State laws to regulate diploma mills vary. Some states, like Missouri, essentially have no regulations. Others have prospective employees inform employers if their degree is not from an accredited school.
Diploma mills are found throughout the U.S., and we may have just such an institution in Independence only two blocks off the Square. Faith Bible College was founded in 1997 by Dr. Zalmer Nichols. His literature says the school’s purpose is to provide a quality education at an affordable price and declares that it is a non-profit, non-denominational college that stands on the deity of Jesus Christ. Its statement of faith says the school’s teachings shall be according to the doctrine of Christ found in II John 9-11, “Whosoever transgresses, and abides not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.”
Nichols is, first and foremost, a fundamentalist preacher. He’s a fairly likable person and serves as the pastor of a small congregation. I became acquainted with him and the college while doing 25 hours of legally obligated community service for my deliberate trespassing on Honeywell property in July at a peace demonstration to protest Honeywell’s building some 85 percent of the non-nuclear triggering mechanisms for U.S. nuclear weapons.
My task was to type Dr. Nichols hand-written sermon notes. My first reaction to being assigned to such a fundamentalist religious organization was to appreciate that God has a sense of humor. At first I thought I might be of positive assistance to them by writing an informative article and submit it to The Examiner.
I noted that the college has a fairly extensive website with an accreditation tab that gives a long list of organizations from which the college is “accredited and or approved.” However, when I checked out the referenced organizations, concerns arose. There is no indication the college has worked with any accreditation agency listed by the U.S. Department of Education.
Under “accreditation information,” the college’s website says:
• “The Missouri Department of Secondary Education has approved courses offered by Faith Bible College for the education of Veterans or other eligible persons under the Provision of Section 3676, Title 38 U.S. Code, and Title 5, Missouri Code of State Regulation 30-4020.” But there is no Missouri Department of Secondary Education. And the very first thing 38 USC 3676 says is “No course of education which has not been approved by a State approving agency pursuant to section 3675 of this title, which is offered by a public or private, profit or nonprofit, educational institution shall be approved for the purposes of this chapter unless the educational institution offering such course submits to the appropriate State approving agency a written application for approval of such course in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.”
Page 2 of 2 - • Nichols is “a Field Practicum Supervisor for the University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) for their MSW Social Workers Training and Education Programs.” That’s also misleading. UMKC’s Social Workers Training and Education Department has no such title as a “field practicum supervisor” and UMKC has no connection with Faith Bible College.
• The college is “affiliated with the International Accreditation through Visions International and the American Mission Team.” These two organizations do work in a wide range of countries, but neither offers accreditation services.
• The college “is currently in Affiliation with the Oral Roberts University.” Officials at Oral Roberts say their school welcomes students from a variety of schools, but they firmly said their university offers no accreditation services.
Let me hasten to point out Faith Bible College is legal in Missouri. Students pay a $25 application fee, a $25-per-semester registration fee, $90 per course, and a degree-evaluation fee of $100. This can be very attractive to students who have limited financial means.
A student graduating from a fully accredited institution, such as the St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, would pay considerably more. But a diploma from St. Paul could be very persuasive when seeking employment as a pastor or teacher. On the other hand the value of a degree from Faith Bible College would be limited to the intrinsic value of the paper upon which it is printed.
James A. Everett lives in Independence.