'Education is for the birds'
St. John's University, formerly of Springfield, La. – where Florida juvenile justice secretary Walt McNeil earned his master's degree (see Saturday's St. Petersburg Times story here) – claims to be accredited by the Accrediting Commission International in Beebe, Ark. Okay. So what's that?
Well, it might be a lot of things, but it's not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. And according to diploma-mill experts, it has strong ties to the International Accrediting Commission, an outfit busted in 1989 in what may be the most hilarious sting ever.
You can read the full story here (and credit to author John Bear for pointing it out to us), but here's a taste: To snare the IAC, an assistant attorney general in Missouri created a fictional Eastern Missouri Business College with a faculty listing that included Lawrence Fine, Jerome Howard and M. Howard. Yep, that'd be the Three Stooges. Meanwhile, the college seal included the Latin phrase Solum pro Avibus Est Educatio. Translation: "Education is for the birds." No way a school like that could get accredited, right?
According to Bear's account, the ACI formed in Arkansas about the same time the IAC was folding in Missouri, and it actively sought to sign up the former group's members. The Gradebook asked St. John's representative Pam Winkler whether the school was ever accredited by the IAC, but she did not respond. ACI officials did not return a call for comment.
In 2002 and 2003, St. John's did seek accreditation from an entity recognized by CHEA, the Distance Education and Training Council. According to records obtained by The Gradebook from the Louisiana Board of Regents, DETC turned St. John's down, "ruling that the institution had not satisfactorily met ten of the twelve standards for accreditation."
DETC executive director Michael Lambert told The Gradebook he could not divulge which standards St. John's failed to meet, but "it was pretty much an open and shut case."
_ Ron Matus, state education reporter