What about accreditation?

  • Regional Accreditation: only to be found in USA )government approval in other countries), recognized in most countries, advisable for young and experienced prospective students (inherent credibility)
  • California State Approval: PSP (high quality of education despite flexibility and low cost), advisable for mature and accomplished prospective students who already have credibility and professional network
  • American Psychological Association Approval: only applies to US based clinical psychology doctoral programs (advisable for young prospective students from United States who are likely to apply for jobs with government agencies and/or large hospital systems)

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 seeking 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 WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). 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 WSCUC recognition.

In helping a prospective student make sense of the complex issue regarding accreditation, we offer the following background information. Earlier in this catalog, we offered the official representation that the State of California has required our school (and other non-accredited 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-five years to offer graduate degree programs in clinical and organizational psychology. PSP is formally approved to continue operating under its current approval–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 WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). PSP is not yet accredited by WSCUC.

Why didn’t PSP seek accreditation in past 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 other graduate schools of psychology in the United States of America.

The problem is that over the past three decades we did not fit into the mold defined by the regional accrediting agency. We focused on delivering accessible, affordable and high quality education for mature and accomplished learners. We did not believe that an expensive and staff-intensive administrative structure was 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). 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 or received—at least with regard to mature and accomplished students. We believed for many years that we could provide a high-quality education without sending our students into lifelong debt.

As noted above, we made a very difficult decision to now seek accreditation. This decision was based on an assessment of the school’s current success (in term of reputation, finances, and board leadership) and the enrollment of students from states other than California and from other countries (where USA regional accreditation is highly recommended or even required for the student’s graduate degree to be recognized in their country). The California State legislature’s decision requiring that all degree granting institutions obtain accreditation by 2020 proved to be the third (and perhaps most important) deciding factor.

What is APA approval?

In addition to approval and accreditation, some graduate schools of psychology 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 has always concerned the substantial increase in costs associated with APA approval (resulting in increased tuition rates).

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 a government agency (in any state or country) 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 or a public research-oriented university in their home country. Unless they are government supported (as public universities), most degree programs in graduate schools of psychology cost three times as much as a degree program at PSP.

We have achieved reciprocity for our graduates in several American states and several countries. Leaders in these states and countries realize that a graduate school without regional accreditation might 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 professional psychology. As we seek regional accreditation, our long-enduring commitments remain in place.