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Life University Loses CCE
Accreditation and Is Being Sued

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

On June 7, 2002, the Commission on Accreditation of the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE), which is the national organization that accredits chiropractic schools, revoked the accreditation status of Life University of Marietta, Georgia. Life advocates a "straight" chiropractic approach which holds that spinal malfunction ("subluxations") is the underlying cause of ill health and that spinal adjustments enable the body to heal itself. Although CCE will not reveal the precise basis of its decision, its investigators apparently concluded that Life students were not being taught how to detect and deal with problems that require medical attention. CCE's investigative report noted that "all patient charts reviewed revealed primary diagnoses of subluxation." [1] The Georgia Board of Chiropractic Examiners issued a statement supporting CCE's decision.

The Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE)
Commission on Accreditation

June 10, 2002
Dr. Sid E. Williams, President
Life University College of Chiropractic
1269 Barclay Circle
Marietta, Georgia 30060
Dear Dr. Williams:

On June 7, 2002 the Commission on Accreditation (COA) of the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) met with you and other representatives of Life University College of Chiropractic (LUCC) in a status review meeting further to consider the application for reaffirmation of accreditation as submitted by LUCC. COA actions previous to this meeting included imposition of a sanction of Probation, and deferral of a decision for the maximum allowable time period of one year, regarding the LUCC application for reaffirmation of accreditation.

In addition to its review of all materials related to previous COA considerations and actions in this matter, the COA conducted this status review meeting to provide an opportunity for LUCC representatives to present reasons why the COA should not take further adverse action, and to provide opportunity for LUCC representatives to answer questions from the COA regarding ongoing and outstanding concerns. Subsequent to that meeting, the COA met in executive session and reached a consensus decision regarding the LUCC application for reaffirmation of accreditation.

The COA decision is to deny reaffirmation of accreditation for LUCC. This decision constitutes revocation of accredited status with the COA. The COA decision is based on the following Criteria for Accreditation, as embodied in the January 2000 publication of The Council on Chiropractic Education Commission on Accreditation Standards for Chiropractic Programs and Institutions (Standards), with which LUCC is in noncompliance:

II. Assessment and Planning

Each program or institution must maintain a comprehensive and ongoing system of evaluation and planning, and must demonstrate its effectiveness in achieving its mission, goals and objectives.

V. Mission Elements

A. D.C. Degree Program (including clinical experiences)

1. Objectives

Each program or institution must establish instructional objectives that support its mission and goals.

Instruction leading to the doctor of chiropractic degree must meet the following requirements: The curriculum must be designed and implemented in a manner in which students are able to integrate relevant information presented in the basic, clinical and chiropractic sciences with the clinical, laboratory and patient care experiences in clinical decision making.

V. Mission Elements

A. D.C. Degree Program

3. Inputs

b. Faculty/Staff

Programs and institutions must demonstrate adequacy and stability of basic and clinical sciences faculty and staff. The faculty and staff volume, variety and qualifications must be appropriate to the mission, goals and program objectives of the program or institution.

V. Mission Elements

A. D.C. Degree Program

4. Outcomes

The quantitative clinic requirements will not be the sole criteria used to assess the program's or institution's success in educating a student to practice the art and science of chiropractic.

Upon completing his or her course of study, each student must demonstrate proficiency in the following competencies [note: see Clinical Competencies for Chiropractic Programs and Institutions] consistent with the "Foreword" of the CCE Standards for Chiropractic Programs and Institutions.

In addition to the above, an important consideration has been failure on the part of the LUCC administration and board of trustees to establish and maintain an environment appropriate for education and employment.

The COA has determined that there is compelling reason for immediate public disclosure of this decision and, in accordance with the CCE Standards, the COA directly will notify the United States Secretary of Education, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, other appropriate accrediting agencies, jurisdictional chiropractic licensing boards, the public, and other relevant parties.

Revocation of accreditation constitutes an adverse action. Therefore, this decision will not take effect until the time period for filing an appeal has expired or until final action has been taken on any such appeal. Should LUCC choose to file such an appeal, written notice must be made either in person or via certified mail to the CCE Executive Vice-President not later than 30 days following the postmark date of this letter. Such notice of intent to appeal must be the official action taken by the governing body of the institution of which LUCC is a part. A more detailed procedure regarding the steps to be followed in the appeal process may be found in CCE Policy COA-8, a copy of which is attached.

Should LUCC choose to pursue reinstatement of its accredited status with the COA, the program must follow the process for initial accreditation as outlined in the current CCE Standards. If you have questions regarding this matter or if we can provide clarifying assistance, please contact the COA through the Chair or through the CCE Executive Vice-President, Dr. Paul D. Walker.

Sincerely,

Joseph Brimhall, D.C.
Chair, Commission on Accreditation

Life appealed, but in October 2002, CCE ruled against it. A school official announced plans to apply for reinstatement, but that process could take between 6 and 30 months [2].

CCE is the only agency for chiropractic recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education. Life may not be able to retain its student body because graduation from a CCE-approved school is necessary for licensure in at least 35 states. Some states will consider regional accreditation, which Life continues to have through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, but that status is also in jeopardy and will be reviewed in December. CCE revoked Life's accreditation in June 2002 after a 12-month probation period, but the appeal temporarily kept it in force. Life has for many years operated the world's largest chiropractic school, but, since June 2002, enrollment in its chiropractic program has plummeted. On Oct. 23, the school reported 1,380 students remained in the chiropractic program. However, two weeks later Moody's Investor Services reported that chiropractic enrollment has dropped to 865 [4].

Life is still accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, but without CCE accreditation its chiropractic graduates will not be eligible to take licensing exams and the school is unlikely to survive. However, in December 2001, this commission warned Life that it had failed to meet five standards related to academic and professional preparation, financial stability, and overall management, and gave the university six months to respond [3]. Among other things, SACSCOC's investigation concluded that that Life's program "lacks depth in the areas of diagnosis and management of patient care beyond the chiropractic analysis and adjustment" and that over 90% of patients who present for treatment in the institution's clinics will have spinal x-rays taken, which is "inconsistent with current practice." [5]

Life's founder and president Sid Williams, D.C., has resigned. Nineteen students are already suing him and the University for negligence in losing the accreditation; and more students are expected to do the same [2]. The Chiropractic Student Resource Site features an archive of news reports about the situation.

References

  1. MacDonald M. Panel rejects Life's appeal: Loss of chiropractic accreditation threatens university. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 21, 2002.
  2. Giltman P. Life's loss of appeal may prove fatal. Marietta Daily Journal, Oct 22, 2002.
  3. SACSCOC. Report of the Reaffirmation Committee, April 6-11, 2001, pp. 29-30.
  4. Giltman P. Life bond rating lowered further. Marietta Daily Journal, Nov 5, 2002.
  5. Accreditation actions taken. SACSCOC Web site, Dec 10, 2001.

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This article was posted on November 6, 2002.