Diploma Mill how do you judge one?

Discussion in 'Baptist Colleges / Seminaries' started by revmwc, Jul 9, 2011.

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  1. revmwc

    revmwc
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    On several threads going right now I see folks say well this school is good and this is a diploma mill so how do you judge a school a diploma mill.

    Does having accredidation from an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or a State Education agency determine your judgement?

    If they don't follow a certain curriculum to grant the degree from, does it have to follow normal world acceptable curriculum or state required rules?

    Can a school have affiliation with a recognized accrediting agency and not be accredited will that make them a diploma mill?

    What determines it for you?

    I found a school online that said if I sent them a list of all my work experience and everything I had done and sent the $XXXX.XX that they could grant me a bachelor's and masters in just about any field I wanted. They had an accrediting agency that they could show accredidation from, and life experience is a great education but to me this school is a diploma mill because they had no curriculum at all. They had no work from books or cd messages or online classes to perform. That to me made them a diploma mill, but what is the determining factor to you?
     
  2. TomVols

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    Accreditation or lack thereof does not constitute a diploma mill. Every school, RA, NA, or UA, should be judged my its own merits. There are schools out there that are accredited by everyone on the planet that I wouldn't send an untrained monkey to. There are UA schools that are very good because they have rigorous requirements. There are RA/NA schools whose requirements are a joke.

    A colleague told me this week that he went through his entire college career never having to write more than one paper per class, and that one paper was never more than 7 or 8 pages, and this was a major state university. I know of an NA school right now that requires two 15 page papers per class as a minimum in your major. Yet, RA is prima facie considered better than NA.

    Every school should be judged by its own merits -not by some website (even the school's own because some just don't put the money into them), not by some reviewer, not by some arbitrary ranking, nor even by an accreditation agency's stamp of approval which can change from day to day.

    I'll close with this example - and please, let's just stick to the point and not the details *

    In the mid 90s, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, long considered one of the best in this nation and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, both fully accredited regionally and by ATS, swung to what was perceived as a much more conservative theological position. Through part of the transition process, things happened at both SBTS and SEBTS that made accrediting agencies take hard looks at both. SEBTS was in jeopardy of losing its accreditation. SBTS was also threatened but no formal action took place unlike what happened at SEBTS. Now, just for argument's sake, let's say BOTH did lose their accreditation in that time. One day, it's accredited with the same professors, offerings, classes, degrees, etc. Next day, it's not, despite the same professors, offerings, classes, degrees, etc. See the point?? It can work the same way. A school that's UA can gain accreditation effective August 1st. However, it's quite likely that this was the same school in May when it was not.

    I know I've went on and on, but having been in higher education leadership both in the secular world and in Bible colleges/seminaries gives me a unique perspective.

    * This is a hotly debated subject, usually clouded by theological bias. I've endeavored to simply present an overview of details that cannot be argued either way. However, some will try.
     
  3. michaelbowe

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    Lack of accreditation is certainly not the criteria. There are many great schools that simply cannot afford accreditation, the fees are incredibly high. However, there are some things that create red flags when I look at a school.

    As Tom mentioned earlier, consider the faculty. Does the faculty of a undergraduate have master's or terminal degrees, from outside institutions? For example, Covington Theological Seminary has a faculty that everyone has a D.Min, Th.D, or some sort of doctorate, however all the doctorates are from Covington. This is considered theological inbreeding and accreditation does not allow it. This is simply a example, but the point is consider if the faculty is qualified to teach.

    Is the curriculum rigorous? There are several programs that want you to do a book report for college credit. One school gives credit for reading the school catalog. Does the course work challenge one to think? I am working on my Ph.D. from a RA school and I have to write more papers than I'd like to admit, then will have to write a dissertation at some point in the future. Some schools do not have any writing requirements and will give someone the title Doctor without any rigor.

