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Controversial ‘Sports University’ Draws Scrutiny From 2 North Carolina Agencies

Two higher-education agencies in North Carolina are looking into the company calling itself Forest Trail Sports University and could nix its plans to team up with Waldorf University, a for-profit institution based in Iowa that operates mostly online.

Forest Trail had announced plans to lease unused facilities at Barber-Scotia College, an unaccredited institution in North Carolina that’s struggling to stay open. Under the plans, student-athletes would be invited to the campus to play sports year-round and take online courses through Waldorf.

Greg Eidschun, who carries the title of athletic director for Forest Trail, said the venture had already attracted more than 200 students, some of whom had been offered scholarships of up to $20,000 each — more than half of the listed price for a year on the campus.

But the unusual arrangement — a company appearing to act as an academic institution without accreditation or even faculty members — raised concerns among some higher-education experts, who questioned whether it warranted oversight from Waldorf’s regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, or from state officials.

While the accrediting agency has said there is no need to monitor the partnership, state agencies are now demanding that Forest Trail and Waldorf be licensed to operate in North Carolina.

The North Carolina Community College System’s Office of Proprietary Schools has made phone calls and sent letters and emails to the company that ask for a preliminary application for licensure. Forest Trail has not yet responded, according to a spokeswoman for the system.

The University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors, which oversees proprietary colleges offering baccalaureate degrees in the state, has gone a step further, ordering both Forest Trail and Waldorf to “cease and desist from any such activity unless and until proper authorization has been granted,” according to an email from the system’s spokeswoman. “As required by state statute, we also have informed the office of the North Carolina attorney general of these notifications for action as it deems appropriate,” she wrote.

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