Amid preparations to move its campus to a new location north of UC Berkeley, Zaytuna College recently became the first Muslim college in the United States to receive accreditation.
March 4, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, a regional accrediting agency in California, Hawaii and the Pacific, sent an approval letter of accreditation to Zaytuna College President Hamza Yusuf.
Zaytuna College students are now eligible for federal financial aid. However, most of the 50-plus students attending Zaytuna College are financially covered by private donations, according to campus spokesman Safir Ahmed.
Self-described as a Muslim liberal arts college, Zaytuna College provides a four-year program for a bachelor's degree in Islamic law and theology, hosting an array of classes from Arabic, U.S. history, economics and astronomy. The tuition is $15,000 a year with an additional $9,000 for housing costs.
"The Commission notes that, while Zaytuna has developed an exceptionally demanding undergraduate curriculum, its students enthusiastically embrace the distinctive character of this educational opportunity," said the letter.
Another key benefit of accreditation is the rise in credibility in Zaytuna College's educational curriculum. For instance, the college can now change its website URL from zaytuna.org to zaytuna.edu — a domain used by accredited educational universities and colleges.
After opening in 2010 to a class of 15 students, Zaytuna recently had its first graduation class of eight students, four of whom are pursuing further theological studies in Chicago and Berkeley.
With Zaytuna being accredited, it is educationally on par with those in the Jewish community, like Yeshiva University in New York City, and in the Buddhist community, like Soka University of America in Orange County. The Muslim population is estimated to total around 250,000 in the Bay Area.
"It gives our community its first accredited academic address in the United States," Yusuf said. "And we hope, God willing, that there will be more such Muslim colleges and universities to come."
The college, which since its inception has been housed in the American Baptist Seminary of the West at 2515 Dwight Way, will be moving northward to 1712 Euclid Ave. The new property will include classrooms and a dormitory for female students for the next school year. The Franciscan School of Theology owned the Dwight Way property until June 2014, before it moved to Oceanside, California. It sold the property to Zaytuna in January.
Some of Zaytuna's administrative offices are already at 2401 Le Conte Ave., a block away from the new campus building.
The Franciscan School reached out to Zaytuna College before its relocation to see if it was interested in moving to Berkeley's"Holy Hill" neighborhood, where various religious schools are already clustered, according to Ahmed.
A representative for the Franciscan School said the institution had been pleased to see Zaytuna join other religious institutions in the neighborhood.
"FST was very happy that it was Zaytuna that moved into the area and joined the Graduate Theological Union," said Jackie Gamble, communications director for the Franciscan School. "I feel that, in reaching out beyond the Christian tradition, the many communities on 'Holy Hill' can only strengthen the future health and stability of the Graduate Theological Union."