12.24.05

The $399 Diploma Mill Surrenders

Posted in College Spurts, Lower Education at 1:44 pm by

Shady correspondence college “University High School”, subject of a New York Times expose last month, is pulling the plug writes the Times’ Duff Wilson.

University High School, a correspondence school in Miami being investigated for giving fast, high grades to qualify high school athletes for college scholarships, is going out of business Dec. 31, its founder, Stanley J. Simmons, said yesterday.

“It’s a disaster,” Simmons, 75, said in a telephone interview from his Miami home. “I’m finishing up everything, and I’m going back into retirement.”

In Miami yesterday, a leasing agent said University High School had vacated its unit in an office building. The small space was available for $1,300 a month. The school name had been removed from the building directory and a sign that read “Enabling homeschoolers nationwide – University High School” had been removed from the office door.

Simmons, who founded the school in 2000, said he had sold it about 14 months ago to Michael R. Kinney, 27, of Miami, who had operated it for him for years. Simmons said Kinney defaulted on his monthly payment after The Times wrote about the school last month, prompting state investigations.

Simmons said the school was “totally mismanaged – probably more than mismanaged” – and also that Kinney was responsible for the venture to help high school athletes qualify for N.C.A.A. scholarships. “There’s no way that I would consider remaining in the business,” Simmons said.

Simmons wrote a letter for the remaining students, telling them to pay their fees and finish their tests before Dec. 31. The letter concluded, in all upper-case letters, “If you are serious about receiving your high school diploma, we recommend that you act now!”

Simmons, who holds a master’s degree in education from the University of Michigan, taught in Miami schools and a community college before opening a series of correspondence schools beginning in 1976. He served 10 months in a federal prison camp after pleading guilty in 1989 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, a felony, in connection with a diploma-mill university. Since then, he has operated correspondence high schools.

Kinney could not be reached and has repeatedly declined to comment. “He caused all these problems,” Simmons said of Kinney.

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