Earlier this month, 22 current and former clinical psychology PhD students of Pacifica Graduate Institute joined 39 others in suing the school for allegedly misleading students about the status of its American Psychological Association (APA) accreditation, which isn’t required to get licensed in California but is in other states; the school is accredited with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). The 61 students are suing Pacifica for tuition costs, loss of future earnings, and attorney’s fees. “We have been shocked at the amount of students who have contacted us reporting the same type of misstatements by Pacifica,” said attorney Eric Woosley.
Two lawsuits involving the original 39 students were filed in January and September of 2013, and court hearings on the matters took place last fall. Legal documents filed by Woosley’s law firm called Pacifica’s alleged actions a “long-running campaign of deceit” in which the school reportedly told students that its clinical psychology PhD program was APA certified or had such accreditation pending. According to the lawsuits, the students are now each thousands of dollars in debt and are having trouble finding work. Woosley said his team has “hundreds of pages” of documents from Pacifica mentioning APA, and that while his office dropped two claims it received, more defendants have been added.
Pacifica spokesperson Erik Davis explained that the school applied for APA accreditation in 2008 and voluntarily withdrew that application in 2010 to work on improving it. Here is Davis’s full statement on the lawsuits:
“For two years, the plaintiffs’ attorney has aggressively recruited from among the 5,000-plus former and current Pacifica students to join the unfounded claims against Pacifica Graduate Institute and has found only a small fraction to join his campaign.
“This attorney has recently been forced to drop a number of his previous claims. He is now searching to establish merit by amending remaining cases and adding new plaintiffs. These steps do not make a weak case stronger.
“The false assertion being made is that Pacifica claimed American Psychological Association (APA) accreditation for its clinical psychology program.
“There is not one piece of Pacifica literature or digital media that asserts that Pacifica Graduate Institute has APA accreditation or substantiates that claim. Furthermore, the APA website publicly lists all the accredited institutions, making it impossible to fake an accreditation. The assertion is false and irrational.
“The claim that plaintiffs reasonably relied on promises that accreditation was imminent is illogical as graduate level professionals understand that APA is an independent regulatory body whose future actions cannot be predicted.”