Troubled Italian University Loses U.S. Degree-Granting Authority

July 1, 2014

The New Hampshire Higher Education Commission voted unanimously on Monday to allow the degree-granting authority of a troubled for-profit Italian institution to expire at the end of the day. St. John International University had long been plagued by low enrollments and legal claims of unpaid wages filed by former employees, raising hard questions about the oversight role of the New Hampshire commission, and, more broadly, the practice of cross-border accreditation or authorization.

The New Hampshire commission had issued a May 14 letter to the university asking it to address seven specific points, including confirmation that the university is meeting payroll (as verified by an accounting firm), evidence that all former employee claims had been settled and paid in full and/or that sufficient funds are being held in reserve in an escrow account to pay outstanding claims, confirmation that no new claims had been made against the university and/or explanations of any claims, evidence of payment of all costs related to a New Hampshire commission site visit, and submission of a financial report and financial and enrollment projections.

“They provided a status report which nominally responded to those seven requests, and today at the commission meeting, we went over each of the seven and the consensus was that they were not responsive and therefore there was not a compelling case to extend their authority to offer degree programs,” said Edward R. MacKay, the director of the New Hampshire Division of Higher Education. MacKay said his interpretation of the regulations is that since the degree-granting authority was simply allowed to expire, the university does not have an avenue for appeal.

SJIU's board secretary and U.S.-based lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday evening.

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