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Accreditation Agency May Drop Northrop U.

September 12, 1989|LARRY GORDON | Times Education Writer

Northrop University, an engineering and business school near Los Angeles International Airport, should lose its accreditation because of ethical violations in recruiting foreign students, awarding credits and bookkeeping practices involving millions of dollars, the agency that monitors California colleges announced Monday.

As a result of the controversy, the school's president resigned two weeks ago. The rare action by the Western Assn. of Schools and Colleges stems from complaints about Northrop's master's of science program in international business and taxation, which enrolls many students from Asia. But the problems have "substantially affected the infrastructure of the university in nearly every aspect," according to a WASC official.

Northrop dropped the disputed program two weeks ago and is appealing the accreditation decision, Debora Spano, the university's public relations director, said Monday. Meanwhile, Northrop's president for the last 17 years, B. J. Shell, has retired abruptly and the program's director, Ar-Young Wang, has been taken off regular duties, she said.

Founded in 1942

Spano said the 3-year-old master's program enrolls a quarter of the school's 1,800 students. She said its problems do not affect the rest of the university, which was founded in 1942 by the Northrop aerospace firm. The university and the firm have not been affiliated since 1953.

"We feel confident that through the review appeal process, we will be able to prove that our accreditation should continue," Spano said.

The agency recently voted to strip the school of its accreditation beginning in November but the Northrop appeal blocked that until the appeals process is exhausted next June, said Ralph Wolff, associate executive director of WASC's accrediting commission for senior colleges and universities. If Northrop loses, the academic and business world will no longer recognize its degrees.

WASC is one of six private, non-governmental agencies that accredits schools nationwide. In California, many private institutions receive state licenses without the nationally recognized WASC accreditation. But some are considered to be diploma mills.

According to Wolff, Northrop operated part of the master's in international business program in Taiwan without WASC approval. An investigation also showed "substantial irregularities" in how the school admitted foreign students, processed immigration documents, graded student performances and awarded credits, he said.

Wolff also said millions of dollars in tuition are unaccounted for or improperly accounted for. "We are entirely unsure of the magnitude," he said.

Trustees are now running the school and a search for a new president is about to begin, Spano said. Former President Shell and program director Wang could not be reached for comment.

Originally founded as a school for airplane mechanics, the school later expanded into computer science, business and law studies.

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