If you needed a graduate business degree but could not afford the steep price of top bananas such as Berkeley or Stanford, or even any one of the qualified state universities, would you give up your dream? If you said “Absolutely not!” you wouldn’t be alone.
That is essentially what thousands of California students studying in a multitude of the state’s unaccredited universities have decided. They haven’t given up on their dreams, they have simply lowered their standards. California has the dubious distinction of being the national leader in unaccredited schools, making it quite easy for degree determined students to find these schools in their state.
Many unaccredited schools are online study exclusively. Online education is common these days, for sure, but online classes generally are separate or in additon to traditional classes in higher education. Online classes are often convenient for continuing education, as they fit into the schedues of busy people. They are also common for distant learning when colleges are not conveniently located near learners.
Yet, degree granting education delivered solely via the internet, without any spoken interactions with an instructor, is not how accredited higher education operates. State approved is not state accredited.
State Approved But Not Accredited
Many students misunderstand the state approved label that lends a level of comfort to students looking for an affordable education, and likely, an easy route to that end as well. They erroneously assume that label equals accredited, and it does not.
One such state approved, but unaccredited online school is Frederick Taylor University in Moraga, California, one of almost 1000 unaccredited or questionably accredited colleges and vocational schools operating in California. These schools operate without having had any inspections or evaluations of their educational qualifications. Such oversight is required by a state law, but has been rarely enforced.
California law requires that such schools be checked in order to operate, yet state approval is basically a license to operate. Accreditation itself comes from regional and national agencies that review school curriculums and their educational standards.
California has very weak oversight in this area and it is pretty easy for schools to operate within the state. Basically, an institution can easily obtain a license to operate by filling out an eight-page application which allows institutions to receive approval because it’s within legal compliance.
These unaccredited colleges become degree granting mills, but those degrees carry disappointment for the graduates receiving them. The degrees are worthless pieces of paper that are not acccepted for most professional licenses or teaching certificates.
Time For A Change
Hopefully, this embarassing and costly oversight is going to change. State legislators, while admitting that they must concern themselves with whether these schools are keeping their promises to students and are in compliance with California law, wonder what actions they can take against them. It is a big undertaking, especially in light of California’s lackadaisical history, but the state is facing the challenge of completing approximately 1,300 compliance reviews by its self-imposed fall 2013 goal.
The Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, now armed with a new law, aims to bring the schools into state compliance. Says its deputy bureau chief Joanne Wenzel, “There weren’t a lot of teeth in the old law. We have moved away from that in the new law. We’ve gone to a consumer protection stance.”
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