Warren National University

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Warren National University
Former names
Kennedy-Western University
Type Private, distance learning, and unaccredited university
Active 1984–2009
Academic staff
Students 30,000 total from 1984 to 2005 [1][2]
Address 200 West 17th Street, Cheyenne, Wyoming, 82001-4412, Cheyenne, Wyoming
Website wnuedu.com at Archive.org

Warren National University, previously known as Kennedy-Western University, was a post-secondary, distance learning, unaccredited private university that offered undergraduate and graduate degrees in the United States from 1984 to 2009. Based in Cheyenne, Wyoming, it was listed and registered with the Wyoming Department of Education.[3] Until December 14, 2007, its administrative offices were located in Agoura Hills, California.[4]


Warren National University was established as Kennedy-Western University in California in 1984. Its founder was Paul Saltman.[5] The name was officially changed to Warren National University on January 1, 2007.[5][6] According to the institution, the new name was selected in honor of the first governor of Wyoming, Francis E. Warren, and reflects the university's strong ties to the state of Wyoming.[6] The Encyclopedia of Distributed Learning states, "There are some unaccredited, profit-making online universities that have achieved reported economic success. One example is Kennedy-Western University, which has significant history in serving the corporate education markets." [7] The financial success is supported by an article in the Cheyenne Herald that contained the financial statement for what may have been a peak revenue year, 2003, about $25,000,000. The article added, "The $25 million estimate was almost dead-on. As was the estimate of using 50% of the revenue to generate the revenue"[8]

Over the university's history, it had offices in, Hawaii, Idaho, and finally to Wyoming, while keeping headquarters in California until December 2007. As of December 14, 2007, WNU closed its administrative offices in Agoura Hills, California, centralizing its operations in Wyoming.[4]

In 2002 The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that KWU was licensed in California up to 1991, "But Kennedy-Western chose not to renew its license after California enacted the Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education Reform Act, a 1989 law that aimed to rid the state of diploma mills." [9] In the same article the Chronicle quoted the school's director of admissions as saying the new California regulations would not have permitted KWU "to offer college credit for work experience and a more flexible self-paced model."[9]

In August 2008, WNU announced that it was suspending new student admissions and reactivation of students in order to focus resources on current students.[10] On January 30, 2009, WNU announced that their attempt to achieve accreditation had failed. Therefore, in compliance with Wyoming state law they would cease operations on March 31, 2009. It was also mentioned that future university registrar services would be provided by Preston University.[11]

On June 5, 2009 a civil suit was filed by former students alleging that WNU had misrepresented itself to the students.[12][13][14]

After the school closed, former students who took out loans to pay Warren National University learned that their degree was not accepted by some Government or State employment that required license.[15]

On March 6, 2012 the Cheyenne Herald reported about the slow pace of the ongoing lawsuit, noting four plaintiffs withdrew, which left 190 on record and the plaintiffs issued a subpoena to the Higher Learning Council in Chicago regarding Warren's attempts to get accreditation.[16]

Licensing and accreditation status[edit]

Warren National University was registered with the Wyoming Department of Education [17] under W.S. 21-2-401 through 21-2-407. This registration allowed the university to legally conduct business in the state.[18] However, WNU was never accredited by any higher education accreditation body recognized in the United States. As a condition of registration in Wyoming, the institution had to meet standards contained in "Article 4: Private School Licensing." One such requirement, which took effect in July 2006, was that a school must either be accredited or be in the process of becoming accredited by a higher education accrediting organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.[19][20] In order to continue operating in Wyoming, Warren National University applied for accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the recognized regional accreditation agency serving the state. [21] The accreditation process was expected to take several years.[22] According to WNU, the school achieved "eligibility status" for accreditation in December 2007.[23] The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Commission scheduled an "initial candidacy" visit by an evaluation team on October 13–15, 2008, another required step toward accreditation.[24] As of January 27, 2009, WNU was no longer listed by the Higher Learning Commission as "Applying" for accreditation, but instead as "No Status."[25] On January 30, 2009 the WNU website explained that the evaluation visit did not go well and the recommendation was that the accreditation process should be terminated. Therefore, WNU withdrew their accreditation application.[11] On January 30, 2009, Warren National University announced that their attempt to achieve accreditation had failed and that they would cease operating on March 31, 2009.[11][26]

