Attending A Regionally Accredited School
The Decision: Should I Attend PSP or a Regionally Accredited Graduate Program?
The issue of accreditation is important to understand. When talking with prospective students about The Professional School of Psychology (PSP), we always bring up the issue, even if the prospective student does not.
First, it should be noted that The Professional School of Psychology is about to seek regional accreditation after many years of operating with approval of the State of California, but not approval of the regional accrediting association operating in California (the Western Association of Schools and Colleges: WASC). This decision has been made in part because of the success in recent years of PSP and because of the rapid growth of PSP programs operating outside the State of California (and outside the United States in most cases). The decision has also been driven by a decision made by the California State legislation to require that all degree granting institutions obtain accreditation by 2020. PSP has several different options with regard to the accreditation it will pursue, but the leaders of PSP have decided to seek WASC recognition.
In helping a prospective student make sense of the complex issue regarding accreditation, we offer the following background information and then conclude this statement with the official representation that the State of California has required our school (and other nonaccredited schools, colleges and universities) to offer any person wishing to enroll in our institution.
What is the Difference Between ‘Accredited’ and ‘Approved’?
It is important to distinguish these terms. PSP has been approved by the State of California for more than thirty years to offer graduate degree programs in clinical and organizational psychology. PSP is formally approved to continue operating under its current approval until 2017–though the new State of California legislation indicates that PSP must also be seeking approval from an accrediting association recognized by US Department of Education.
As we have noted, in addition to approval, some institutions of higher learning are accredited. The organization that handles accreditation in California, Hawaii and Guam is the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). PSP is not accredited by WASC. While PSP did seek accreditation during its early years (1979-1994), our decision since this time not to seek regional accreditation has been based on our firm and enduring commitment (as identified in our Mission Statement) to accessibility and affordability as well as quality.
Why has PSP not sought accreditation in recent years?
Regional accreditation agencies were established in the United States in part to separate out fly-by-night and mail order “diploma-mill” schools from schools with serious intent and well-trained faculty. The key was to provide a standard so that if one attended a school and transferred to another school, the receiving institution could trust that the transferred individual had received the standard education. PSP agrees with these definitions and has always had the highest level of academic and educational standards, and quality that matches or exceeds any graduate school of psychology in the United States of America.
The problem is that over the past two decades we have not fit into the mold defined by the regional accrediting agency. We have focused on delivering accessible, affordable and high quality education for mature and accomplished learners. We do not believe that an expensive and staff-intensive administrative structure is needed when serving mature and accomplished students. In most cases, students who attend regional accredited graduate schools must pay up to $60,000 per year (often more than $200,000 for the total program) and often must attend school full-time (thus losing their own income for at least two or three years). After years of ongoing and careful analysis, it remained our position for many years that the operating expenses required of accredited private educational institutions must inevitably be passed through tuitions to the students while not necessarily providing any increase in the quality of the education being provided nor received—at least with regard to mature and accomplished students. We have believed for many years that we can provide a high quality education without sending our students into lifelong debt.
What is APA approval?
In addition to approval and accreditation, some graduate schools are recognized by the American Psychological Association. The APA approves some but not all accredited schools, and only approves doctoral-level, clinical programs operated by American institutions. PSP has never sought and does not intend to seek APA approval for its doctoral clinical program. As in the case of regional accreditation, the reason residing behind this decision concerns the substantial increase in costs associated with APA approval (and resulting in increased tuition rates).
What is Changing with Regard to PSP and Accreditation?
PSP is now facing a new challenge, but also a new opportunity. First, the challenge. During the legislative session of 2014, a new Senate Bill (SB1247) was passed in California that requires all private postsecondary educational institutions to become approved by an accrediting agency that is recognized by the United States Department of Education. The Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education will no longer approve institutions and will itself likely go out of busines after 2017.If PSP were to take no further action, then it would not be able to enroll new students following the termination of its current state approval in 2017.
What does this mean for a prospective student? It means that PSP is in transition. It is a transition, however, towards a highly level of accreditation.
How Does a Prospective Student Sort Through All of This?
As a prospective student you are urged to compare and contrast graduate programs in psychology. If one hopes to have a career of service with the Federal government as a psychologist, or to teach or do research at a major university, then one would do well to attend an APA-approved school in the United States. Most such graduate schools, however, cost three times as much as a degree program at PSP. If you intend to establish a clinical practice outside California (in another state or another country), then you may want to pursue your education at a graduate school in the United States that is currently accredited.
We have achieved reciprocity for our graduates in several American states—leaders in these state realizing that a graduate school might have good reasons for not participating in regional accreditation but nonetheless has a high quality educational product. We also have many students and graduates living in other countries who do not need a license to practice in their country or in their specialized field of professional psychology. They may already have a license to practice (typically at the Masters Degree level).
At the heart of the matter is PSP’s commitment to providing high-quality graduate education in psychology for the mature and accomplished learner. Our students tend to be older – our average student age is 45. They often find that it is not practical to assume a huge debt on top of other commitments (home, family, college for children, retirement). Many of our students do not live in the United States. They find that the financial exchange rate (between their country and the USA) makes the typical tuition charged by American graduate schools and universities prohibitive.
There are several other reasons why our students are attracted to PSP. They are served by the exceptional faculty we attract and the cutting-edge programs we offer. Perhaps most importantly, they know that their acquired wisdom and experience is honored at PSP through the school’s highly interactive educational format.
PSP has always had a social conscience. It was founded during the late 1970s to prepare professional psychologist who will serve the underserved. Our graduate programs are accessible and of highest quality. We desire that our students—whether they be clinical or organizational—graduate from PSP debt-free with the best possible education in graduate psychology. As we once again seek regional accreditation, our long-enduring commitments remain in place. We hope that these commitments will be honored by those thoughtful men and women, on behalf of WASC, who will be reviewing our institution’s unique vision and sustained high-level educational performance.
Official Statement Required by State of California
This institution is provisionally approved by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education to offer degree programs. To continue to offer this degree program, this institution must meet the following requirements:
⦁ Become institutionally accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education, with the scope of the accreditation covering at least one degree program.
⦁ Achieve accreditation candidacy or pre-accreditation, as defined in regulations, by 2017, and full accreditation by 2020.
If this institution stops pursuing accreditation, it must:
Stop all enrollment in its degree programs, and
Provide a teach-out to finish the educational program or provide a refund.
An institution that fails to comply with accreditation requirements by the required dates shall have its approval to offer degree programs automatically suspended.