Both Chamiande University and Hawaii Pacific University have plans to take over the doctoral psychology program from the now defunct Argosy University Hawaii. But uncertainty over accreditation has left students feeling vulnerable.
Hawaii Pacific University had been in talks with Argosy faculty since January when it became clear that Argosy was in financial trouble. Argosy Hawaii's doctoral program in clinical psychology, known as a PsyD, was one of only two programs in Hawaii that can produce clinical psychologists.
After Argosy abruptly issued a closure announcement on March 6th, PsyD faculty at Argosy told their students that the program would be taken over by Hawaii Pacific University.
That changed again the following week, when students were told that they would instead be going to Chamiande University. On Monday, March 18th, Chaminade issued a press release stating that it was welcoming the PsyD program along with all students and faculty.
The statement also quotes Chaminade President Lynn Babington as saying “We also appreciate the swift action pending approvals from the two accrediting agencies…”
Those two agencies are the American Psychological Association and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
According to the APA, it has not yet received any applications from schools interested in hosting Argosy students.
“At this point of time we’ve been providing consultation to a number of programs” said Catherine Grus, the APA’s Chief of Education. “We have not received any specific plans yet from any program for us to review.”
The APA said that its accreditation cannot be transferred from one university to another. Any school seeking to “teach out” former Argosy students must apply for accreditation with the APA. That temporary approval could come as soon as May.
Schools are not required to secure APA approval to begin classes, but students graduating from a non-accredited program often face increased barriers to securing employment as a psychologist.
Both Chaminade and HPU confirmed that they are pursuing accreditation to complete the degrees of Argosy students and stand up brand new programs of their own.
The transition, which is still in the works, has been anything but clear cut for students. Army veteran and first year PysD student Tonika Goerner that she felt like a hostage.
“We never know anything. We never are ahead of the game in any situation. We’re never given any choices, it almost feels like you’re a hostage” Goerner told HPR.
A large part of the uncertainty seems to stem from an agreement that Chaminade University has apparently secured with Argosy University’s court appointed manager.
Mark Dottore, an Ohio lawyer, was appointed by a federal judge earlier this year to manage Argosy’s operations. According to Chaminade President Babington, her university has entered into an “exclusive agreement” with Mr. Dottore concerning the acquisition of the Argosy Hawaii PsyD program.
In a written statement, Chaminade told HPR that the deal allowed Chaminade to continue the PsyD program as it is currently structured, taking on all Argosy faculty and students, with no tuition increase.
Mr. Dottore's law firm did not respond to a request for comment.
The legal implications of that agreement are unclear. The APA said that is does not issue exclusive accreditation to any one university in situations like this. HPR contacted the U.S. Department of Education for clarification. A spokesperson told HPR that it is aware of the agreement and was looking into the situation.
HPU is pushing ahead with accreditation despite the agreement. Full APA approval for a brand-new program can take several years, but both universities have stated they plan to pursue accreditation in best interest of the public.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, all counties in Hawaii have a shortage of mental health providers. Some islands, such as Lana’i and Molokai, do not have a single full-time provider.