Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Petty Theft And Highway Robbery

I'm of the philosophy that a diploma doesn't tell the whole story about your education or your level of intelligence. Often, of course, they do, or else they would be functionally worthless. But they're not a be-all-end-all, either. There are people that basically buy their way into the Ivy League and the diploma within, and then pretty much sit back and wait for the world to come to them, waving the diploma around as proof of an education that they only technically have. There are people from decidedly lesser colleges that, head-to-head, will think circles around the aforementioned Ivy Leaguers. Where an underachieving Ivy Leaguer may be so overconfident in their diploma that they fail to think things through and make some astoundingly bad moves, an overachieving small-college grad can realize they have ground to make up, and make that little extra crucial bit of analysis.

And then there's the occasional story of someone who doesn't have a college degree at all but nonetheless is one of the smartest people around.

Now, part of why I bring this up is a bit of a defense of my alma mater. Let's be honest. Madison Area Technical College- or Madison College; I think they changed the name recently- isn't exactly turning away perfect SAT scores left and right. But college is done and gone. MATC can only supply knowledge, and only while I'm enrolled. It's on me to make as much of what I was taught as I possibly can. I won't sit around and wait for people to be attracted to the MATC diploma, because MATC diplomas don't have that kind of drawing power. An MATC grad has a college degree, but they still have to go out and scratch and claw their way through, and put up a ferocious fight just to have the right to take on the Ivy Leaguers.

There are, however, worse degrees to have than that of a tech school.

You could have one from a diploma mill.

In 1989, an application for accreditation by Eastern Missouri Business College came to the International Accrediting Commission in Missouri. The catalog that showed up at the IAC, among other things, listed faculty members such as Arnold Ziffel, Edward J. Haskell, M. Howard, Jerome Howard, and Lawrence Fine; the college seal read "Solum pro Avibus Est Educatio"; the motto was "Latrocina et Raptus", and the marine biology textbook (offered through the mail, along with degrees in genetic engineering and aerospace science) was "The Little Golden Book of Fishes".

For those that didn't catch on already, those faculty members were from Green Acres and the Three Stooges, and the respective translations are "Education is only for the birds" and "Everything from petty theft to highway robbery." This was not a real college. It was a teeny little office in St. Louis, staged with a little bit of fake paperwork, a whole lot of blank papers, and no accounting records or actual classrooms. (Nowadays, the lack of classrooms wouldn't be a dead giveaway, given the proliferation of online colleges, but in 1989, that was a thing worth noting.)

Any accreditor worth their salt would have busted the Fightin' Eastern Missourians in about five seconds. Any accreditor worth their salt would have been tipped off at some point over the course of the catalog, maybe passed it around the office for laughs.

Instead, the head of the IAC, George Reuter, stopped by, wandered around for half an hour and noted how impressed he was. He then went out to have a steak dinner with the head of the college. Although they would pose for a picture of the "official passing of the accreditation check", which amounted to $500.

After later indicating that accreditation would be granted, and selling Eastern Missouri Business a "fancy plaque" for another $25, the faculty of Eastern Missouri Business sprung. They were in fact working for the state attorney general, and quickly got the International Accrediting Commission shut down.

Meet Accrediting Commission International. They popped up in Arkansas shortly thereafter, a state famous for not being Missouri. The fact that the name is the same as "International Accrediting Commission" with the words rearranged is surely coincidental. Them spelling 'commission' with three M's on the topline of your window when you go visit is presumably just a test and not to be read into at all.

And ACI is adamant that you don't read into it, or any other similarities to IAC. In a page entitled 'ACI Answers To Critics', they admit that from "the older organization" (they never state "the older organization's" name outright, although they do say that "most of the stories told about the other organization are only half-truths and outright falsehood"), about 25 colleges were carried over to ACI, as opposed to all of them.

Quackwatch, however, disagrees. They charge that ACI did in fact invite all the colleges under the auspices of ICA to be automatically accredited, which numbers about 250. Go to ACI, though, and you would never know, because they don't list the colleges they've accredited. (Unlike any accreditor worth their salt-- for instance, the Higher Learning Commission, a branch of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, which will tell you that it's the one that accredited just about every college of note from West Virginia to Wyoming... including Madison Area Technical College.)

With a fair degree of legwork, though, some guys on the boards of DegreeInfo managed to track down about 100 of the places accredited by ACi. They are mostly Bible colleges. One of the ACI colleges, Wisconsin International University, is quite international indeed, because it has no campus in Wisconsin, or for that matter anywhere else in the United States.

Luckily, there is a simple way to avoid these places. In the United States, there are two institutions that approve accreditors: the Department of Education, and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. In effect, they accredit the accreditors. If neither of those two places think an accreditor is legit, it stains any college that's approved by that accreditor, to the point where people looking to transfer to a place the DoE or CHEA do approve of may have to start their college education again from scratch.

They don't approve of ACI.

1 comment:

Pinyan said...

Hey, just as a heads-up, when I clicked the link to ACI, it messed with my browser window, and basically resized it to just a title bar, so I couldn't view any text. I tend to think that should be a capital offense nowadays.