California Psychology Schools That Were Approved But Not Accredited Between 1991 and 2016

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
February 15, 2007

Accreditation constitutes public recognition that an educational program meets the administrative, organizational, and financial criteria of a recognized agency. In the United States, educational standards for schools are set by a network of agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) or the Council on Recognition of Postsecondary Accreditation (CORPA). USOE or CORPA do not accredit individual schools, but they approve the national and regional agencies that do so. Almost all such agencies are voluntary and nongovernmental.

In most states, and for most health-related professions, nonaccredited schools do not provide a basis for licensure. However, an exception exists in California. Section 2914(b) of the California Business and Professions Code states that a doctorate degree in psychology from a regionally accredited university is required to get a psychology license. Section 2914 (g) adds that an applicant holding a doctorate degree in psychology from a nonaccredited school that is approved by the California Bureau of Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education (BPPVE) is deemed to meet the educational requirements for California licensure if all the following are true: (a) the school was approved before July 1, 1999; (b) the school has not changed location since July 1, 1999; and; (c) the school is not a franchise institution. California Assembly Bill 400, sponsored by the California Psychological Association and supported by the Board of Psychology, took effect January 1, 2001 and 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 regionally 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 Postsecondary 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 who have taken the written and oral psychology licensing examinations in the preceding four years;
    • The number of graduates 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:

    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.

This law also 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. Failure to provide the required notice should be reported directly to the BPPVE.

The table below lists the 12 nonaccredited schools in California that were BPPVE-approved and therefore meet the requirements for eligibility to take the examination for licensure in California. Pursuant to AB 400, the number of approved schools cannot increase; it can only decrease.

School and Location
Initial School
Approval Date
Doctor in
PhD in
California Graduate Institute (Los Angeles)
California Institute for Human Science (Encinetas)
Center for Psychological Studies (Berkeley)
Graduate Center for Child Development and Psychotherapy (Los Angeles)
Institute of Imaginal Studies (Petaluma). This school, which now does business as Meridian University, was accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in 2017.
Newport University (Newport Beach)
Professional School of Psychology (Sacramento)
Ryokan College (Los Angeles)
San Diego University for Integrative Studies (San Diego)
Southern California Psychoanalytic Institute (Beverly Hills)
Southern California University for Professional Studies (Santa Ana)
Trinity College of Graduate Studies (Anaheim)

The approval status of any such school should always be confirmed by checking the BPPVE Web site. The site also includes tables that show how graduates of these schools did on the licensing examination. It should also be kept in mind that degrees from these schools are unlikely to provide a basis for licensure in any state other than California.

This article was revised on February 15, 2007.
The note about the Institute of Imaginal Studies was added on July 19, 2017.