CHEYENNE - Despite an ongoing push among state education officials to rein in unaccredited colleges and universities, the Wyoming Board of Education on Monday granted a state license to EC-Council University, an unaccredited school that will provide online computer technology degrees from an office in Laramie.
The school is a spinoff of the EC-Council, short for International Council of E-Commerce Consultants. The council - whose Web site lists offices in New York, Singapore, India and Malaysia - deals with issues related to online business and online security and offers courses and certification in areas including ethical hacking, hacking forensics, secure programming and penetration testing.
After Sanjay Bavisi, chief administrator for the EC-Council, promised to clarify academic information on the council's Web site and to staff the school's Laramie office as required by law, the board voted 8-0 to grant the license, putting aside concerns raised by the state Education Department.
Next month, the Legislature is expected to consider legislation that would require all colleges and universities in Wyoming either to be accredited by agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, or to be accepted as candidates for accreditation. Phil Nicholas, a state senator and Laramie attorney representing EC-Council, said the school would seek accreditation if the law requires it.
Jennifer Stone, an assistant attorney general who works in the Education Department, said the department had several concerns about recommending a license. She said it wasn't clear from the EC-Council Web site whether the EC-Council or EC-Council University would be offering classes.
"The department feels that EC-Council might be misleading students who might be wanting to get a master's degree from an accredited university," she said.
But Nicholas said it was unfair for the department to bring those concerns to the board without presenting them to EC-Council.
"I've never been involved in a process in my long career where people are submitting documents to the board without giving them to everyone else," he said.
Stone also said the EC-Council had rented an office in Laramie, but had not staffed it as required by law. And she said it wasn't clear whether the school would offer "substantive academic activity" in Wyoming, as required by law.
"The department is still very nervous about what will be conducted in Wyoming," she said. "We would feel much better if EC-Council had started student activity in Wyoming first."
But board members said they couldn't expect the school to operate without a license - in effect, breaking the law - in order to get a license.
"How can you operate a university if you don't have a license? You can have someone sit there and watch a television, but it will serve no purpose," Bavisi said.
* Last we knew: Some state officials were pushing to require accreditation for private colleges in Wyoming, including online schools.
* The latest: The state Board of Education on Monday granted a license to a new online school that isn't accredited.
* What's next: Next month, the Legislature is expected to consider legislation that would require all colleges and universities in Wyoming either to be accredited by agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, or to be accepted as candidates for accreditation.