Educational victory after 40 years

It had been a long, winding road marked by detours and conflict, but in 1974 the profession paused to reflect upon a milestone in its quest for legitimacy. That year the U.S. Office of Education (USOE) recognized the Council on Chiropractic Education-USA (CCE) was as the nation’s accrediting agency for chiropractic education. This recognition not only lent more importance to the profession, it also allowed students to become eligible for federally guaranteed student loans.

The road to recognition included many turns:

• First educational standards in 1935. In 1935 the National Chiropractic Association (NCA) created a Committee on Education. This committee collaborated with the Council of State Chiropractic Examining Boards (COSCEB) — today’s Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards — in devising educational standards and conducting preliminary site inspections of the schools.

• Efforts to upgrade chiropractic schools. In 1941 John Nugent, DC, president of COSCEB, resigned from his office to become the NCA’s first director of education. Nugent led the effort to upgrade chiropractic schools from 1941 through 1959. Not everyone appreciated his efforts. Some saw his work as a capitulation to organized medicine.

B.J. Palmer, DC, branded Nugent as the “anti-Christ” of chiropractic, although others came to view his work as parallel to the efforts of Abraham Flexner, PhD, on behalf of medical education.

Nugent’s efforts included the inspection and grading of the various institutions and consolidation of the numerous small, for-profit schools into larger, financially sounder, nonprofit colleges.

• Formation of forerunner of CCE. In 1947 Nugent organized the NCA’s Council on Education (CoE), forerunner of today’s independently chartered CCE.

• Federal recognition sought. As early as 1953, Nugent was in contact with the USOE to establish federal recognition for the CoE. The NCA’s pursuit of this goal was set back, when in 1959 Nugent was retired by the national society’s board of directors.

Stepping in to fill the leadership vacuum was George Haynes, DC, MS, administrative dean (CEO) since 1953 of the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic.

• CoE bolstered by new association. Heavily tuition-dependent for their operating budgets, the chiropractic colleges struggled throughout the 1960s to improve facilities and personnel in order to meet the standards of higher education. Their efforts were bolstered in 1964, when the NCA merged with a splinter group from the International Chiropractors’ Association to form today’s American Chiropractic Association (ACA).

The ACA committed 40 percent of members’ dues to the campaign to improve the schools accredited by the ACA-CoE.

• ‘Straight’ accrediting organization formed. The May/June 1970 issue of the Chiropractic Economics reported the formation of the Association of Chiropractic Colleges (ACC — no relation to today’s organization of the same name). Established by the presidents of leading straight chiropractic colleges (Drs. Carl Cleveland, Sr. and Carl Cleveland, Jr. of the Cleveland Chiropractic Colleges; William N. Coggins of Logan College; William D. Harper of Texas Chiropractic College; Ernest Napolitano of Columbia Institute of Chiropractic; and David D. Palmer of the Palmer College of Chiropractic), the ACC sought to establish an accrediting agency independent of either national membership society (ACA and ICA).

• Competition for recognition. The ACC hoped that its political independence from the feuding national membership societies would facilitate recognition from the USOE. During the next four years, the ACC and the CCE alternately competed for recognition and negotiated for a unified application to the federal government.

Although the ACC’s combined enrollment represented three times as many students as those of colleges accredited by the CCE, the agency did not require two years of pre-professional (liberal arts) college coursework as an admissions criterion (as did the CCE), and at least one of its member institutions was still proprietary.

• CoE chartered as CCE. Meanwhile, the ACA’s CoE was independently chartered as the CCE in 1971, and Haynes continued as the Council’s president. The CCE offered seats on its governing board to both the ACA and the ICA, as well as to representatives of its constituent (accredited) colleges and the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards (FCLB).

• Consolidation of organizations attempted. Despite the FCLB’s efforts to negotiate a consolidation of the ACC and the CCE, this did not occur. Meanwhile, organized medicine worked behind the scenes with federal bureaucrats to block either agency’s recognition by USOE.

• CCE recognized by USOE. Haynes collaborated with Orval Hidde, DC, JD, chair of the CCE’s Commission on Accreditation, to prepare and present numerous reports to the USOE. In August 1974 the U.S. Commissioner of Education advised the CCE that the Council had received an initial designation for one year as the federally recognized accreditor of chiropractic schools, which rendered ACC’s efforts moot. The CCE’s status was renewed in 1975, by which time several of the ACC’s former schools had made application to the CCE for inspection and accreditation.