    Does the school have a building? Even Distance learning institution need to have a building, even if it is a office space with a conference room as a class room. I want to know the school has a building.

    These are just a few criteria that I look for. Hope it helps.
     
  4. revmwc

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    Let's take LBU (Louisiana Baptist Universtiy) since I am familiar with them and a few others.
    They have a building and are soon to add a new section to that building. They are affiliated with but not a member of a recognized accrediting agency.
    Their courses include, science, social studies, math, english and history along with bible courses.
    The courses are sent in workbooks to the students, the workbooks have questions from a textbook, you must read the textbook to answer the questions. You must also write up to 10 papers as you work through the workbooks. These workbooks contain over 300 questions most at least 10 page workbooks. With a final paper and once all work is complete send it for a grade. The workbook is then sent back and you have a final to take. The final must be taken in the presence of a proctor and no notes nor the workbook can be used.
    They give 2 hours of credit for orientation, which is reading through the catalog and answering a worksheet on the schools, founding, curriculum and standards, maybe so you know what they expect of you.
    The final 3 credits for your degree are normally accomplished through Graduation week, where the graduate and their spouse if wanted attend 4 workshops. Tuesaday afternoon, Wednesday Morning and Afternoon and Thursday morning. All lasting 3 to 3 1/2 hours taught by faculty and outside speakers.
    The faculty have degrees from several schools and a few are graduates from LBU but have degrees from other schools as well.

    So would it be considered a good school under your criteria or a diploma mill?
     
    #4 revmwc, Jul 9, 2011
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  5. revmwc

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    Slidell Baptist Seminary now as it has come up in other post:
    They too have a building.
    They offer ALL bible courses no base classses.
    They send out CD's with lectures on them and the student is required to take notes from the outlines taught. Upon completion of the CD the student then takes a final and the course grade is based on that fianl. No papers are written and all work is encompassed upon the CD lectures.
    The faculty has degrees from other schools.
    They have been accredited by a private Christian organization that is not recognized by government agencies.

    So would they be considered a diploma mill or do the students work for the degree? Taking notes and studying those notes to be able to complete the final is that work for someone working full time and studying?
     
  6. Havensdad

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    If there is no written work required, then it would absolutely be considered a mill. A good rule of thumb is that every "credit" should take the average person about 40 hours to complete. So if you are taking a class that is three credits, and it takes less than 100 hours to finish, its a good bet that it is a mill.

    A typical undergrad class would consist of 20 hours of lectures, 1-3 writing assignments, consisting of 15 pages total, 1- 3 assigned textbooks (if there is just one, you'll be reading the whole thing. If there are several, chances are that you'll be reading excerpts from each), with around 500 pages of actual reading required, usually two to three small tests or quizzes, and a final. If the writing assignments are slimmer, then the tests should have written answer portions, not just T/F and ABC. If the writing assignments are heavier, then the tests might just be multiple choice.

    This would also be typical of Graduate studies, at least in the humanities (like Religion/M.Div., etc.). However, the writing requirements will be much more difficult (heavy research projects) with very strict formatting requirements, and narrow subject matter. The reading requirements are usually a bit larger, too.

    If the University doesn't at least approximate something like this...then it is a mill. A good degree program should be challenging, and should get you to pulling your hair out at times...passively watching a video and taking a test, exclusively, is definitely not ample.

    On a side note: for those going into ministry, where they are going to be preaching/teaching, THE most important aspect of a class is the writing assignments, in my opinion. They teach you how to research a topic, assimilate it, and communicate that teaching back to others.

    Even on this forum it is often clear, without being told, which individuals have quality educations, and which ones do not, just by they way they communicate their thoughts.
     
  7. revmwc

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    This "20 hours of lectures" sounds a bit cumbersome for distance learning since the student is working at thier own pace and trying to mange home, family and study.

    How will they get to sit for lectures?

