JOHN K. VAN DE KAMP Attorney General
RONALD M. WEISKOPF Deputy Attorney General
California Attorney General Opinion
Office of the Attorney General State of California
June 12, 1984
HONORABLE WILLIE BROWN, SPEAKER OF THE ASSEMBLY, has
requested our opinion on the following question.
accreditation conferred upon an out-of-state institution by a
"regional accrediting association" recognized by
the United States Department of Education other than the
Western Association of Schools and Colleges satisfy the
requirements of subdivision (a) of section 94310 of the
of an out-of-state institution by a "regional
accrediting association" recognized by the United States
Department of Education other than the Western Association of
School and Colleges does not satisfy the requirements of
subdivision (a) of section 94310 of the Education Code.
94310 of the California Private Postsecondary Education Act
of 1977 (Ed. Code, pt. 59, ch. 3, § 94300, et seq.) sets
forth requirements, in three alternatives, which an
educational institution must meet before it may issue
academic or honorary postsecondary degrees in California.
(§ 94310; cf. § 4302, subds. (f)
("institution").) Our concern herein is with the
first alternative, found in subdivision (a) of section 94310,
which requires that the institution have been
"accredited" by one of certain specified
accrediting agencies, to wit (1) a national accrediting
agency recognized by the United States Department of
Education; (2) the Western Association of Schools and
Colleges ["WASC"] or (3) the Committee of Bar
Examiners for the State of California. We are asked whether
an accreditation of an out-of-state institution by a
"regional" accrediting agency recognized by the
United States Department of Education other than WASC meets
the requirements of the subdivision.
We conclude that it does not.
94310, subdivision (a), as amended in 1981 to be effective
July 1, 1983, currently provides as follows:
institution may issue, confer, or award an academic or
honorary degree unless the institution meets the
requirements of at least one of the subdivisions of this
The institution, which at the time of the issuance
of a degree, has accreditation of the institution,
program, or specific course of study upon which the degree
is based by a national accrediting agency recognized by
the United States Department of Education, the Western
Association of Schools and Colleges, or by the
Committee of Bar Examiners for the State of California. The
institution must file with the superintendent an annual
affidavit by the administrative head of the institution
stating that the institution is so accredited. Institutions
authorized to operate under this subdivision may issue
diplomas and certificates as well as degrees."
(Emphasis added.) (Stats. 1981, ch. 791, at 3073, 3075,
§ 5; Stats. 1981, ch. 1009, at 4293, 4295, § 7.)
to say, the answer to the question turns on the meaning of
the phrase "national accrediting agency recognized by
the United States Department of Education" which is now
the "eye of the needle" through which the
out-of-state institution would pass under section 94310,
subdivision (a). To understand its meaning in the subdivision
one must first understand the federal schema which is
referred to therein, and then the development of the
subdivision to its present form. (Cf. No Oil, Inc.
v. City of Los Angeles (1974) 13 Cal.3d 68, fn. 21;
Friends of Mammoth v. Board of Supervisors
(1972) 8 Cal.3d 247, 260-261; People v.
Sand (1984) 34 Cal.3d 567, 570.)
federal enactments which establish programs to provide funds
to academic institutions and/or their students (e.g., the
Higher Education Act; the Veterans' Readjustment Service
Act) usually require, as a prerequisite to eligibility for
financial assistance thereunder, that that institutions
involved be "accredited" by an agency which has
been "recognized" as an "accrediting
agency" by the Secretary of Education. (20 U.S.C.A.
§§ 3411, 3441; 34 C.F.R. § 603.1; cf. 20
U.S.C.A. §§ 403(b), 1085(b), 1141(a); 42 U.S.C.A.
§§ 293a(b), 295h-4(1)(D), 298b(f); 12 U.S.C.A.
§ 1749c(b); 38 U.S.C.A. § 775(a).)2
statutory mandates, the Secretary periodically publishes a
list in the Federal Register of "recognized accrediting
agencies"—i.e., those which he determines have met the
criteria established by him (34 C.F.R. § 603.6) as being
"reliable authorities as to the quality of training
offered by educational institutions or programs, either in a
geographic area or in a specialized field." (34 C.F.R.
§ 603.3; cf., id., §§ 603.6, 603.1.)
The current list of recognized accrediting agencies
(commissions, associations) was published by the Secretary on
June 14, 1982. (47/114 Fed.Reg. 25563-25566.) It places the...