M I N U T E S
Private School Licensing Subcommittee
Joint Education Interim Committee
Casper College August 24, 2005
217 Stausner Student Center Casper, Wyoming
PRESENT: Senator Tex Boggs, Cochairman;
Representative Mark Semlek, Cochairman;
Senator Kit Jennings;
Representative Lorraine Quarberg.
Legislative Service Office: Dave Nelson and Matt Sackett.
Others: See attached Appendix A.
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Senator Tex Boggs, Committee Cochair, convened the Private School Licensing Subcommittee at 9:05 a.m. Roll call of member attendance followed, with all members present. The meeting agenda allots time for discussion and review of proposed draft legislation addressing private post secondary education degree granting institutions, 06LSO-0063.W2, and for public comment on components of proposed draft legislation. A copy of the meeting agenda is attached at Appendix B.
Cochair Boggs commenced meeting deliberations with an explanation of issues impacting private post secondary education, and explained the purpose of the Subcommittee is to explore the issue of private post secondary education in Wyoming and if changes to the current system are necessary. The Legislature has been presented with questions about the quality of education provided by these institutions, the ability of respective students to use degrees or certificates, along with questions concerning the transferability of credits.
Cochair Boggs continued with a review of the accreditation process, which has been considered previously to ascertain the quality of all post secondary education programs offered in Wyoming. Discussion included a review of major accrediting bodies and was noted that several representatives from these bodies would be providing public comment later in the meeting via telephone.
Cochair Boggs discussed the importance of accreditation for transferring credits and assuring that the students are learning what is required for specified levels of education. There are approximately ten private post secondary degree granting institutions currently operating in Wyoming which are not accredited by an accrediting agency. Credits received from non-accredited bodies can create barriers for students wishing to transfer or continue with their education.
Draft legislation contained in 06LSO-0063.W2 was briefly explained by CoChair Boggs, a copy of which is attached at Appendix C. To date, concern has been voiced from several institutions in regard to the amount of time required to receive accreditation and that the proposal, as drafted, may not allow for the necessary steps to occur in the accreditation process.
Cochair Boggs opened the meeting to receipt of public testimony on the draft proposal, to be taken in accordance with the public comment signup sheet attached at Appendix D.
Colleen Anderson, Wyoming Department of Education.
Ms. Anderson explained the WDE continually conducts site visits and staff and faculty reviews of private post secondary degree granting institutions to assure compliance with statute. A problem hindering this capability is that post secondary education has become a global arena and it has surpassed, in the department's view, the scope of original statutory intent. Global monitoring, which is required of several post secondary institutions operating in Wyoming, is beyond the means of the department, whose primary focus is K-12 education. Licensing of post secondary institutions is a time consuming, involved process. The department requests licensing be through the accreditation process by appropriate accrediting agencies, not the department. In response to Subcommittee inquiry, Ms. Anderson did indicate the department has received complaints from students that degrees from licensed private post secondary institutions were not valid for potential employers.
Dr. Charles Bohlen, Laramie County Community College (LCCC).
Dr. Bohlen stated LCCC is accredited by various accrediting bodies. Dr. Bohlen has personally served on several accrediting bodies and is very knowledgeable of the accreditation process. Dr. Bohlen recommended programs be accredited for all degree granting institutions and that all vocational or career programs be accredited by the federal department of education. Dr. Bohlen expressed support for the proposed legislation.
Sue Rielly, Distance Education Accreditation Council.
Ms. Rielly provided testimony via telephone conferencing. The process of accrediting distance education programs was explained, which comprise the only educational programs accredited by this organization. The Council anticipates capability of accrediting distance education programs at the doctorate level by late 2007 or early 2008. In response to inquiry about the cost of program accreditation, Ms. Rielly indicated costs vary from $10,000 to $12,000 for smaller programs and up to $40,000 and over for larger programs. As to the level of scrutiny applied to the staff and faculty of the institution, the organization reviews original staff transcripts which must be from accredited institutions.
Craig Swenson, University of Phoenix.
Mr. Swenson expressed support for the proposed legislation and for accreditation in general. The University of Phoenix is licensed in Wyoming and its programs are accredited. Mr. Swenson stated accreditation provides confidence that educational programs offered by accredited institutions are operating at a certain level of quality. In addition, the accreditation process gives rise to rigorous self study and analysis.
Mohammed Waheed, Central Wyoming College.
Mr. Waheed spoke as an individual on behalf of consumer protection, not necessarily on behalf of Central Wyoming College. Mr. Waheed supported the proposed legislation and stated accreditation is vital for the protection of student interests not only in Wyoming, but abroad as well.
Dr. Jim Rose, Wyoming Community College Commission.
