district, Colombo said.

"We felt the college was making serious progress, but it's being faulted," he said.

According to the college, about a third of its students are Latino and about two-thirds are African American.

If a college on probation does not resolve the problems, the commission can begin the process of taking away its accreditation.

When a college loses its accreditation, its degrees are not recognized by other institutions in the state and it cannot award financial aid, Colombo said.

Colombo said no other colleges in the Los Angeles Community College District are on probation.

The last two-year college in Southern California to have its accreditation pulled was Compton Community College, which was taken over by the state in 2004 and has become a satellite of El Camino College in Torrance.

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jeff.gottlieb@latimes.com

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