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Top TA school in accreditation bind

Oct. 5, 2012 - 06:06AM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 5, 2012 - 06:06AM  |  

Trident University International, a top recipient of military tuition assistance dollars among schools nationwide, ran into trouble with its accrediting agency but has made progress in addressing the problems.

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges questioned the school last year because "some undergraduate students and alumni may be missing one or more of their required general education courses," then-interim President Nolan Miura wrote in an open letter.

The association gave Trident until spring 2012 to demonstrate why the school should keep its accreditation. In late February, WASC held off on revoking Trident's accreditation, instead putting the school on probation, an interim step that preserves Trident's accredited status.

"Probation reflects the commission's finding that the institution has made significant strides in addressing the areas of noncompliance but that action is still needed before the institution can be found to comply fully with the standards of accreditation," the association said in a public statement.

Trident was found to not have complied with two WASC regulations related to "defining institutional purposes and ensuring education objectives" and "achieving educational objectives through core functions," according to the association statement.

WASC is one of six regional accrediting groups in the U.S. It covers schools in California, Hawaii and several U.S. territories in the Pacific.

Accreditation is not required for institutions of higher learning, but it's meant to be a guarantee of academic quality. Students from unaccredited schools are not eligible for federal aid, and degrees and credits from such institutions are not recognized by some colleges and universities.

Trident is a for-profit, online-only university. In 2011, about 12,400 students used military tuition assistance to pay for some 36,600 classes at the school, amounting to tens of millions of dollars.

Steven Gold, TUI vice president of institutional advancement, said the accreditation issue was "primarily related to records" and added Trident's academics were "never questioned."

"We're at the very end of this process and about ready to finish it off," he said in a telephone interview. "You've got a school here that loves military people, and we're trying to get everything exactly the way it should be."

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