A (Qualified) Case for Legitimate Unaccredited Grad Degrees

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by David Yamada, Feb 20, 2001.

  1. David Yamada

    David Yamada New Member

    I would like to make a qualified argument for the importance of legitimate, unaccredited graduate degree programs.

    I should preface my remarks by explaining where I am coming from. I am a tenured professor at a fully accredited law school in Boston. I have degrees from Valparaiso University (B.A.), Empire State College (M.A., Labor & Policy Studies), and New York University School of Law (J.D.). Recently, after much investigation and weighing of potential options, I decided to enroll in the Ph.D. program in Higher Education and Social Change at the Western Institute for Social Research ("WISR"), a Calif-approved but regionally unaccredited school. I am quite happy with the program so far.

    In no way do I doubt the general advice that, in most cases where an individual is seeking professional advancement, a graduate degree from a RA institution is much more useful than the same degree from a non-RA one. That's the way the world works, plain and simple, and trying to use a non-RA degree as a credential is (ironically, perhaps) becoming increasingly difficult as RA distance-learning options proliferate.

    But in our vocation-oriented discussions of distance learning, we often neglect the fact that another reason to earn a graduate degree is to pursue topics of personal, intellectual interest. My own doctoral work at WISR, for example, is centering around issues of adult learning, public scholarship, and intellectual activism -- largely inspired by the loose network of independent scholars, adult educators, and intellectual activists that I gladly encounter outside of my "work world" of law professors. I probably will not even attempt to "use" my WISR degree as a credential within the world of legal education, but frankly, I don't *need* to use it in that way because for law schools, a J.D. is considered a terminal degree.

    As one topic on this board aptly points to, tuition levels at distance-learning RA institutions are very high. (For example, doctoral tuition and expenses at The Union Institute run roughly 2 1/2 times those at my WISR program.) If one is pursuing graduate studies more for personal reasons than for professional ones, and if consequently the resulting degree is not designed to provide a boost in income, then it would seem that there is a niche for quality non-RA programs, residential and distance-learning alike, that provide opportunities for people to engage their scholarly & personal interests at a more reasonable cost.

    I understand and generally support the value of accreditation as a baseline seal of approval. But I think we need to keep open legitimate options and encourage innovation in ways that may be beyond the scope of current accreditation policies.

    David Yamada, [email protected]
  2. vpacheco

    vpacheco New Member

    Welcome on board!
  3. Sam

    Sam New Member

    I can appreciate your perspective and understand your points but there are several significant issues that should be kept in mind. Primarily, you hold several viable regionally accredited degrees including a doctor of jurisprudence which enables you to be in a position to take a state approved doctoral program and to extol its values and merits.

    Personally, I would not feel justified to recommend such a program to the majority of posters who do not possess "backup" credentials such as the ones you possess. As you stated, there are clearcut limitations in state approved degrees which can have a negative impact on the career prospects of others who are not fotunate enough to be in your position.

    Please do not feel the need to be defensive but your rationale for recommending such degrees does not apply to the vast majority of individuals who would benefit significantly from regionally accredited degrees, even if they are more costly and rigorous in nature.
  4. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    There are many really good state-approved schools operating in California, some of whom offer distance programs, but many who are classroom-based. A problem in California has been its history as a haven for really bad or kind-of-bad schools that have been the grist for many discussions here and on a.e.d. All state-approved schools then tend to get painted with the same brush, which is unfortunate. WISR has enjoyed a reputation of being a small, well-grounded school. Also, I see in Bears' Guide (p. 244) that graduates of WISR may take state licensing exam.

    Rich Douglas
  5. David Yamada

    David Yamada New Member

    Sam, thanks for your thoughtful response. We may be closer on this than you think.

    I agree that for anything career-related, esp. when it comes to presenting necessary paper credentials, an RA degree is strongly preferred. I posted my own educational background because I didn't want to give the misleading impression that I was underestimating or dismissing the genuine value of RA degrees.

    However, I also believe there are many individuals who want to pursue graduate study for the sake of learning, rather than as necessary training + credentials for professional advancement. (The "I'd love to go back to school just to learn" wish is one that I hear quite often.) For this group, a viable non-RA option, given issues of cost and flexibility, may have much to say for it.

    For example, I would have no hesitation recommending to a history buff the non-RA (but DETC-accredited) American Military University. An AMU master's degree won't open doors to traditional academic posts, adjunct or full-time, and I question whether many school districts would accept it for their teachers. (Experts, correct me if I'm way off on the latter.) Nonetheless, for someone who wants to steep him/herself in military history and maybe even engage in independent scholarship, AMU is a fine option.
  6. Guest

    Guest Guest

  7. David Yamada

    David Yamada New Member

  8. Alex

    Alex New Member

  9. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator

    David, I'm curious if you plan to inform your employer about the degree once completed, and if so, if they would include it in your bio in the school's catalog or website.

    Bruce (fellow Bostonian)
  10. Guest

    Guest Guest

  11. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member

  12. Lawrence

    Lawrence New Member

    Why quoted "Risen Sun" because "Yamada" is Japanese surname? What is the point?

    You have a hard time understand Risen Sun, and I have a hard time understand your point related to Risen Sun.

