California seriously considering doing away with all state-approved schools

Discussion in 'Accreditation Discussions (RA, DETC, state approva' started by John Bear, May 2, 2014.

  1. John Bear

    John Bear Senior Member

    Last week, the Legislature held its Joint Oversight Sunset Hearing on the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE). There was no interest in letting the Bureau sunset into oblivion. But, unexpectedly (well, I didn’t expect it), there was serious interest in requiring all state-approved schools either to gain recognized accreditation or stop awarding degrees—the so-called “up or out” law.

    Das William, chair of the Assembly’s Higher Education Committee, supported the idea, and so did the chair of BPPE, Joanne Wenzel.

    Wenzel pointed out there are about 150 unaccredited degree-granting schools that would be affected by such a law, saying that some of them offer inferior degrees, and tend to focus on foreign and immigrant students. She said that the new law would ensure quality and save the state money by unburdening BPPE of having to deal with state approval. Wenzel was asked how many of her staff were dealing with unaccredited degree-granting schools. She said she did not know.
  2. RAM PhD

    RAM PhD Member

    I hope the legislation is passed and enacted.
  3. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I don't. California has the best and most interesting history of alternative higher education ever. Even though things aren't as wild and fun as they were in the '70s and '80s, it is still the location for innovation in higher education. Ironic, because it's RA (WASC) is quite the opposite.

    The bill will kill some very interesting schools--schools that serve a great many people. And it will cause other, innovative institutions to become much more traditional. Finally, it hands power to the accreditors that they simply do not deserve.
  4. LearningAddict

    LearningAddict Well-Known Member

    I don't like the sound of this one, and I feel worried about a possible domino effect. I've learned quite a bit from non-traditional institutions over the years, and I feel like they serve too important a purpose to have the hammer dropped on them across the board.
  5. Petedude

    Petedude New Member

    I think "alternative" programs can be quite nicely served with NA accreditation. It's not as expensive as RA, but provides a minimal baseline for quality assurance that the state would likely want.

    In this day and age, I'm not sure I want my tax dollars going to the state to "approve" higher education institutions-- that can be handed back to academia (i.e., the accreditors). In general, this state needs less bureaucracy and more focused results.

    If you're serious about your education and can do a little shopping, you should be able to find what you want with an NA school.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2014
  6. Lerner

    Lerner Well-Known Member

    The schools can always relocate to a cheaper grounds.
    California is not business friendly , Toyota is getting out of California, they are moving to Business friendly state of TX.

    And yes there is always an option to move to TC Islands. They can get approval by MOE there and possibly do better and have better recognition then CA state approval. Apply for Professional accreditation of their programs etc.
  7. RAM PhD

    RAM PhD Member

    Without recognized accreditation, imo, no academic institution should be allowed to continue awarding degrees. Of course, all institutions must go through the process of obtaining recognized accreditation, a process that takes a certain period of time. If an institution does not obtain said accreditation within a reasonable time frame, its ability to award degrees should be terminated. That said, this need not diminish innovative and creative programs of study. A school could easily transition from awarding degrees to awarding certificates, diplomas, etc., which, imo, would be more appropriate than awarding degrees.
  8. JWC

    JWC New Member

    I agree with Dr. Douglas on this one. There are some very good unaccredited religious schools in CA that offer important programs for many who simply cannot afford the high cost of the accredited programs. Schools like the California Graduate School of Theology are sorely needed. I have always believed that the Federal government and state governments have no right be involved in religious education in America.
  9. LearningAddict

    LearningAddict Well-Known Member

    A lot of these schools likely wouldn't be accredited by anyone for a variety of reasons that are not necessarily tied to quality.

    I'm not against bad schools and outright diploma mills being told to take a hike, but legislation is often so sweeping that it doesn't separate the wheat from the chaff, it instead just throws out everything.
  10. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    For example, the West Coast has a small number of first-rate Buddhist schools that would not be well served by any existing religious or secular accreditors. The best-known is probably the Institute of Buddhist Studies (est. 1949), which sits with other well-known seminaries on "Holy Hill" in Berkeley, a few blocks from the UC campus. IBS forms part of the Graduate Theological Union, along with the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, the American Baptist Seminary of the West, etc. IBS is unaccredited, but no one questions its legitimacy.