    This too sounds a little cumbersome.
    How would the test work the schools try to manage how much paper flows. Many distance learning require all work submitted at one time with it graded and all work returned with the final, so how would these test or quizes be managed?
    You seem to be describing in class on campus degrees so are you advocating no distance learning degrees? Must everyone go to the seminary or school for classes?
     
  8. webdog

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    I think it is ironic you say this considering some of the pastors who are always harping on education fall into the latter. Some others who claim to be in the ministry come across on this board like they have received their education from a mill.

    We also have to take into consideration on a discussion forum like this some (like myself) would rather post their thoughts in a clear, straightforward manner than coming off as if they are writing a thesis. A site like this should not be a gauge into the quality or extent of a person's education (or lack thereof).
     
  9. revmwc

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    I begin to type what I am thinking and my brain runs faster than my fingers. Therefore if I don't go back and proof read as I would for my college papers I will have mis-spelled words and sometimes my thoughts aren't conveyed in a manner in which an education of granduer would be properly shown to others. This is after all an internet website that requires noone to have an education and many may type with the hunt and peck method. Therefore the posting on this website may not be a reflection on ones intellect or education. We simply cannot judge soemone based on posting on a board like this.
     
    #9 revmwc, Jul 9, 2011
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  10. Havensdad

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    I did not say that it should. Nor am I talking about speaking like your reading from a thesaurus, or defending a thesis statement.

    The fact is, when you are constantly forced to organize your thoughts into some sort of logical progression, and are regularly critiqued, it eventually becomes second nature to you. I do not write on here like I do when writing a research paper, but the years spent doing that, has indeed affected the way I write in my posts.
     
  11. Havensdad

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    Not at all. Most of my education has been Distance education.

    The lectures are on DVD's. I am curious how 20 hours of lectures is "cumbersome" for a class that is supposed to take 14-16 weeks (average 3 credit class)? Degrees are supposed to be HARD. Even if you are taking a full course load (say 15 credits) that is only about 6-7 hours of lectures a week, or 1 hour a day.

    My undergrad at SATS was "mail in" (at least at first. They transferred to computer/internet while I was going). You do the first section, write your assignments, arrange a time with your proctor, take your test. Then you go to the second section.

    Friend, I do not think we should be seeking quick and easy paths. The degree should seem, at the start, a bit daunting.
     
  12. revmwc

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    I had 1 full semester at a public college, quit and returned 15 years attending classes at a small school in my home town. The school was not accredited but was offering courses so I drove to them about 25 miles and spent two nights a week away from my family. Finally 15 years later I was awarded an Associates degree after completing the final 8 hours needed with independent study classes. Two were computer courses as elective worth 4 credit hours each. The other an Comp 1 rhetoric. At that time I was working 60 + miles from home and pastoring a church sitting for 20 hours of lectures would have been impossible. Studying and doing my work after getting home around 6:45 P.M. so I know how much work it takes.
    Then I had to go on the road to work and have been on the road away from family ever since. I sent to University of Phoenix and a public college only to be told the only acceptable hours they would award were the 16 hours from the two public schools and the 8 hours for the computer courses were excluded. I had an associates but would have to start over so I sent to a bible college and was granted the 64 hours needed from my degree since I could not get a transcript from the college I had received my Associates degree. The school also awrded me credit for my life experience and needed 32 hours to complete my Bachelors which I did. Now you seem to advocate that I too need to start all over because I didn't work hard enough. That I took an easy way well I think I worked pretty hard for what I have and am going to seek the same rout for my masters and possibly a thD from non-accredited schools.
     
  13. TomVols

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    I actually haven't encountered this. One school I served achieved RA, even though most graduated from there and 90% had virtually identical educational paths.

