North Carolina Cracks Down on Out-of-State Colleges
The University of North Carolina Board of Governors has adopted licensing rules and regulations that might force some out-of-state universities and colleges to stop operating nontraditional degree programs in North Carolina.
The regulations were inspired in part by a dispute over the in-state activities of Nova University of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which is believed to operate the most extensive nontraditional degree programs in the country, including continuing-education programs for public-school teachers and administrators.
Since the university was established 13 years ago, its off-campus programs have come under fire in several states in which it has sought approval to offer them.
License Previously Denied
Nova was denied a North Carolina license by the board of governors in 1978. Nova officials appealed the decision, and in 1982 the state supreme court ruled that state law applied only to those institutions that conferred degrees in the state, according to Roy Carroll, vice president for planning at the University of North Carolina. Because Nova conferred degrees in Florida, the court ruled that its academic programs were beyond the scope of the law.
Last year, the General Assembly rewrote legislation to enable the board to regulate not only institutions that confer degrees in the state, but also those operating aca-demic programs in the state that lead to degrees awarded elsewhere. The unc governing board this month adopted implementing rules, regulations, and procedures for the new legislation.
The legislation clarifies standards for licensing, Mr. Carroll said. One such standard specifies that the courses or programs of study should "reasonably and adequately achieve the stated objective for which the study is offered," such as a doctoral degree. Other standards regulate such factors as the qualifications of instructors, the catalogues and brochures sent to prospective students, and the adequacy of space, instructional materials, and equipment provided for the degree program.
Mr. Carroll said Nova's 1978 application was denied because "the contact between faculty and individual students was not considered sustained and adequate" and "arrangements for library resources were not adequate to support the level of program they purported to offer."
Gerald E. Sroufe, director of Nova's national doctorate program for education leaders, said last week that he was not sure whether the university, if denied a license, would take the matter to court.
Issue Is University's Role
The major issue, he said, is the constitutionality of allowing a state university to regulate the activities of private institutions.
"The state university is in charge of saying whether there will be people competing with them," Mr. Sroufe said. "It's strange that out of all the states, there is only one that has lodged the responsibility for determining the licensure of out-of-state institutions with the state university."
According to Mr. Carroll, state licensure of postsecondary institutions has been required in North Carolina since 1923. For 40 years, he said, the responsibility to enforce the mandate has rested with the board of education, for another dozen years with a board of higher education, and since 1972 with the unc governors.
Mr. Carroll said the new law was not written to regulate Nova alone, but to regulate all nontraditional programs that operate in the state.
Hearings in Pennsylvania
Nova's programs have also prompted recent action in at least two other states.
In Pennsylvania, a second set of hearings on the validity of nontraditional degree programs is scheduled for this week. The hearings were prompted by a resolution submitted by state Representative Henry Livengood, who expressed concern about the number of school administrators in his district who had advanced degrees from Nova.
And in Maryland, the board of education was about to recommend that Nova be denied a state license to operate its doctoral program in education, but the university withdrew its application before the vote, a board spokesman said.
Leads in Doctoral Awards
According to Mr. Sroufe, Nova awards 70 to 80 doctorates in education a year, making it possibly the largest of the 106 accredited institutions that grant such degrees.
Currently, he said, some 613 students are enrolled in the program, up from about 480 two years ago.
On its campus in Florida, Nova runs a traditional undergraduate program, a law school, and a doctoral program in behavioral sciences and oceanography. The university operates three off-campus degree programs leading to doctorates in education, business administration, and public administration.
Nova's doctoral program in education differs from those offered by other universities in two important ways, Mr. Sroufe said. Nova accepts only those who have a master's degree and are employed as full-time school administrators. Also, instead of dissertations, Nova students are required to complete three "practicums."
Unlike a dissertation, which is "by and large an exploration and analysis of a problem," Mr. Sroufe said, a practicum requires a doctoral candidate to identify a problem in his or her school district, attempt to solve it, and then write a paper describing the process and its outcomes.
In addition, Mr. Sroufe said, Nova students are required to pass examinations in eight study areas and attend two eight-day summer institutes.
The students, who are grouped in "clusters" according to geographic location, also meet once a month with a nationally recognized lecturer. Nova has 26 clusters in 20 states, he said.
Students are given four years to complete the three-year program. About 40 percent of the students who are accepted into the program do not finish, Mr. Sroufe said.