What is a diploma worth?

February 15, 2011

Education

By Wally Northway

A lawsuit brought by students of a proprietary college here in the Magnolia State should be a warning to Mississippians about the potential ramifications of budget cuts at our public universities.

Last week, a group of 14 former nursing students at for-profit Virginia College sued claiming that they only found out after beginning their studies that the school’s licensed practical nursing program was not accredited. They claim the school withheld the fact that its nursing program had not achieved full accreditation, and they are seeking $14 million in damages.

Virginia College is appealing, and says the students can take their nursing exam when accreditation is secured.

Accreditation is essential for colleges and universities as well as programs within those institutions. Without accreditation, diplomas become extremely expensive birdcage liners.

Accrediting bodies consider such things as a program’s or institution’s available resources and instructors’ credentials when determining whether an institution or program meets their standards. Thus, institutions of higher learning cannot slash budgets and cut payrolls without first weighing if those cuts will get them crossways with accreditation bodies.

It is a not-so-tight rope to walk for institutions.

Higher Education Commissioner Dr. Hank Bounds has said repeatedly that continued budget cuts could denigrate the “product quality” of our public universities.

If Mississippians want to ensure that the diploma hanging on their wall from one of our public institutions of higher learning is worth the paper it is printed on, they better heed Bounds’ warning.

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