Lead Story Lynwood Press West Edition

Accreditation panel restores Compton College’s identity

COMPTON — After a 12-year hiatus, school is back in session at Compton College.

The college has gained initial accreditation status after it was revoked in 2005 due to discoveries of financial mismanagement and corruption within the schools’ administration. The following year, it became a satellite campus of El Camino College in Torrance.

“The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges’ decision to restore Compton College’s accreditation speaks to the college’s progress and efforts to rebuild,” Mayor Aja Brown said in a statement. “Their decision validates years of hard work by dedicated faculty, staff, administrators, students and the community it serves to restore Compton College to be a fully independent college again.

“Compton College is near and dear to my heart not just because I am the mayor of Compton, but because it is where my own mother earned her nursing credential. Throughout this entire process, Compton College has continued to provide much-needed workforce training to our students as well as prepare them for higher education and enrich our community.”

The accreditation process consists of four steps: determining eligibility, establishing candidacy, then initial accreditation and re-affirmation of accreditation.

In February, the college was given the authority to govern itself through an elected board of trustees. It earned back this privilege after meeting a list of requirements upon gaining eligibility status from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges in March 2015.

The process would then require candidacy approval to follow eligibility, but after a four-day visit in March, an evaluation team decided to skip to initial accreditation. The team commended the high level of student engagement in the participatory governance process and student initiatives.

“We look forward to continuing to provide comprehensive educational programs and support services to our diverse communities,” Compton College President Keith Curry said in a statement. “Thank you to all of our community leaders — at the federal, state and local levels — for your steadfast support.”

The college’s troubled situation began to come to light in 2004, when the state took over the school in an effort to restore it to financial solvency.

In October 2005, while the college was undergoing the process for losing accreditation, a former trustee pleaded guilty to laundering money through a false organization that enrolled people in sham college courses. He kept the funds for himself and family members.

An audit released in 2007 revealed more instances of corruption: more than $571,000 of computer equipment was purchased but never inventoried, teachers and administrators enrolled nonexistent students or lied about their numbers to get more money from the state.

Payroll discrepancies also were uncovered, such as a former employee who still got paid after missing three consecutive months of work and another who gave herself a 25 percent raise without getting approval from her bosses.

The college serves an area of about 29 square miles, encompassing the cities of Compton, Lynwood, Paramount, Willowbrook, as well as portions of Athens, Bellflower, Carson, Downey, Dominguez, Lakewood, Long Beach and South Gate.

Curry and the El Camino College president are developing a transition plan to make Compton College an independent school again. The college must also submit a special report to the accrediting commission within a year.