Dr. Rose expressed support for required accreditation of private post secondary education degree granting programs and endorsed the draft legislation. Dr. Rose stated accreditation is essential to establishing standards and it is a continual process necessary for quality assurance.
Rick Miller, Scott Seville and Erika Prager, University of Wyoming.
Mr. Miller explained that the University of Wyoming is accredited overall as an institution, and that its programs are also individually accredited. Accreditation is a commitment to a process. The University supports the draft legislation and the requirement of accreditation for licensure of private post secondary education degree granting programs operating in Wyoming.
Ms. Prager, in support of the draft legislation, stated that accreditation and self-regulation are vital to proper functioning and improvement. She did suggest that accreditation is not an all or nothing proposition, as various levels of accreditation allow institutions to improve upon program quality.
Mr. Seville commented that most students upon commencing post secondary education are excited and anxious about post secondary education opportunities, but are often not well informed about program quality, transferability and other issues associated with post secondary education. The result is that student expectations are not matched with the educational program provided. Accreditation provides quality assurance these students require.
Steve Crowe, North Central Association of Colleges of the Higher Learning Commission.
Mr. Crowe provided his testimony via telephone conferencing. Mr. Crowe highly encouraged the adoption of the proposed draft legislation and emphasized the importance for the state of Wyoming to do so. Support was stated for accreditation given by any accrediting body approved by the federal department of education, but licensing must be contingent upon a good faith effort for accreditation thereby allowing the accreditation candidate sufficient time necessary to comply with accreditation requirements. In response to Subcommittee inquiry, Mr. Crowe stated total accreditation costs vary between $250,000 to $300,000, followed by annual dues of $2,000 to $4,000.
Greg Dykeman, Kennedy-Western University.
Mr. Dykeman suggested the proposed legislation be modified by providing that accreditation be adopted in phases to allow non-accredited, licensed post secondary education degree granting institutions the ability to achieve accreditation while continuing to hold a Wyoming license. Kennedy-Western University has concern with the transitional period for existing licensed institutions to comply with accreditation requirements.
Ron Hinz, American City University.
Mr. Hinz stated that American City University is wholly committed to quality assurance. American City University operates solely in foreign countries with no presence in the United States, which makes accreditation difficult since accreditation agencies are not willing to go to foreign locations for review. Mr. Hinz referred Subcommittee members to an alternate legislative proposal modifying current law, but not requiring accreditation as a condition of licensure. The proposal does provide additional regulation of international schools operating in Wyoming through existing licensing agencies. The proposal is included within materials submitted by Mr. Hinz on behalf of American City University, attached at Appendix E.
Dr. Jerry Haenisch, Preston University.
Dr. Haenisch submitted materials for review by Subcommittee members, which also included suggested legislation revising existing statutes governing licensing of private post secondary education degree programs, as copy of which is included as Appendix F. The proposed legislation enhances minimum standards for licensure and establishes criteria for awarding degrees. Dr. Haenisch advised that Preston University consists of physical campuses together with online and distance learning education programs. Preston University does not support required accreditation for licensure as accrediting bodies have no mechanism for global educational programs. Dr. Haenisch suggests that accreditation would stifle the educational progress. Preston University provides services to students with no other recourse or opportunity for post secondary education.
Art Martinez, Rutherford University.
Rutherford University is licensed and operates in Wyoming. Mr. Martinez submitted written comments on behalf of Dr. Abdul S. Hassam, the Chancellor of Rutherford University. Rutherford University does not support proposed legislation requiring accreditation as a condition of state licensure of private, for-profit degree granting post secondary institutions. A copy of the written comments is included as Appendix G.
Jack Hoard, Halifax University.
Mr. Hoard stated Halifax University commenced operations in Wyoming in 2003. The private post secondary degree granting institution is working hard to be successful and is focused on providing quality educational programs. In Mr. Hoard's opinion, accreditation does not guarantee quality programs. Students are advised that the institution's programs are not accredited or endorsed. Halifax University does not support the proposed legislation. Mr. Hoard expressed his opinion the legislation would close good state businesses, which he suggested is a mistake.
Dr. Naomi Lichtenberg, Columbia Commonwealth University.
Written comments were distributed on behalf of Columbia Commonwealth University, a copy of which is attached at Appendix H. The comments provided suggestions for amending the proposed legislation, clarifying transitional provisions.
Cochair Boggs stated that due to the late hour, insufficient time remained to review draft legislation. He suggested the Subcommittee meet at another time for working draft legislation.
Cochair Semlek announced the Private School Licensing Subcommittee would meet Wednesday, November 2, in Casper, with a time and location to be determined.
There being no further business, Cochair Semlek adjourned the Select Committee at 3:15 p.m.
Senator Tex Boggs, Representative Mark Semlek,
Select Subcommittee Cochair Select Subcommittee Cochair