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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

SALEM, Ore. (Business Wire) -- Attorney General Hardy Myers and Kennedy-Western University (KWU) President Paul Saltman today announced that they have reached an out-of-court settlement of the University's Federal District Court lawsuit against Myers and Alan Contreras, Administrator of the Oregon Student Assistance Commission's Office of Degree Authorization (ODA).

KWU filed suit in July 2004 on behalf of three Oregon graduates to challenge a state law that makes it unlawful for a person to represent that he or she has a degree if that degree was granted by an unaccredited university. The lawsuit claimed that the Oregon law violated KWU graduates' constitutional rights by unreasonably restricting their ability to use a lawfully obtained academic credential. Under the settlement agreement, Myers and Contreras agreed that the State will not enforce this statute as long as KWU degree holders disclose their school's non-accredited status when representing their academic achievement.

The settlement does not require any Oregon employer to accept unaccredited degrees as valid credentials or change the requirements for state employment, professional licensure, college admission or other areas for which a degree from an accredited school is required. Degree holders who fail to disclose that their degrees are from unaccredited schools are still subject to civil and criminal penalties.

In addition, the settlement agreement provides that the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization and Attorney General Myers will make a good faith effort to secure an amendment of the statute during the State's next legislative session that would decriminalize the use of a non-accredited degree as long as degree holders disclose their schools' non-accredited status when stating their credentials for business or professional purposes.

According to the terms of the settlement agreement, all issues in the lawsuit will be resolved, and the lawsuit will be dismissed, once the contemplated legislation is passed. If the legislation is not enacted by the end of the 2007 legislative session, the lawsuit will move forward.

Oregon officials are also obligated under the settlement agreement to refrain from characterizing KWU as a diploma mill or substandard school on the Office of Degree Authorization website or elsewhere. The Attorney General's office also agreed to provide ODA personnel with a training session on defamation law.

"We believe that this agreement is fair and reasonable," stated Attorney General Myers. "It strikes a proper balance between protecting the rights of graduates and ensuring appropriate public disclosure."

"We are pleased that the State recognizes the need for changes to its regulations," stated KWU's Saltman. "We look forward to working with the Oregon Attorney General to develop the new legislation."

KWU is authorized by the State of Wyoming to offer academic degrees at the Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral level. KWU delivers its programs through a combination of online learning and directed study.

David Gering, 800-635-2900
dgering@kw.edu
Kevin Neely, 503-378-600
Kevin.neely@doj.state.or.us

© Business Wire

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