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School Accreditation Practices

Little Hover Commission 2004

Regulation of Acupuncture: A Complementary Therapy Framework

In SB 1951, the Legislature asked the Commission to:
"Evaluate and make recommendations on the approval process of the Accreditation Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the approval process of the Bureau of Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education and the board's approval process."

Finding 5: The process used by the Accreditation Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine appears to be superior to the school approval process used by the Acupuncture Board and could be used by the State to ensure the quality of education for potential licensees.

Prior to taking the California licensing exam, potential licensees must graduate from a school approved by the Acupuncture Board. In addition, schools also must be approved by California's Bureau of Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education, or similar bureaus in other states, which guard against diploma mills and fraudulent business practices.106

In addition, most schools seek accreditation from an organization that has been deputized by the U.S. Department of Education to ensure the quality of education so their students can qualify for federal financial aid. In the case of acupuncture, the federal government has designated the Accreditation Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) to accredit schools as eligible for their students to receive federal student loans.107

The other 39 states and the District of Columbia that license acupuncture rely on ACAOM accreditation to ensure the quality of acupuncture schools. Students must graduate from an ACAOM-approved school prior to taking the licensure exam in those states. Only California has its own approval process.

Because California is a large market, many students in other states want to be eligible for the California exam, which encourages schools in other states to seek California's approval. From a practical standpoint, though, nearly all California-based and California-approved schools also are accredited by ACAOM so their students are eligible for financial aid.

Reviewing and approving schools is a substantial and episodic burden on the Acupuncture Board and information received in the course of the Commission's review indicates that the State's process is not as rigorous as the process used by ACAOM.

Nevertheless, members of the Acupuncture Board and the profession assert that it is important for California to perform this function, largely as a way to preserve discretion over educational and other standards that are central to the profession's efforts to raise the standing of the acupuncture in the marketplace. However, some on the board have expressed an interest in relying on ACAOM for approving out-of-state schools.108



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