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he Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education announced today that the Marin County Superior Court ordered Columbia Pacific University to cease operations and pay refunds to all students who have attended since June 1997. CPU is a private institution in Novato offering distance-learning degree programs from the bachelors through the doctorate level.

Private postsecondary schools are regulated by the bureau, which approves schools to operate and ensures that training is relevant and practical. The bureau's predecessor agency, the Council for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education (see timeframe attached), conducted a qualitative review and assessment of CPU's degree-granting programs and denied its application for licensure. The council's denial was upheld by an independent administrative law judge on June 10, 1997. Among other items, the judge found that CPU:

* awarded excessive credit for prior experiential learning to many


* failed to employ duly qualified faculty; and

* failed to meet various requirements for issuing Ph.D. degrees

"California's life-long learners deserve the best quality education, from preschool through postsecondary," said California Department of Consumer Affairs Director Kathleen Hamilton. "Diploma mills that manufacture degrees based on the ability to write a check, rather than the ability to master curriculum, will no longer make the grade.

"Private postsecondary schools should take note -- the lesson to be learned is that innovative and accessible instruction will secure high marks, while substandard schooling will flunk you out of the postsecondary education business," added Hamilton.

Since June 25, 1997, when the administrative law judge's decision became final, CPU has been operating without legal approval. The Marin County Superior Court preliminarily enjoined CPU from operations in California, finding it does not have the legally required approval from the bureau. "It is critical that students do their homework before enrolling in a school, by calling and checking on the school's legal status," advised Hamilton. A brochure titled "What an Adult Should Consider Before Enrolling in School" offers tips on selecting an educational institution. The brochure can be obtained by visiting the bureau's website at or by calling 916-445-3427.

The Marin County Superior Court further ordered that CPU issue full refunds to all students requesting such refunds who were enrolled and/or received a degree on or after June 15, 1997. CPU must issue the refunds within 30 days of its receipt of the student's request. The bureau estimates that hundreds of students will be eligible for a refund.

Students or former students should contact CPU directly with their refund requests at 105 Digital Drive, Novato, CA 94949, 415-884-7878. Students who do not receive refunds, dispute the amount, or have other issues they are unable to resolve directly with CPU, should write or fax the Bureau of Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education, attn: Deborah Godfrey, 1027 10th Street, 4th Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814-3517, 916-445-3427, extension 3023, fax at 445-3429.

California currently has more than 2,000 private postsecondary schools under the bureau's jurisdiction. The bureau is a part of the Department of Consumer Affairs, California's consumer advocate in state government, which establishes standards of competency for more than 200 professions/occupations and administers the regulatory functions of licensing, examination and enforcement for those professions. Last year, the department recovered $35 million for consumers; fielded more than a million calls through its 800 number; renewed licenses for more than 790,000 professionals and businesses; mediated thousands of consumer complaints and took disciplinary action against more than 33,000 licensees.

SOURCE California Department of Consumer Affairs

CO: California Department of Consumer Affairs; Columbia Pacific University; Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education

For quite a few years, I felt that it was doing a good job for an unaccredited school. During the time of my consultancy there (late 70s, early 80s), there were three full-time staff who were former presidents of regionally-accredited universities, as well as president Crews (who has now been there over 20 years) with his Harvard MD. They had state authorization, and then state approval for 20 years.

I honstly don't know why things went sour. My consultancy ended about 15 years ago. Almost no interaction since then, apart from an annual phone chat with VP Art Blum, former president of Point Park College in Pittsburgh.

The announcement posted today seems odd to me. Has it really taken the Bureau of Private Postsecondary two years to register that a court ordered CPU closed (in April 1997) and put out this notice? Or has there been some new development? I can't tell.

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