MIGS and the Law

Discussion in 'The Monterrey Institute for Graduate Studies' started by Gus Sainz, Jun 26, 2001.

  1. Gus Sainz

    Gus Sainz New Member

    I am not an attorney; I don’t even play one on TV. However, in my reading of the relevant Florida statutes ( http://www.firn.edu/doe/bin00073/statute.htm#246121 ), I see several problems for el MIGS. My understanding is that MIGS has not filed for licensure, therefore their application filed with the State Board of Independent Colleges and Universities is for either for permission to operate or a certificate of exemption. If so, I believe their application will be denied, because unless I missed or misinterpreted something I believe MIGS, does indeed, require licensure. I would welcome any comments, especially from the attorney members of this forum, as I may have missed a loophole or two.

    Certificates of exemption are issued under the following conditions:

    246.085 Certificate of exemption.--

    (1) As an alternative to applying for a license from the board, the following nonpublic colleges may apply for a certificate of exemption from the board:
    (a) Colleges chartered in Florida and accredited by:
    1. The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools;
    2. The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools;
    3. The Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges;
    4. The Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools; or
    5. An agency recognized by the United States Department of Education to accredit professional degree programs above the baccalaureate level when such agency has been evaluated pursuant to s. 246.041(1)(q) and determined by the board to have standards at least comparable to the board=s licensure standards. A nonpublic college holding a certificate of exemption under this subparagraph shall only offer the degree program which is specifically covered in the grant of accreditation.
    Each nonpublic college seeking exemption pursuant to this paragraph shall submit to the board a current catalog and a letter from the recognized accrediting agency by whom the college is accredited, confirming the current accredited status of the college.
    (b) Colleges chartered in this state, the credits or degrees of which are accepted for credit by at least three colleges that are fully accredited by an agency recognized by the United States Department of Education, which were exempt through this category of exemption prior to July 1, 1982, and which enroll no students who receive any state or federal financial aid for education. Each college seeking exemption pursuant to this paragraph shall submit to the board a current catalog and letters from the three colleges confirming acceptance of the credits.

    I do not believe MIGS meets any of the accreditation criteria, nor is it chartered in the state of Florida and exempt prior to July 1, 1982.

    246.093 Permission to operate.—
    (1) An out-of-state college seeking to have a minimal presence in this state for the purpose of maintaining a business office, providing an occasional seminar that carries college credit, or arranging an occasional clinical clerkship for a medical student or for the purpose of other operations not involving a regular, continuous, credit-bearing educational program in this state must apply to the board for permission to operate. The board has authority to adopt rules and fees for this status.

    MIGS is not just maintaining a business office or providing an occasional seminar, MIGS professes to be the Virtual Graduate School of the CEU (“We are the CEU,” remember?) and is offering full-fledged degrees. As such, a permission to operate would not cover the activities that MIGS is truly conducting.

    Moreover, due to the way MIGS chose to operate and portray itself (attempting to “have their cake, and eat it too”), makes them difficult to classify and define.

    246.021 Definitions.--
    As used in ss. 246.011-246.151, unless the context otherwise requires:
    (1) "Agent" means a person who is employed by a college that is subject to the licensing requirements provided in ss. 246.081, 246.091, and 246.095, or an out-of-state college, and who solicits business for the college at any place other than the legal place of business of the college. The term does not include an entertainer at a public event whose objective is to improve public relations for a college, if the entertainer does not accept the commitment of prospective students to attend the college.
    (2) "Board" means the State Board of Independent Colleges and Universities.
    (3) "Certificate of exemption" means a document issued by the board to a nonpublic college, signifying that the college has demonstrated that it meets the statutorily prescribed exemption criteria and is not required to participate in the board's licensing review process.
    (4) "College" means any educational entity which confers or offers to confer a degree or which furnishes or offers to furnish instruction leading toward, or prerequisite to, college credit or a degree beyond the secondary level. The term includes any nonpublic college chartered in this state and any Florida center or branch campus of an out-of-state college.
    (5) "Degree" means any credential awarded which is generally taken to signify satisfactory completion of the requirements of an academic, educational, or professional program of study beyond the level of a specialized associate degree or any honorary credential conferred for meritorious recognition.
    (6) "License" means a regular license, provisional license, or temporary license, as provided by rule.
    (7) "Out-of-state college" or "college outside the state" means any college where the place of instruction, the legal place of residence, or the place of evaluation of instruction or work by correspondence is not within the legal boundaries of this state.

    With apologies for the lengthy post, there are a few items of note among the official definitions. In regards to licensure, MIGS is deemed a “college” because it is offering to confer a degree (regardless of where the degrees are coming from, MIGS is offering them, claiming to be the CEU, or its “Virtual Graduate School”). MIGS cannot afford to be classified as simply an “agent” (although that might the easiest route toward some kind of approval) because it does not fit its business model (it would place them in the same category as AIHEC, for example). It is not considered an "out-of-state college" or "college outside the state" because the both the “legal place of residence” and “the place of evaluation of instruction or work by correspondence” are within the legal boundaries of the state of Florida.

