By Dan Levine
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A college regulator violated the law by failing to give California's largest community college a fair hearing before deciding to terminate its accreditation, according to a tentative court ruling on Friday.
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges had planned to withdraw accreditation from City College of San Francisco, citing a lack of financial accountability and other longstanding problems, none directly related to educational quality.
Lost accreditation would trigger funding cuts that would shutter the school, San Francisco's only community college, with more than 50 academic programs and over 100 occupational disciplines, from nursing to culinary arts and aircraft mechanics.
The city of San Francisco sued, and a judge put the accreditation decision on hold pending a trial that took place last year.
In a tentative ruling on Friday, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow ordered the commission to give the college a chance to respond to all of the deficiencies the commission cited in its decision to terminate accreditation.
Representatives for the commission could not immediately be reached for comment.
In 2012, commission members and administrators at the college came down on opposite sides of an ongoing political issue about the role of community colleges, and the city's lawsuit alleged the commission acted to withdraw accreditation "in retaliation for City College having embraced and advocated a different vision."
The U.S. Department of Education authorizes the commission to evaluate 112 community colleges with more than 2 million California students every six years.
The case in Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco is People of the State of California ex rel. Dennis Herrera, San Francisco City Attorney vs. Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges and Does 1-50, 13-533693.
(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Leslie Adler)