Brenna Swift, The Union Democrat

An accrediting commission for community colleges has declined to lift Columbia College's accreditation "warning," requiring it to make further progress on a list of recommendations.

The accreditation warning is the first step in a three-step process that could end with the Columbia College losing its regional accreditation, which would cut off federal funding.

Very few schools actually lose their accreditation after being issued a warning, according to the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, the agency responsible for schools in California and Hawaii.

Inside Higher Ed reported in 2010 that the accrediting commission has come under fire for sanctioning California schools at higher rates than other states, or about 37 percent of the two-year schools in California between 2003 and 2008.

Modesto Junior College, Columbia College's sister school, remains on "probation" - which is one step further than a warning in the process of losing accreditation.

Columbia College President Dennis Gervin had been hopeful that the school's warning, first issued in February 2012, would be lifted.

He received notice Thursday that further improvement is required and sent an email to college faculty, noting that most of the progress had already been made.

The accrediting commission's most recent findings focus on bureaucratic structure, with very little said about students. At issue was Columbia College's process for evaluating its own programs, in addition to the adoption of goals for the school.

Gervin said the accrediting commission failed to note that the college had adopted overallgoals by the time its representatives visited the campus on Nov. 7 of last year.

Other commission recommendations dealt with the Yosemite Community College District, of which Columbia College is a part. The district, Modesto Junior College and Columbia College must "align" their mission statements and better define the roles of college presidents.

Columbia College has until October of this year to fulfill the recommendations and issue a follow-up report.

A team from the accrediting commission will visit the campus again, then make a decision on whether to lift the warning.