    This is true. I don't want to be harsh. Obviously, the most educated can have typos. The least educated can be erudite. But formal and informal preparation does show, and a lack of the same does too.
    This is fallacious. Trust me - when you write a thesis, you'd better be clear, or you'll be writing it over a couple of times (and then you'll be dropped). That said, I'm sure there's a critter or two somewhere who'd rather be verbose than be clear. Some people, though, are just naturally wordy while some are not. Some have time to be so, and some don't. Sometimes, the right word is short and other times no other word will do but a word that will make many reach for a dictionary. Twain said it best: the difference between lighting and lightning bug is only three letters :thumbs:
     
  14. Havensdad

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    Brother,

    Don't you think that the rest of us also had a lot of other things going on too? We made the necessary sacrifices. The school awarded you "life experience" credits, really? 32 HOURS? And you don't see a problem with that?

    In my opinion, claiming to have a degree which you have not earned, is lying. 16 hours of lectures, over and ENTIRE SEMESTER, should not be difficult for anyone...an ER doctor could find time for that. That's an hour a week. If your getting a "degree" that takes less than an hour a week, your not getting anything but a piece of paper...
     
  15. webdog

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    "Fallacious"? Grandstand much? :)

    This is a discussion forum. We are discussing spiritual and carnal matters here, not reporting facts from research to be built upon. You can get a point across in a simple straightforward manner without writing or sounding like you are trying to earn a grade.

    Oh, and the difference between lighting and lightning bug is 4 letters ;)
     
    #15 webdog, Jul 9, 2011
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  16. Havensdad

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    #1 Sounding like you are trying to earn a grade, is the quickest way to get a bad one. Conversational language is perfectly acceptable in graduate writing (absent colloquialisms and such, like "let the cat out of the bag").

    #2 An individual's ability to express himself or herself, is improved by graduate writing, regardless of the venue. Learning to organize your thoughts, think critically, and express the result of that process, is a universal skill-set.
     
  17. webdog

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    I do not disagree with anything above except maybe stating "can be improved" by graduate writing. There are other ways to organize and express your thoughts. Like I said initially, I have run across some who are "educated" to the gills who have a hard time expressing themselves logically.
     
  18. revmwc

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    So you don't feel that working for God as a pastor is not worth anything as an education. Nor serving in various ministry position. Brother you must not have been there or you've had any easy pastorate. Along with the secular work amoung the world and believe me I have seen the worst of the worst and been a witness to them.
    On the job first hand experience gives you life experience you WON'T learn in school. Hands on training is exactly what the disciples received, for 3 1/2 years they were with the Lord and He had no formal education, He didn't even have a Doctrorate in Theology and His school wasn't accedited, but His school was the best anyone could attend. It wouldn't meet today's standards.
    Believe me I earned the degree with all the experience I have in over 26 years in the ministry and 36 years in working in the world. Which has given me the experience I could never have gained in any formal setting. Knowledge I could never have gained in school. Knowledge of mankind and of God. How to trust Him through it all.
    You seem to think someone can't study God's word and learn and grow without schooling. Yet many have and do. Many Pastors in the 50 to late 70's didn't have degree's and yet were excellent Pastors and great men of God. Many evangelist won great numbers to the Lord without having a degree.
    What happened people came along and felt schooling was more important than calling and indepent study.
    The only reason I wanted the degree was I felt the Lord leading and most churches want a degreed Pastor. Many won't consider anyone who doesn't have a degree of at least a bachelors. Ergo I went for a degree. After prayer and searching God lead to the school in which I was able to receive my degree. When God leads we must follow where He leads.
     
    #18 revmwc, Jul 9, 2011
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  19. Havensdad

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    Yet, my question would be what level were they at before the study? Graduate Study does not ensure that the individual is going to be able to express themselves like D.A. Carson when they graduate. Only that they are much improved from whence they began.

    Also, I am not sure there is another way to effectively learn to organize and express your thoughts, unless you have a well educated friend that will spend a large portion of their day listening to and critiquing your argumentation and expression.
     
  20. webdog

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    Pertaining to spiritual matters, the best there is...the Holy Spirit.
     
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