BERKELEY (CBS SF) — A liberal-arts school in Berkeley has become the first Islamic institution of higher learning in the United States.
Zaytuna College announced on Sunday that it was formerly accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, one of the six official academic bodies responsible for authorizing public and private colleges and universities.
“Zaytuna’s accreditation roots this vision in a reality recognized within American higher education,” Hamza Yusuf, president of the college, said in a statement celebrating the announcement.
The college began in 1996 as Zaytuna Institute in Hayward and launched into a pilot seminary program eight years later. The program trained and graduated five students in 2008 then transitioned into Zaytuna College in Berkeley the following year. The undergraduate program welcomed its inaugural freshman class in fall 2010.
In recent academic years the college has nearly doubled, now serving about thirty students who mostly live on campus and are majoring in Arabic and Islamic studies. Zaytuna also runs an 8-week summer Arabic intensive.
“Zaytuna College is a unique institution in Islamic higher education in America and is the fruit of a pioneering effort to create an authentic Islamic education institution in this country,” said George Washington University Professor of Islamic Studies Seyyed Hossein Nasr. “Its success in the goal it has set before itself marks a very important step in the preservation of Islamic thought and culture in the context of American society.”
Although students usually have a Muslim background or are converts to Islam, there are no admission restrictions based on religious affiliation or sect.
Zaytuna’s yearly tuition costs about $15,000 for the 2015-2015 academic year.