Light Wave

U.S. News

Diplomas for $465: Louisiana school sells degrees without classes

By Jake Beardslee · November 27, 2023

In brief…

  • Unapproved private schools in LA have nearly doubled in enrollment since the pandemic to over 21,000 students
  • Schools can grant diplomas with no verification of education received
  • Lack of oversight means quality of education cannot be confirmed
  • Previous abuse scandals at some schools went unaddressed
  • Diplomas may not be accepted by colleges due to lack of standards
An investigation found thousands of students in Louisiana are enrolled in private schools that face no oversight over education quality or standards and can freely issue diplomas despite providing little to no verified instruction. Images/Wikimedia

The number of students enrolled in unapproved private schools in Louisiana has nearly doubled since before the pandemic to over 21,000 today, according to state records, AP News reported. These private schools are not required to seek state approval and have virtually no oversight over the education they provide.

One such school, Springfield Preparatory School, grants diplomas to students with little verification that they received an adequate education. The school’s principal, Kitty Sibley Morrison, says she considers a parent’s word that their child is ready for a diploma. Some students, like 26-year-old Arliya Martin, receive diplomas with no classes after meeting briefly with the principal. Martin told AP she received a diploma from a school that offers degrees for $465.

While many families use unapproved private schools for actual homeschooling, the lack of oversight means there is no way to confirm the quality of education. Schools can backdate diplomas and falsely claim state approval. Over 9,000 such private schools in Louisiana have proliferated as families sour on public education following COVID disruptions and want less state involvement in their children’s schooling.

Critics warn that without any verification of educational standards, some unapproved private schools could abuse or neglect students. Two such schools in Louisiana previously had abuse scandals but faced no consequences from the state. Proponents argue the system protects parental rights in education. However, experts say backdated or fraudulent diplomas from unapproved schools may not be accepted by colleges and limit students’ post-secondary options. As more families leave traditional public schools, Louisiana has the largest unregulated private school system in the nation.