The Chronicle of Higher Education stated in 2002, "Kennedy-Western University has a history of flirting with accreditation but failing to earn it." [9] In 2001 Warren National announced it was considering applying to the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) for accreditation, a legitimate accreditor that is recognized for accrediting distance-learning institutions.[9] However, while DETC's approval from the U.S. Department of Education does authorize it to accredit institutions that award doctorates,[27] WNU did not pursue DETC accreditation.[9]

Because WNU lacked accreditation, its degrees and credits might not be acceptable to some employers or other institutions. For example, WNU graduates were not qualified for faculty positions at WNU, at least not based on their WNU degrees.[28] According to the Bears' Guide to Earning Degrees by Distance Learning, "There truly is no simple answer to the accredited vs. unaccredited issue, other than to say that one can rarely go wrong with a properly accredited degree. We hear from a moderate number of people who have made good use of an unaccredited (but totally legitimate) degree, but we hear from many more who have had significant problems with such degrees, in terms of acceptance by employers, admission to other schools, or simply bad publicity." [29]


Warren National University offered bachelor's and master's degrees in business administration, computer science, humanities, management information systems, and health administration, as well as a Doctor of Business Administration degree.[30]

According to a 2004 article in the Laramie County Community College student newspaper, in the KWU program in 2004 the average time for graduation was 2.4 years; the average student age was 42, with an average of eight years of work experience in their field of study.[1]

At the 2005 Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Warren National University faculty members gave a presentation on the method used to deliver academic courses. Andree Swanson and Keren Meister-Emerich offered the following abstract for their presentation.

"This is an example of one course, out of 500 courses offered, which demonstrates the delivery model used by Kennedy-Western University. Courses are designed using a modular format, which includes multiple self-assessment opportunities. Offered as open-entry, a student may be the only one taking the course at a given time or may be one of many enrolled at the same time. The model allows for anytime, any pace, and any place learning."[31]

In the "Understanding New Media" book's section on virtual universities, author Kim H. Veltman mentions, "By leveraging the power of the internet, Kennedy-Western has refined the academic process and opened up countless opportunities to adult learners. And they used Jones e-Global Library." [32]

In a Chronicle of Higher Education article, Kennedy-Western faculty members stated students, "... often use the same textbooks and take exams as rigorous as those offered in professors' traditional classes."[33]


In 2007 a Warren National official told a reporter that the institution had between 135 and 150 faculty members.[21][dead link] According to WNU spokesmen and the school's website, 80% of the academic faculty hold doctoral degrees from accredited institutions and the remainder hold master's degrees from accredited institutions.[28][34] In 2002 The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that WNU would not disclose the number of faculty, the method of compensation, the proportion of faculty that is full-time or the ownership of the institution. However, WNU stated that half of the faculty were full-time faculty members in other institutions, and the Chronicle determined that at least 22 WNU instructors were full-time faculty at other state and private academic institutions, primarily associate and assistant professors in business, computer science, or engineering at state universities. According to the Chronicle, these part-time WNU faculty were paid on a piecework basis, reportedly receiving "$25 to grade a paper, a couple of hundred dollars to develop a course, and $40 an hour to answer students' questions."[33] Some of these faculty were unwilling to talk openly about their work for WNU due to concern that their regular employers or their colleagues would disapprove of their work for an unaccredited institution "that many educators hold ... in low regard."[33]


GAO investigation[edit]

"From July 2003 through February 2004",[35] an investigation was conducted by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) to determine whether the federal government had paid for degrees from diploma mills and other unaccredited postsecondary schools. Investigators determined that the federal government employed 463 individuals with degrees from unaccredited institutions including Kennedy-Western University.[36] Senator Collins presented the GAO report to the Committee on Governmental Affairs, of which she was the Chair and ranking Republican.[35]

