College Accreditation and Integrity

Roland Martin is a pretty frequent CNN contributor.  In his latest CCN column online, he states that John McCain’s stance on school vouchers is correct and that Barack Obama’s position is misguided.  McCain, as you are probably aware, like most Republicans, favors vouchers, while Obama, like most in his party, is not enthusiastic about them.

I’ve read Martin’s columns before, so I was not surprised that he takes such a strong stance on the issue of vouchers or that he pretty much adheres to the traditional conservative mantra on the subject.
In an attempt to learn more about Mr. Martin, I visited his website, where his activities, past and present, were listed.  Certainly Mr. Martin is a prolific journalistic.  He has received numerous awards.  And, after reading a bit more about his background and his writings it becomes obvious he has an unflinching point of view about the world.  Martin is clearly a man to whom faith and religion are important.  And, he is married to a clergywoman who is herself a published author.

That’s why it’s surprising that Mr. Martin,  a man whose work appears on CNN.com, a man who is seen on TV and heard on radio, a multiple journalism award winner, and a man with strong opinions about education, and a man who has certainly been successful, claims a masters degree from an apparently unaccredited online “university”.  The institution in question is Louisiana Baptist University, which describes itself as “a pioneer in distance education” and lists 1973 as the year it was founded.

Louisiana Baptist does not claim accreditation.  And, it is not listed in the U.S. Department of Education data base of accredited institutions.  The University website does say that it is, “semi-annually examined by an independent review committee comprised of ministers and educators” and lists a few memberships and/or affiliations.

The President’s message states, “We do not strive to pattern our institution after the humanistic, shifting systems of secular education”.  Similar statements have appeared on the websites of other religiously-based unaccredited colleges and universities which frequently claim that, because of the nature of their missions, accreditation is not important to them and/or might require them to make unacceptable religious compromises.  That premise may seem reasonable to some people.

But, I have a very big problem with it, especially if such institutions do not clearly state that students who spend significant time and money to earn a degree at their institutions will have fewer options than graduates of accredited colleges and universities.  I have worked in graduate school admissions and met with folks who have earned B.A. or B.S. degrees from unaccredited colleges.  These very decent people were often shocked to learn that the institution for which I worked, and similar graduate institutions, could not even consider them for admission.

Louisiana Baptist offers both undergraduate and doctoral degrees in education.  If the University warns prospective students that these programs will not enable them to be licensed to teach in public schools, I couldn’t find the warning anywhere on their website.  I bet you won’t find it either.

As for the we-don’t need-to-be-accredited or we-won’t-compromise-our-beliefs arguments that some unaccredited institutions make, my response is simple.  Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, two of the most fundamentalist clergymen of the last 50 years founded universities that have become fully accredited.  Even Bob Jones University is accredited.

In fact, there is a long list of accredited Christian colleges and universities which ascribe to pretty fundamentalist religious doctrines.  And, many more accredited colleges are affiliated with religious denominations.

It is time…well past time, actually… that we compel unaccredited colleges and universities to make full disclosure to prospective students.

And, in my humble opinion, it’s time for Mr. Martin to either remove the reference to his graduate degree from his website or to be up- front about the fact that it comes from an unaccredited institution.

Note:  Learn more about the importance of college accreditation.

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