    Larry T.
  13. Chip

    Chip Administrator

    And I have a hard time reading posts that are off-topic, inane, and quick to take offense, Erma/VPacheco/Lawrence.

    You see, we *DO* know that you are the same person. We have known this for some time. We know a lot more about a lot of things... information tying certain anonymous emails to certain individuals and institutions. Information about certain less-than-wonderful schools.

    Need I say more?

    Now, if you will kindly decide which of the multiple aliases you want to be, and post only under that one, you will save the forum administrators, a lot of inconvenience.

    Thank you for your cooperation.
  14. David Yamada

    David Yamada New Member

    Bruce, good questions. Yes, I have informed my dean about my enrollment in the program. I don't know if I'll list the degree in any "official" publications by my school (print or virtual), because legal educators in particular are obsessed with prestige credentials, accreditation, etc., and the Western Institute Ph.D. isn't necessary for my continued professional advancement.

    Plus, although my reasons for pursuing this degree on occasion overlap with my work as a professor, in actuality they reflect a sort of "other life" I have in terms of my scholarly interests, and that is the world of learning and scholarship that occurs outside of traditional academic settings. Heh, for some people an "other life" involves sex, drugs, and rock n roll, but for me it has to do with posting on boards like this one!

    David Yamada, [email protected]
  15. Mark A. Sykes

    Mark A. Sykes Member


    I'm very glad to have read your posts. Education for its own sake is something I value. Preparing oneself academically for a vocation is a duty of responsibility; engaging a subject out of a love of learning is a delightful reward of life. I've considered the plight of the autodidact, and I've divided adult education roughly into two catagories: That which you pursue on your own and that which may be had at a school.
    If you go at it yourself, you're at the helm with regard to your curriculum but you'll forego peer review and interaction through your studies. If you enroll at a school, you gain feedback from classmates and direction from promoters, but your concentration will depend upon which school you attend which depends on your location, ability to be there when the class is held, etc., and you'll spend lots more money.

    The picture is changing because of the greater availability of upper-level courses and degrees by distance (and economically from Africa and Australia), but I understand what you're looking for: If your goal is to learn more about a subject that interests you avocationally, at an advanced, high quality level but not necessarily terminating in a degree, where can you go? You want more than a reading list but less formality, expense, and restriction than a program at a school.

    Another obstacle to self-education lies in access to tools and resources. You may well have independently studied calculus and physics to the same rigor as the students about to take an optics instrumentation lab; but unless you a) carefully and completely document your progress through the textbooks and b) successfully appeal to the science Dean to waive prerequisites and allow you to sign for the lab, your curriculum is less than complete.

    You're fortunate to have found your solution in non-RA school. I'm lucky that Unisa and University of Western Sidney Napean offer distance math and astronomy programs. There must be scores of individuals, however, who don't work well in a vacuum but also cannot find the courses or resources thay need to move forward. I don't have a good solution for this; what are your thoughts?

    By the way, have you read Adler's "Guidebook to Learning: For a Lifelong Pursuit of Wisdom?" That book changed my life academically and started me on the educational road I'm on now.

    Mark A. Sykes
  16. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member

    You make the most interesting connections, man -- I'd love to give you an inkblot test.

    But in the unlikely event that the guy actually cares, or that some other well-meaning soul was offended: no, I thought of Yamada as Japanese about as much as you thought of Head as Welsh.


  17. David Yamada

    David Yamada New Member

    P.S. Yes folks, Yamada is a Japanese surname. But recently I found myself on a mailing list for Latino professors! And once during law school, a professor responded to my comment by looking at the seating chart and saying, "yes, according to Mr. Yarmulke . . ." Hey, at least he didn't call me a Jap.

    David Yamada, [email protected]
  18. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member

    But this certainly is a valid point, and draws my attention to just how insensitive some of us are when it comes to the matter of last names. For example, I think it's clear, now, that nobody should mention the adult film "Deep Throat" in response to any of my posts. That's just plain and simple insensitivity towards my last name, and I will not be impugned. And it is COMPLETELY offensive to refer to a Head-Bear project as a "B.J. and the Bear Project," or one of Chip's moderatorial duties as "White Man's Burden," or drawing too much attention to Oliver Stone's brilliantly poignant and thought-provoking story of Tom N.'s life, "Nixon." It is also unacceptable to refer to Mr. Douglas's wife as "Rich Girl," or make any cantorial references about Steve. Let's all be sensitive to one another's needs so that racism, subconscious or otherwise, may be dismantled. Thank you for your cooperation.



  19. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member


    Well, I'd offer to do 100 Hail Mary's, but you could be half-Italian and then we'd be back at square one. :p But anyway, no, I just felt like a schpiel and "Rising Sun" happened to be the movie I'd seen the previous night. I didn't make a connection.

    I've never gotten this whole race business anyway, but then I live in Mississippi -- and that'll do interesting things to a guy's sense of ethnicity right off the bat. Here you can go to bed Scottish and wake up "white," or go to bed Nigerian and wake up "black," etc.


  20. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Paula prefers "Middle-class Girl with Aspirations"!

    I had to look up "cantorial." It's not what I thought it was about. <grin> No, truck driving!


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