Witness testimony was provided during the same hearing by Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Claudia Gelzer, who was assigned as a staff aide to the committee, testified that Kennedy Western gave her life experience credit towards a master's in environmental engineering. Kennedy Western waived 43% of the course credit required for the degree based only on her application and descriptions of prior coursework and military training. She testified that Kennedy Western didn't check any of her claimed work experience. With 16 hours of effort she was able to earn 40% of the total remaining coursework required for her master's.[34] "As for my first-hand experience with Kennedy-Western courses and passing the tests, I found that basic familiarity with the textbook was all I needed. I was able to find exam answers without having read a single chapter of the text. ... As for what I learned, the answer is very little."[37]

The university's Director of Corporate Communications, David Gering, stated to The Oregonian, "We clearly believe that we are not a diploma mill and have an academically rigorous program."[38] Lewis M. Phelps, a spokesman for Kennedy-Western University, said the online university was unfairly tarnished in the report. "The basic equation GAO seems to have come up with is 'no accreditation, no good,' " Phelps said. "We don't think that's valid."[39]

Oregon lawsuit[edit]

In July 2004, Warren National University filed a lawsuit on behalf of three former students, challenging an Oregon law that made it illegal for résumés used in connection with employment (including job applications) in the state to list degrees from institutions that are not accredited or recognized by the state as legitimate.[40][41] In the suit, WNU asserted that the Oregon law violated its graduates' constitutional rights.[41] In December 2004, Warren National and Oregon reached an out-of-court settlement in the case.[42] Under the terms of the settlement, Oregon agreed to revise its law, allowing graduates of unaccredited schools to list an unaccredited degree on a résumé.[41] The statutory revision was enacted in 2005.[43] In the settlement, the Oregon State Office of Degree Authorization (ODA) also agreed to refrain from referring to the school as a "diploma mill" and the state attorney general's office agreed to provide ODA personnel with a training session on law related to defamation.[41][42] However, Oregon still does not allow WNU degrees to be used for governmental employment or for professional licenses,[44] because the ODA determined that the institution does not meet standard academic requirements as specified by Oregon statute ORS 348.609(1).[45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lesley Lipska, Private institutions offer opportunities for students, Wingspan (Laramie County Community College student newspaper), November 2004.
  2. ^ Online Extra: Inside diploma mills by Wilson P. Dizard III, Government Computer News, May 17, 2004
  3. ^ http://kwu-alumni.org/moto/AboutKennedy-WesternUniversity
  4. ^ a b http://www.wnuedu.com/aboutwnu-offices.asp (accessed January 2, 2008)
  5. ^ a b New Name for Unaccredited University Salutes Wyoming Governor, The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 30, 2006
  6. ^ a b Kennedy-Western University is changing its name to Warren National University, Former KWU website
  7. ^ Encyclopedia of Distributed Learning, by Dr. Kjell Erik Rudestam, SAGE Publications, ISBN 978-0-7619-2451-7, November 6, 2003
  8. ^ Dave Featherly (March 6, 2009). "Kennedy-Western University was a gold mine. A veritable gold mine. And its students were the canaries." (PDF). Cheyenne Herald. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 30, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Regulating Kennedy-Western -- or Not by Andrea L. Foster, The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 12, 2002
  10. ^ A Mysterious Silence Emanates From Warren National U, by Thomas Bartlett, The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 25, 2008
  11. ^ a b c WNU website (accessed January 30, 2009)
  12. ^ "Former Students Sue Defunct Warren National U.". Chronicle of Higher Education. June 7, 2009. Retrieved 2012-04-08. 
  13. ^ Legal document filed in the Wyoming court Cheyenne Herald Retrieved June 23, 2009
