Unaccredited School : School Board Candidate Got Ph.D. by Mail

Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles junior high school principal running for a seat on the school board said Monday that he earned his doctorate in education through correspondence courses given by an unaccredited Orange County school.

The principal, Gerald E. Horowitz, said he received his doctorate in 1977 from California Coast University in Santa Ana. The school was licensed by the state Depatment of Education to grant degrees in 1981 but is not accredited by the Western Assn. of Schools and Colleges, state officials said.

“That degree was not used for pay increases or any type of promotion,” said Horowitz, principal of Richard E. Byrd Junior High School in Sun Valley. He is one of five candidates seeking to defeat west San Fernando Valley school board representative Julie Korenstein in the April 11 election.

Horowitz, who uses the title in professional correspondence and for campaign purposes, said that he selected Coast University because it is a “non-traditional” school that does not require classroom attendance. “It was a matter of the time involved,” he said.


Horowitz said that he completed his doctoral studies in a little more than two years and that he completed a dissertation of about 60 pages on the subject of teacher training.

By comparison, a doctorate in education at UCLA, an accredited university, would take an average working professional about eight years to complete, said Ellen Benkin, the school’s director of graduate institutional research. The average length of a dissertation is about 200 pages, she said.

Korenstein campaign consultant Barbara Grover said that Horowitz’s doctorate from an unaccredited school “makes a mockery of the education system.

“People work long and hard to obtain doctorates,” Grover said. “I don’t think voters want a person who obtains a mail-order degree to be responsible for our children’s education.”

Horowitz, 56, said that he earned a bachelor’s degree from USC and a master’s degree from Cal State Northridge. He has worked for the Los Angeles district for 32 years and has been a school principal since 1974.

Korenstein has a bachelor’s degree from CSUN.

Horowitz said the school where he received his doctorate should not become an issue in the campaign. “My qualifications to be a board member come from my experience as a teacher and a principal,” he said.

Coast University, formerly named California Western University, applied for a state license to operate and grant degrees in January, 1978, said Rick Mejia, a consultant for the private post-secondary education division of the state Department of Education. The school was approved to grant degrees in 1981 after meeting minimum state academic requirements, he said.


The cost for a doctorate in education at Coast University is $2,825, a school spokesman said. The school also offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

The only visit to the school required is a two-hour meeting with faculty members to answer questions after completing the dissertation, the spokesman said.

The Los Angeles Unified School district requires that administrators, such as principals, have a master’s degree from an accredited college or university, said Tom Killeen, the district’s director of personnel research and analysis. Teachers, but not administrators, earn salary increases after completing advanced degrees at accredited schools, he said.

Horowitz was transferred in August to Byrd Junior High from Robert Frost Junior High School in Granada Hills.