Pharmacy college
disclosure questioned

Lawsuits say the institution
violated a state statue
on unaccredited schools

Responding to allegations that the Hawaii College of Pharmacy misled students about the college's accreditation status, the school last week offered a straightforward rebuttal:

"We informed all students, both in writing and in person, that the Hawaii College of Pharmacy (HICP) was not accredited," the school's dean, H.A. Hasan, said in a written statement.

Hasan added, "Each and every student enrolling in the 2004-05 school year signed an agreement acknowledging that they were aware of the school's accreditation status."

But the question of whether students were told that the school was not accredited fails to address central allegations in lawsuits filed last week by a student of the school and the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection.

The issue goes beyond whether students were informed, said Steve Levins, director of the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection.

"It's the manner in which the disclosures were made and the way that students were misled by the actions of the school and its operators," Levins said.

Both suits, for example, allege that the school violated Hawaii Revised Statute 446E, which governs unaccredited colleges.

The law requires them to "disclose in all catalogs, promotional materials, and contracts for instruction the fact that the institution is not accredited." It also states, "No accredited institution shall disclose in any catalog, promotional material or written contract for instruction that it has applied for future accreditation."

But the college appears to have ignored the requirements in a handbook sent in early 2004 to some prospective students who had been accepted to the school's first class the following fall.


In fact, the handbook describes in detail the college's quest for accreditation with the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.

"At this time," the handbook says in part, "the college has submitted a pre-application; the initial step towards full accreditation to ACPE. Subsequently, a site visit to the campus by ACPE will be made sometime in early spring of 2004."

Nowhere does the handbook explicitly state that the school is not accredited.

A spokesman for the college declined to comment on the language in the handbook.

"We just received the complaint two days ago and are examining the allegations," he said. "We continue to believe the school was honest in its dealings with the students and has not violated any state laws."

Accreditation is important because graduates of unaccredited schools cannot get pharmacy licenses in Hawaii and other states.

The lawsuits capped a bumpy year for the start-up Kapolei school, which students paid $28,000 to attend. The school opened last fall with 240 students and just a handful of faculty.

During the year, several faculty left and the ACPE asked the school to withdraw its application for accreditation.

Tensions mounted earlier this month after Hasan announced the school would hold back more than half of its first-year class, regardless of whether the students passed their courses, in order to appease the ACPE.

Speaking generally, and not about the pharmacy college, Levins said the prohibition against schools stating they were seeking accreditation was meant to prevent schools from creating unrealistic expectations for prospective students.

Simply applying for accreditation means little, Levins said, but could make people think otherwise.

"There was a recognition that the statement in and of itself could mislead students," he said.

Michael O'Connor, an attorney for pharmacy student Robert Killian, said the alleged violations of Hawaii's law on unaccredited schools were not the overriding issue. At some point, he said, most students knew the school was not accredited.

However, O'Connor said, some students went to the college because they "were told the school was doing everything in its power to become accredited."

Actually, O'Connor said, the school "never was moving in the right direction" toward accreditation.

"They hadn't even gotten out of the starting blocks," Levins said.

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