Dallas, TX, November 14, 2013 -- A Better Business Bureau® investigation of a home school in Dallas offering high school diplomas found that the degrees appear to have little to no value. The school, I. Jean Cooper Private School, 1515 S. Buckner Blvd., #115, Dallas, claims to be “nationally accredited” but its accreditation is from an unrecognized organization. Students and parents complain that after paying $89 and completing assignments, the diploma isn’t accepted by colleges and training schools. One parent said she was told the diploma is “lower than a GED”, and one student said he was told the diploma is “fake”.
To investigate the school’s practices, BBB Serving Dallas and Northeast Texas sent an employee to the school as a student. The BBB shopper paid the fee then picked up and turned in completed assignments weekly. Despite turning in assignments full of incorrect answers and receiving no grades or feedback from instructors prior to graduation, the shopper received a diploma and a transcript showing grades in several subjects. For the Physical Education requirement, the shopper completed a questionnaire saying he walked occasionally during one week, earning him an A in PE on the transcript.
“I. Jean Cooper Private School claims to offer diplomas that can help students get into college or get jobs, but in fact the school is taking advantage of those who are desperate for a high school diploma and want to believe that paying a fee and completing a few unsupervised assignments will result in a diploma they can use,” said David Beasley, Director of Investigations for BBB Dallas. “BBB urges caution in choosing a private home study high school to make sure a diploma will be recognized and the transcript will be accepted by colleges, training schools, or employers.”
Since August, 2012, Dallas BBB has received over 5,800 inquiries – requests for information – about I. Jean Cooper Private School. There are 4 customer complaints alleging misrepresentation and difficulties getting refunds. Of those complaints, two are unanswered by the school. In the other cases, the school promised a refund if the student could show that a public college would not accept the diploma.
I. Jean Cooper Private School has a BBB rating of F, the lowest rating, due to the complaint record and advertising issues found by BBB.
In one complaint, a Dallas woman states, “I was told I could use this diploma if I wanted to go to college. I went to the Texas Worksource and was told that the diploma is ‘fake’ and the school is not accredited … I feel this school is taking advantage of people and not providing the service that they say they do.” This complaint is unanswered by the school.
A man from Mesquite says, “I called many trade schools … and they do not accept the diploma, only community colleges … but they also want a transcript.” The customer was seeking a refund of $170 for the program, an extra diploma, a transcript, and the cap and gown. This complaint is unanswered.
A Dallas man complains, “I paid to attend this school, and they gave me a fake diploma. I went to a college, and they said it is no good. It’s lower than GED.” The school offered a refund if the student could show that a public college “truly rejected” the diploma. The student said a local community college would not accept him, and a local public high school told him “it is not a real diploma”.
In April, 2013, BBB asked I. Jean Cooper Private School to substantiate its advertising claims that it is a nationally and fully accredited high school; that its services are 100% guaranteed; and that 76% of its students go on to college.
The BBB Code of Advertising states that advertising which is “untrue, misleading, deceptive or fraudulent” should not be used. As part of BBB’s ongoing local advertising review program, BBB in Dallas contacts businesses about claims which may be misleading, asking advertisers to voluntarily provide substantiation, or to modify or discontinue claims.
As of June, 2013, I. Jean Cooper discontinued the claim that 76% of its students go on to college. The website, which contained the “100% guaranteed” claim, is no longer operating.
In July, 2013, the school provided information claiming national accreditation by National Accreditation Agency, www.nationalaccreditationagency.com. BBB found that National Accreditation Agency is not an accrediting agency of the Texas Private School Accreditation Commission (TEPSAC), an association of accrediting agencies recognized by the State of Texas for the purpose of accrediting private schools. Although National Accreditation Agency claims its headquarters are in South Carolina, the company was previously based in Wylie, Texas. The company still uses a Dallas-based area code.
Texas Education Agency states that home schools can operate as private schools in Texas. Home schools “must be conducted in a bona fide manner, using a written curriculum consisting of reading, spelling, grammar, math and a course in good citizenship,” the agency states. “The Texas Education Agency has no regulatory authority over home schools, and the State of Texas does not award diplomas to students who are home schooled.”
Graduates of private home schools may be accepted to public or private colleges if they meet those schools’ requirements, but acceptance is not guaranteed.
BBB offers these tips on private home study high schools:
- Get information about the school’s accreditation. Check with the accrediting agency to make sure the school is accredited.
- Find out whether the accrediting agency is associated with TEPSAC. Accreditation by a TEPSAC affiliated agency will increase the likelihood that credits earned in the private school can transfer to a Texas public school if the student ever switches schools.
- Ask colleges, training schools, or potential employers if diplomas and transcripts from the school will be accepted.
- Check out the school and the accrediting agency with BBB. Start at bbb.org, or use the free BBB iPhone app, bbb.org/iphone. BBB Business Reviews include complaint details, if any, along with the BBB rating from A+ to F and the reason(s) for the rating.
- Make sure you know all the costs and requirements to earn the diploma, and the school’s policies on cancellations and refunds, if any.
BBB serving Dallas and Northeast Texas is an independent, non-profit business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair business practices and works for trust in the marketplace. BBB helps consumers find and recommend businesses, brands, and charities they can trust. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization's Standards For Trust. BBB provides services for both BBB Accredited Businesses and non-accredited businesses. BBB services include BBB Business Reviews on businesses, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by category, customer complaint resolution services, advertising review for truth in advertising, and tips and alerts for consumers and for businesses. BBB serving Dallas and Northeast Texas was founded in 1920 and is one of 113 BBBs serving the U.S. and Canada. Last year, people relied on BBB for Business Reviews, consumer tips, and scam alerts more than 124.5 million times. For more, start at bbb.org.