Van De Kamp, 061284 CAAGO, AGO 83-801

Docket Nº:AGO 83-801
Case Date:June 12, 1984
Court:California
 
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JOHN K. VAN DE KAMP Attorney General
RONALD M. WEISKOPF Deputy Attorney General
AGO 83-801
No. 83-801
California Attorney General Opinion
Office of the Attorney General State of California
June 12, 1984
         THE HONORABLE WILLIE BROWN, SPEAKER OF THE ASSEMBLY, has requested our opinion on the following question.          Does an 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 Education Code?          CONCLUSION          Accreditation 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.          ANALYSIS          Section 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) ("degree"), (l) ("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.[1]We conclude that it does not.          Section 94310, subdivision (a), as amended in 1981 to be effective July 1, 1983, currently provides as follows:
         "No 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 section.          "(a) 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.)
         Needless 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.)          Various 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 Following 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...

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