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THE NATION

Now, a Down-to-Earth Approach to the Stars

Astrology: School offers diplomas for students, who learn to write horoscopes and offer advice based on position of celestial bodies.

January 13, 2002|JULIE CART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For 10 years, Dave Campbell worked as an astrologer, ran an astrology bookstore and nurtured a flourishing business giving private readings. Things seemed great, but something was missing.

Legitimacy.

"People will ask, 'Where did you get your training, where did you get your education?' " Campbell said. "People ask serious questions and they want to work with someone who is properly trained. I got tired of not being able to show them my diploma."

Soon he can. Campbell is enrolled at the Astrology Institute, the country's first nationally accredited school of astrology.

Tucked into two classrooms at the back of a former elementary school in this suburban enclave, the institute is teaching students how to write horoscopes and give financial, business and relationship advice based on the position of celestial bodies. By the start of its school term in April, the institute should be certified to offer federal financial aid and grants to a budding crop of advice-givers. That, the U.S. Department of Education says, would be a first in the nation.

Astrologers study the position of planets, moons and even asteroids, believing their movements influence human affairs. People from all walks of life consult astrologers--Princess Diana was said to have relied on the advice of an astrologer, as did former First Lady Nancy Reagan.

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Friday January 25, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 2 inches; 50 words Type of Material: Correction
Astrology--A story that appeared on Jan. 13 in Section A reported that physicist Albert Einstein said astrology is "a science in itself and [it] contains an illuminating body of knowledge. It taught me many things." Though such a quote is listed on several Web sites popular with astrology followers, there is no proof that Einstein ever made this statement.

While many debunk astrologers' predictions as mere parlor tricks, others argue astrology is a legitimate field of study. Renowned physicist Albert Einstein said it is "a science in itself and [it] contains an illuminating body of knowledge. It taught me many things."

The institute is turning out practitioners into a growing field. Cindy Craig, one of three graduates of the school's first class in 1999, has a private practice that concentrates on relationship issues. She charges $100 for a one-hour reading for one person and as much as $150 for a couple--about the industry average.

Her other big source of business is conventions.

"They set up tables and I do quick readings. Everyone loves it," Craig said. "I have to turn down business because I get so many requests."

The school's founder, Joyce Jensen, said that most graduates go into private practice but also find work in bookstores, at resorts and on cruise ships.

"The field is wide open," Jensen said.

Astrologers often specialize, giving advice about an auspicious time to expand a business or the best time to buy stock. She said many businesses consult astrologers, but such work is hush-hush.

"They make us sign confidentiality agreements because these Fortune 500 companies don't want to be ridiculed," she said. "It's really a great tool for business strategy and planning. We can help them determine good times to do things."

Schools seeking national accreditation must first select an accrediting agency that most closely matches their educational mission. Jensen chose the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology. Based in Arlington, Va., the agency is approved by the U.S. Department of Education to award accreditation.

The accrediting agency does not question the nature of the school but examines whether the school is capable of providing the education it claims. A trade school, for example, could be accredited if it successfully teaches its students to rebuild automobile transmissions.

Among the other types of career schools accredited: cosmetology, dice/blackjack dealing, hotel cleaning and instruction to become a nanny.

The stringent two-year process involves multiple site inspections and close analysis of the school's staff and curriculum. The school is required to have qualified teachers and train its graduates to be placed in jobs. The Astrological Institute gained accreditation in August.

The institute, which has about 50 students, offers day and evening classes on astronomy, physics and psychology. Tuition is $5,300 a year for 450 hours of instruction, and graduates receive a diploma.

Students tend to be, like Jensen, passionate about the stars.

"You could say I've been obsessed about astrology, really, since I was about 10 years old," said Jensen, an affable and confident Scorpio.

She has been teaching since about 1985, and for the last decade she worked on making her astrology school legitimate. Too many in her profession, Jensen said, do the work but aren't properly educated. Too many outside it, she said, devalue astrology in part because its practitioners lack educational credentials.

"People who have been practicing astrology for years are amazed at what they don't know," Jensen said from her desk in the former physical education teachers' office. "There is much to it, and I think if the public could know what's involved they would be less questioning."

Jensen envisions bigger things and hopes one day to offer associate degrees.

According to the charts Jensen prepared for the school, this year looks like a good time for business success. The plan is to move from the nondescript location and incorporate a bookstore and gift shop into the campus.

"They made me jump through hoops, but I am a very determined person," Jensen said.

"I know this is something I had to do. It's been 600 years since astrology has been part of the academic world. We need to get back there. And here we are."

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