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The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us)



Opinion No. 6334

January 10, 1986


Action of Board of Physical Therapy in approving physical therapy program of university

The Board of Physical Therapy acted lawfully in approving the physical therapy program of Ball State University.

Honorable Charles L. Mueller

State Representative

The Capitol

Lansing, Michigan 48909

You have requested an opinion regarding whether the Board of Physical Therapy, hereafter Board, acted properly in approving the physical therapy program of Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, when the American Physical Therapy Association, hereafter APTA, a private nonprofit corporation, temporarily withheld accreditation to that program.

The Public Health Code, MCL 333.16145; MSA 14.15(16145), provides the Board authority to promulgate rules governing the requirements for licensure:

'A board shall promulgate rules:

'(a) To specify requirements for licenses and registrations, renewals, time and place of examinations, subjects of examinations, and required grades.'

MCL 333.16148; MSA 14.15(16148), in pertinent part, provides:

'(1) Except as provided in section 17060, only a board may promulgate rules to establish standards for the education and training of individuals to be licensed or registered, or whose licenses or registrations are to be renewed, for the purposes of determining whether graduates of a training program have the knowledge and skills requisite for practice of a health profession or use of a title.

'(2) Except as provided in section 17060, only a board may accredit training programs in hospitals, schools, colleges, universities, and institutions offering training programs meeting educational standards and may deny or withdraw accreditation of training programs for failure to meet established standards. An institution which has its program accreditation withdrawn shall have an opportunity for a hearing.'

The Board promulgated 1983 AACS, R 338.7104 and 1983 AACS, R 338.7105, which provide the requirements for approval of programs of physical therapy. 1983 AACS, R 338.7104 provides:

'(1) The board hereby adopts and incorporates by reference the standards for accreditation of physical therapy educational programs adopted by the house of delegates of the American physical therapy association in June of 1978, and the board hereby adopts and incorporates by reference the criteria for accreditation of physical therapy educational programs as approved and revised by the board of directors of the American physical therapy association in November of 1978. These standards and criteria are available for inspection at the board office, 905 Southland, Lansing, Michigan 48910. They are available from the board office or the American Physical Therapy Association, 1156 15th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005, at no charge.

'(2) Accreditation by the American physical therapy association shall be prima facie evidence that a physical therapist education program meets the standards adopted in subrule (1) of this rule.

'(3) The minimum length and content of the program shall be the equivalent of not less than 120 semester hours of university credit within the United States and shall be consistent with that required of a baccalaureate degree-granting program within the United States.

'(4) The applicant bears the responsibility for providing to the board all the requested materials needed to review the applicant's educational program, including sufficient information to enable the board to determine educational content of the courses completed by the applicant.

'(5) If an educational program is reviewed by the board and found to be deficient in any area, the applicant and the school or program shall be so notified. The applicant shall be afforded an opportunity for a hearing regarding its approval if the board decides to deny approval.'

1983 AACS, R 338.7105 provides, in pertinent part:

'An applicant for a license shall meet the requirements of section 16174 of the code and all of the following requirements:


'(c) A board-approved program of physical therapy education shall have been successfully completed. If an applicant has completed a program not approved by the board, the education and experience of the applicant shall be reviewed by the board and approved, if found to be in compliance with the standards of R 338.7104.'

Based upon the above rules, the educational standards of the APTA were adopted by the Board effective May 12, 1983, as the criteria for approving educational programs for the training of physical therapists.

As provided in 1983 AACS, R 338.7104(2), a program which is approved by the APTA is deemed by the Board to be prima facie evidence that the program meets the adopted standards. The Board need not accept the APTA accreditation, however, and may evaluate independently a particular program and reach a result different from that of the APTA. This conclusion is reinforced within the rules promulgated by the Board. 1983 AACS, R 338.7104(4) requires an applicant for licensure to submit material to the Board in order to evaluate whether the content of a particular program meets the standards which have been adopted. Further, 1983 AACS, R 338.7105(c) requires a program not previously approved by the Board to be evaluated to ascertain if it complies with the adopted standards. With these rules the Board has retained the ultimate authority to determine, independently of the APTA, the approval of a program.

The Administrative Procedures Act, MCL 24.232; MSA 3.560(132), provides authority for an agency to adopt the standards of nationally recognized associations. In pertinent part, MCL 24.232(4); MSA 3.560(132)(4), provides:

'An agency may adopt, by reference in its rules and without publishing the adopted matter in full, all or any part of a code, standard or regulation which has been adopted by an agency of the United States or by a nationally recognized organization or association. The reference shall fully identify the adopted matter by date and otherwise. The reference shall not cover any later amendments and editions of the adopted matter, but if the agency wishes to incorporate them in its rule it shall amend the rule or promulgate a new rule therefor. . ..'

Thus the Board is permitted to adopt the APTA standards, but is prohibited from delegating to this private association the authority to approve physical therapy programs necessary for licensure. The decision to find compliance with the adopted standards may only be made by the Board. To do otherwise would confer governmental powers upon a private association (APTA) and constitute an unlawful delegation of a governmental function. Coffman v State Board of Examiners in Optometry, 331 Mich 582; 50 NW2d 322 (1951); OAG 1977-1978, No 4795, p 190 (August 11, 1977).

In 1981 Ball State University commenced a new baccalaureate program in physical therapy and so advised the APTA. The program was evaluated by the APTA from January 31, 1983 through February 2, 1983; on March 23, 1983 Ball State University was informed by the APTA that accreditation was withheld pending compliance with certain APTA accreditation requirements. As a result of several graduates of the program applying for licensure, on June 9, 1983 the Board, for the first time, considered the Ball State University program. Since the program had not previously been approved by the Board it was necessary, as required by 1983 AACS, R 338.7105(c), that the program be evaluated. The minutes show that, after conducting its own independent evaluation, the Board concluded at its meeting on September 1, 1983 that the program met the adopted standards and should be approved by the Board. In part the Board determined that the deficiencies cited by the APTA in March 1983 had been corrected, and further, in all other respects the Ball State University program met the standards required for an approved physical therapy program. The APTA accredited the Ball State University physical therapy program in May 1984.

It is my opinion, therefore, that the Board of Physical Therapy acted within the provisions of its duly promulgated rules by approving the Ball State University program.

Frank J. Kelley

Attorney General

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