  14. ^ "Former students sue Warren National University". KTVQ-TV. Jun 5, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  15. ^ "My talk with a Kennedy-Western University degree holder" (PDF). Cheyenne Herald. August 2, 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 30, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Former students sue Warren National University" (PDF). Cheyenne Herald. March 6, 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 30, 2012. 
  17. ^ [1] Wyoming Department of Education Private School Registration, accessed February 29, 2008
  18. ^ Wyoming Private school licensing-amendments, Joint Education Interim Committee
  19. ^ Wyoming Department of Education, Registered Private Degree Granting Post-Secondary Education Institutions
  20. ^ Wyoming Toughens Up on Unaccredited, "Inside Higher Education", March 20, 2006
  21. ^ a b New law prompts online school changes, Jackson Hole Star Tribune, 2006[dead link][dead link]
  22. ^ Schools try to end unaccredited status, Billings Gazette, July 1, 2006. The article quoted Lady Branham, deputy to the association's executive director, as saying: "Accreditation generally involves an intensive review, including inspection visits by teams from the accrediting agency. After today's deadline to apply for accreditation, the law gives schools five years to achieve it. With North Central, that's a tight schedule. Just being accepted as an accreditation candidate with North Central is a process in itself. They could be candidates within four to five years. It's unlikely that it would be sooner. And then accreditation is usually four years after candidacy begins. And it's not automatic. It assumes that the institution actually completely fulfills all the criteria."
  23. ^ Public Accreditation Notice and Call for Third Party Comment, WNU website, accessed July 19, 2008
  24. ^ Comprehensive Visit List, The Higher Learning Commission website, accessed July 19, 2008
  25. ^ [2]
  26. ^ Warren National U., Formerly Known as Kennedy-Western U., to Shut Down, by Thomas Bartlett, The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 2, 2009
  27. ^ "DETC Site". Retrieved 6 March 2012. 
  28. ^ a b Warren National University Faculty, Warren National University website
  29. ^ Chapter 9 - Accredited versus Unaccredited: How Does One Decide?, Bears' Guide to Earning Degrees by Distance Learning, p63 of the 15th edition.
  30. ^ Warren National University Areas of Study Warren National University website
  31. ^ Asynchronous delivery of an open-entry course, Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning, The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, 2005
  32. ^ Understanding New Media: Augmented Knowledge and Culture, University of Calgary Press, ISBN 978-1-55238-154-0, July 30, 2006.
  33. ^ a b c Moonlighting for an Unaccredited University by Andrea L. Foster, The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 12, 2002
  34. ^ a b State mulls online learning by the Associated Press, Billings Gazette, January 30, 2005
  35. ^ a b Lawmakers consider legislation to close diploma-mill loophole, By David McGlinchey, Government Executive, May 12, 2004
  36. ^ Senator Collins Unveils GAO Report Showing Federal Agencies Purchased Bogus Degrees with Taxpayer Dollars: GAO Uncovers over $170,000 in Federal Payments to Two Unaccredited Schools, Senate Governmental Affairs Committee press release, May 11, 2004
  37. ^ Statement of Lieutenant Commander Claudia Gelzer
  38. ^ Wyo university sues Oregon to defend its diplomas, Star Tribune, August 5, 2004
  39. ^ Public Paid for Bogus Degrees, Washington Post, May 12, 2004.
  40. ^ States Struggle to Regulate Online Colleges That Lack Accreditation, by Sarah Carr and Andrea L. Foster, The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 23, 2001.
  41. ^ a b c d Oregon settles with unaccredited university, Portland Business Journal, December 22, 2004.
  42. ^ a b Oregon Settles Federal Lawsuit Filed by Kennedy-Western University; State Officials Will Seek Changes to State Law Regulating the Use of Degrees from Unaccredited Universities, Kennedy-Western press release by David Gering, Businesswire, December 21, 2004
  43. ^ Conference Committee on SB 1039, 73rd Oregon Legislative Assembly - 2005 Regular Session, Measure: SB 1039 A*, June 22, 2005.
  44. ^ "Scarlet Letter", Inside Higher Education, July 7, 2005
  45. ^ Unaccredited Colleges, Oregon Office of Degree Authorization

External links[edit]

Government reports