    The Office of Degree Authorization in Oregon is commonly regarded as the toughest "watchdog" agency in the US when it comes to bogus degrees. Yet ODA explicitly approves the operation of Maitripa College, an unaccredited Tibetan Buddhist school in Portland. So even the State of Oregon -- with the toughest degree laws and enforcement in the country -- acknowledges that an unaccredited school can be legit.

    It's true that there a number of US Dept. of Education-recognized accreditors that handle small religious schools. However, it may not be reasonable to expect a school like IBS or Maitripa to pursue accreditation from the Association for Biblical Education, the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, or the Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2014
  11. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    No, it wouldn't. I suppose someone might just say they should apply to DETC or ACICS depending on their mode of instruction, but it seems a bit unfair that such schools have fewer options, especially to fix something that isn't broken.
  12. John Bear

    John Bear Senior Member

    CalDog makes a good point, re Buddhist schools. Another 'situation' here is the National Test Pilot school, a state-approved school that is one of very few schools that has professional accreditation (ABET) but neither NA nor RA. They are one of two such schools in the country, the other being the US Air Force Test Pilot School, the most expensive school in the world. (Tuition for their 51-week Master's degree program: $915,000 + room and board.)
  13. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Are they really looking at unaccredited religious schools, too? I thought California was one of the 20 or so states that had a "religious exemption" law, allowing religious schools - of any faith - to offer religion-based degrees without any approval or accreditation necessary. As of right now, such schools don't need BPPE approval, do they?

    I don't think these schools are the target. As long as there were no shenanigans, e.g. an unaccredited "MBA in Church Management," wouldn't the State-allowed religious exemption law still apply?

    As for the Test Pilot school - I'm sure that whatever the State does, they'll find a way to keep it. Concerning the rest of the secular schools - or at least 98% of them, I think the BPPE has a valid case. It used to be that there were some that offered reasonably good instruction at a bargain rate. Those bargain days are pretty well gone now. There are legit. accredited schools, e.g. UoTP and ILM offering degrees at tuition the unaccredited schools can't match.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2014
  14. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    BTW - I'm not against the idea of unaccredited schools. It's just that in these times, with new opportunities, I feel there are fewer and fewer reasons to choose one. Your mileage may vary, of course -- and if some out there feel they have good reasons to make such a choice, then don't let me stop you - not that you would, anyway. :smile:

    BTW - one of the possible reasons that "bargain" unaccredited schools offering reasonably good instruction are almost gone? Quite a few achieved accreditation. :smile: e.g. Cal. Miramar and SCUPS - now Cal. Southern.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2014
  15. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    Typically, schools that claim a religious exemption can only issue degrees that are used for religious purposes, like M.Div. degrees for clergy. IBS and Maitripa do have such programs, and they probably could continue to offer them under a religious exemption.

    The problem is that IBS and Maitripa aren't exclusively divinity schools (just as Notre Dame, Liberty, BYU, or Yeshiva aren't exclusively divinity schools). IBS and Maitripa also teach secular subjects, like philosophy, Asian languages, and psychology, under the general heading of "Buddhist Studies". You don't have to be Buddhist to enroll in a "Buddhist Studies" program (just as you don't have to be Canadian to enroll in Berkeley's "Canadian Studies" program). IBS and Maitripa routinely enroll interested people from other faiths (again, just like Notre Dame, Liberty, BYU, or Yeshiva). In fact, IBS is a member of the well-known "Graduate Theological Union" consortium in Berkeley, which promotes interfaith education between seminaries.

