Welcome to the Board of Psychology

Unaccredited California Approved Schools: A History and Current Status Report

Section 2914(b) of the California Business and Professions Code says someone must have a doctorate degree in psychology from a accredited university before they can get a psychology license. Section 2914 (g) adds that an applicant holding a doctorate degree in psychology from an unaccredited school that is approved by the California Bureau of Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education (BPPVE) is deemed to meet the educational requirements for licensure if all the following are true: (1) the school was approved by the BPPVE prior to July 1, 1999; (2) the school has not since July 1, 1999, had a new location and; (3) the school is not a franchise institution.

Some of the history of how the California approved school process came about is a bit cloudy. In the 60s, the California State Psychological Association advocated for the approval system for professional schools of psychology to facilitate the upstart California School of Professional Psychology. In researching the Business and Professions Code, we find that as far back as January 1967, Section 2902 contained the current definition of "approved" and section 2914 contained the current reference to "accredited or approved college or university." among the degree requirements for licensing

In an article titled "Understanding the Levels of Approval and Accreditation of Doctoral Programs in Clinical, Counseling, Educational and School Psychology," authored by psychologist Doris Penman for the January 2000 BOP Update No. 7, Dr. Penman states,

"California permits degree-granting institutions that are not accredited to operate within the state through a two-tiered system of higher education. The system was developed after WW II to expand vocational education opportunities for returning veterans. In the intervening years, additional regulations were formulated that included four-year colleges and universities as well as graduate schools that offered doctoral degrees." Subsequently, "the Legislature passed the Educational Reform Act of 1989 which introduced a reformed system of review and regulation of these schools. The task of reviewing and approving educational institutions not accredited was given to a newly established Council for Private Post secondary and Vocational Education (CPPVE). This Council operated under the aegis of the California Post secondary Education Commission (CPEC) and approved existing unaccredited schools only if they met minimum reformed standards set by the Commission. The intent of these actions was to improve the integrity of the certificates and degrees granted, and to protect students from misrepresentation and unfair practices by proprietary institutions."

"In January 1998 when the CPPVE's term expired under a sunset clause, the school review function was removed from the Education Commission by Governor Wilson and placed under the Department of Consumer Affairs within a newly created Bureau for Private Post secondary and Vocational Education."

Schools not accredited may operate legally within the state and grant higher degrees only if they receive state approval. Accredited educational institutions are exempt from this state requirement and are permitted to grant degrees without state review and approval. Institutions from other states operating within California are also subject to state approval and may be granted the authority to operate in California only if already accredited by their own regional accrediting association."

On September 26, 2000, Governor Davis signed Assembly Bill 400, which was authored by Assemblyman Ted Lempert. The California Psychological Association sponsored this bill and the Board of Psychology supported it. This bill became effective Jan. 1, 2001, and it accomplished the following:

  1. Requires applicants for licensure to possess a doctorate degree in psychology, educational psychology, or in education with the field of specialization in counseling psychology or educational psychology. No longer is the board required to determine "equivalency" or "comparability" of degrees that are not in psychology.
  2. Requires applicants for licensure to possess the appropriate degree that has been obtained from a accredited university. No longer will the board be required to accept psychology degrees from unaccredited universities except for those psychology degrees that were obtained from a school that was "approved" by the California Bureau for Private Post secondary and Vocational Education on or before July 1, 1999. Additionally this bill requires that such "approved" schools have not, since July 1, 1999, had a new location and that such schools are not a franchise institution as defined in section 94729.3 of the Education Code.
  3. Requires all "approved" schools meeting the above criteria to provide to each prospective student an "Unaccredited Graduate Psychology School Disclosure Form" that discloses the following:
  • The number of graduates of the school who have taken the written and oral psychology licensing examinations in the preceding four years;
  • The number of graduates of the school who have passed the written and oral psychology licensing examinations in the preceding four years;
  • The number of graduates who have become licensed California psychologists in the preceding four years;
  • A disclosure statement in 14-point boldface type that reads as follows:

    "Prospective students should be aware that as a graduate of an unaccredited school of psychology you may face restrictions that could include difficulty in obtaining a teaching job or appointment at an accredited college or university. It may also be difficult to work as a psychologist for some federal government or other public agencies, or to be appointed to the medical staff of a hospital. Some major managed care organizations, insurance companies, or preferred provider organizations may not reimburse individuals whose degrees are from unaccredited schools. Graduates of unaccredited schools may also face limitations in their abilities to be listed in the National Register of Health Service Providers or to hold memberships in other major organizations of psychologists."

Finally, this statute states that if a school fails to comply with any of the above requirements, the BPPVE may revoke the school's approval to operate or to offer the psychology degree that leads to psychology licensure, or it may impose an administrative or a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 per violation. If a student finds that this notice was not provided to him/her by the unaccredited school as required by law, the student should report this failure directly to the BPPVE.

Currently there are 12 unaccredited schools in California that are approved by the BPPVE. It is important to note that pursuant to AB 400, the number of approved schools cannot increase. The number can only decrease. Following is the list, current as of this printing, of unaccredited California approved schools.

School City Franchise institution Changed location since 7/1/99 Initial School Approval Date Doctor in Psychology PHD in Psychology
California Graduate Institute Los Angeles No No 9/1/76 1/1/91 1/1/91
California Institute for Human Science Encinitas (San Diego) No No 7/1/92   12/2/93
Center for Psychological Studies Berkeley No No 1/1/80   1/1/80
Graduate Ctr for Child Dev & Psychotherapy Los Angeles No No 1/1/80 1/1/96 3/12/87
Institute of Imaginal Studies Petaluma (Sonoma) No No 10/29/93   10/29/93
Newport University Newport Beach No No 1/1/80 1/1/91  
Professional School of Psychology Sacramento No No 1/1/88 1/1/95  
Ryokan College Los Angeles No No 1/1/80 7/23/86  
San Diego University for Integrative Studies San Diego No No 4/1/99 4/1/99 4/1/99
So. California Psychoanalytic Institute Beverly Hills No No 1/1/80 1/1/80 1/1/80
So CA Univ for Professional Studies Santa Ana No No 5/1/82 1/1/91 1/1/91
Trinity College of Graduate Studies Anaheim No No 8/1/81 6/13/00  

The approval status of any such unaccredited school should always be confirmed by contacting the BPPE at www.bppe.ca.gov.