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Entrepreneurs see profits in UT virtual diploma

School board flabbergasted by proposal to pay school district in plan to market high school diplomas around the world.
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Written by ZDNET Editors on

In what could be a potential untapped revenue stream for Utah high schools, two U.S. businessmen have made an offer to buy access to the state's Electronic High School and market it internationally, reports the Salt Lake Tribune

Anthony E. Meyer, chairman of Meyer and Co., a New York City merchant banking firm, and Paul Zane Pilzer of Park City, Utah, a software entrepreneur and former Citibank vice president, are hoping to sell U.S. high school diplomas. The plan, which could possibly be worth millions, was greeted with cautious optimism by the state Board of Education on Friday.

"We're always looking for a revenue stream," said board member Mark Cluff of Alpine. "Let's look at this as a business."

The target market would be adult and foreign students who want an actual diploma rather than a General Educational Diploma or international baccalaureate certificate. The two men pitched the board because Utah's Electronic High School has a ready-made accredited curriculum geared towards a diploma.

It is unusual for public educators to market to private businesses. Usually, the reverse is true.

"The other way, where a private business is buying something developed by the school or district or state, is a unique twist," said David Griffith, a spokesman for the National Association of State Boards of Education. "That's really unusual; that would send up a lot of yellow flags to me."

The Board of Education agreed to study the feasibility of the proposal. Carol Lear, the director of school law and legislation, believes the Board has the authority to approve the plan, but wonders whether it can assure the quality of American Academy teachers and curriculum.

"We don't want to appear to be - or be - a diploma mill," she said.
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