    IBS currently has a certificate program in "Buddhism and Contemporary Psychology", and they have applied offer professional continuing education to MFTs and LCSWs. If they were forced to operate under a religious exemption, they could presumably continue to train Buddhist clergy, but they probably would not be allowed to offer secular "Buddhist Studies" courses or professional education for credit.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2014
  16. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Thanks, Caldog. I can see how this proposed "up or out" law could cause problems for IBS, Maitripa and any similar schools that teach both religious subjects and related secular ones. I hope the State, in its wisdom, can find some way around it, specifically for those schools. I take it the schools that grant religious degrees exclusively would still be covered by their present exemption.

    There has to be some way the State can zero in on its real target, and avoid a "broadside" approach. Then again, if its only objective is to save the money that State approval, monitoring and oversight costs... then it's no dilemma for the State, but yes, a problem for a few good schools that don't deserve problems.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2014
  17. edwong3

    edwong3 New Member

    I question the legality of California being able to unilaterally kick out any school that doesn't have recognized accreditation. After all, that would come into direct violation of the principals set forth by the US Department of Education that accreditation is a VOLUNTARY process here in the United States. The authority to license and allow colleges and universities to grant degrees rests with the state, not conditioned on the institution being "accredited".

    When a state department of education grants a license to a degree granting institution, it should have done an evaluation to assure that the school has met at least a set minimum of standards to operate in that jurisdiction. Accreditation should be optional in order for that school to be able to accept Federally funded student financial aid. That was the whole point of accreditation in the first place; not as a pre-condition to allow the institution to operate and grant degrees.

    People and society in general now believe accreditation is the end all and have basically hijacked the concept, and made it into something that it was not meant to be.

    Now this might be going into a tangent, but when we look at the whole picture, this higher educational system that we've built, is nothing but a farce and a huge scam. We're (USA) are not even in the top 10 when it comes to educational quality, and that's against other educational systems that rely on governmental approval for their institutions, not in private "accreditation agencies".

    And don't get me started on the horrendous student loan debt, and other challenges that college graduates are facing when they realize that a degree is not a guarantee to a better career, and the "American Dream".

    See, I told you I would go on a tangent;-)

    But on a more serious note, its a mess no doubt.

  18. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Well, Wyoming did exactly that a few years ago. "Accredit or leave." Bye-bye, Rutherford, Preston, Kennedy Western / Warren National and a bunch of others... :smile:

    I think it was the right thing to do. Alabama's crackdown had pretty much the same effect. They just didn't renew licences - e.g. Breyer State, which is now in Panama.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 15, 2014
  19. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    It looks to me like a 100% financial decision by California's State Government. They have enough people, causes and responsibilities to look after. They don't want to spend scarce money on a separate organization to check out, approve and, when necessary, intervene in the affairs of a class of schools in a separate league. Accreditors perform these functions - so the State is contemplating bowing out of accreditors' turf. Seems like a viable choice from where I sit.

    It won't affect the granting of religious degrees. As some primarily religious schools are offering additional secular programs, "render unto Caesar" comes readily to mind - though I realize, of course, they're not all Christian schools. Perhaps these schools should look to having their secularly-oriented programs fall under the authority of conventional accreditation. I see no reason why not.

    It seems to me the "separation of Church and State" mantra is fine -- until a primarily religious school starts to grant degrees in areas other than religion. That seems to me to be stretching the fabric of "religious exemption" into areas it shouldn't have to cover and isn't designed for.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 15, 2014
  20. RAM PhD

    RAM PhD Member

    Herein lies a great deal of the problem. You are absolutely correct that when a state grants a license to a degree granting institution it should have done an evaluation. Not only that, said state should do periodic evaluations to ensure that those minimum academic standards are maintained. A few states do a very good job in this area, but many do not. The latter states have typically become havens for the mills. Then, there is that unique American concept called religious exemption. About half of the states do not offer a religious exemption for religious schools, but of those that do, a few require meeting and maintaining minimum academic standards. Unfortunately, a few states have little to no academic standards, and here the religious degree mills flourish almost uninhibited. Doctorates are award for little more than a name and credit card number. :(

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