    Moreover, if Ric Feinberg or Bruce D. Forman, Ph.D. are talking or sending email to prospective students from any site that is not MIGS’s legal place of business (their home, private practice, or any other location, for example), they must individually be registered with the “board” as “agents.”

    Now, as to licensure, here are the relevant statutes:

    246.087 Licensing requirements.--
    (1) The minimum standards to be evaluated by the board for the licensing of colleges shall include purpose, administrative organization, admissions and recruitment, educational program and curricula, finances, faculty, library, student personnel services, physical plant and facilities, publications, and disclosure statements about the status of the college in relation to professional certification and licensure. The board has authority to adopt rules to ensure that licensed colleges meet these standards in ways that are appropriate to achieve the stated intent of s. 246.011, including provisions for nontraditional programs and delivery.
    (2) The minimum standards for the licensing of agents shall include name, residential and business addresses, background, training, college to be represented, and demonstrated knowledge of statutes and rules related to the authority granted to agents and the limitations imposed upon such authority. An employee of a nonpublic college may not solicit prospective students for enrollment in such college until that employee has completed a training program containing the information required by the board in rule and becomes licensed by the board as an agent. The board has authority to adopt rules to ensure that licensed agents meet these standards and uphold the intent of s. 246.011

    Once again, I am not an attorney, and all of this is strictly my opinion, but a quick glance at those licensing requirements and it seem MIGS has the proverbial “snowballs chance in hell” of meeting them. However, in spite of Florida’s strict standards, notice that they make allowances (not in the standards, but how to comply with them) for colleges that provide “nontraditional programs and delivery.”

    Much has been written about institutions and programs (I use the terms loosely) that can be considered legal but not legitimate. If one presupposes legitimacy (agreed, a stretch in the mind of many) what we would have then with MIGS, is an institution that is legitimate but not legal. At least that’s innovative; I cannot recall any other school being characterized as such. Moreover, it appears that not only MIGS, but also Ric Feinberg, Bruce D. Forman Ph.D. (and any one else that attempts to recruit prospective students from Florida) are individually in violation of Florida statutes if they have not registered as agents. [​IMG]

    My prediction? MIGS will buckle under the strain of Florida’s statutes. The original application will be denied, although not for a few months (Governor Bush recently revamped the entire Department of Education, even doing away with the Board of Regents, and the current board members of the State Board of Independent Colleges and Universities have yet to be seated). As I was told they aren’t even going to look at MIGS’s application for many months, will MIGS continue to recruit students? If so, they will surely come under increasing pressure from the State of Florida to cease their illegal activities, and this will jeopardize even further whatever slim chance MIGS may have had for any kind of approval. The end result will be that MIGS will look for greener pastures and relocate.

    I think we should start a pool. Which state will be the next one to play host to el MIGS? Hawaii? Wyoming? New Mexico? Idaho? Or will it be former heavyweight contenders South Dakota or Louisiana in a triumphant comeback? [​IMG]

    Gus Sainz
  2. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    Gus, thank you for the information.

    Well el MIGS already claimed a home in Texas once before. Perhaps they will join the Bush league and hop between states that had Bush brother governors?

    I still have to laugh at the audacity of this bungling crew of misfits to file a lawsuit against Dr. Steve Levicoff. That was months ago and they still can't figure out how to operate legally! Perhaps if they offered Steve a huge consulting fee he would be willing to help straighten out their legal mess. Now that would be a most glorious twist to the el MIGS debacle.
  3. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator

    I was under the impression that MIGS has filed for licensure, but only after Steve Levicoff found out that they had not filed for licensure in his investigation of MIGS following the MIGS lawsuit against Steve.

    In any event, it is my personal opinion (which no one should apply any weight to) that MIGS is dead as far as being a credible DL school. The recent resignation of Rich Douglas (who was a great supporter of MIGS) from the MIGS Ph.D. program speaks volumes for me.

  4. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    As I noted elsewhere, MIGS didn't apply for approval to operate an administrative office--which Gus notes may not be possible given their academic activities--until May 29, 2001. This was a very long time after they began operations, and also long after their lack of legal authority to operate was noted by Dr. Levicoff.

    I don't necessarily agree with Gus' conclusion--I think MIGS might be able to get by with permission to operate an administrative office, but I'm no longer sure nor interested. If they are successful, then it becomes a minor matter, not unlike getting a business license. But for the moment, MIGS has no authority to conduct academic activities, nor use a Florida address. They've been notified of this, but persist.

    Rich Douglas

Share This Page