Saturday, May 5, 2007

The National Dean's List again

[For a previous post that explains what prompted me to look into the National Dean's List, click here.]

I just followed a link at College Confidential to Form 10-K, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission by the American Achievement Group Holding Corp., AAC Group Holding Corp., and American Achievement Corporation, the companies behind the National Dean's List.

I was surprised to learn how big this business is: for fiscal 2005, the American Achievement Group's "achievement publications" (Who's Who Among American High School Students, Who's Who Among American High School Students -- Sports Edition, The National Dean's List, Who's Who Among America’s Teachers, and The Chancellor's List) accounted for sales of $20.1 million.

And I was surprised to see a relatively frank acknowledgement of what it means to be "nominated":

We obtain nominations for our achievement publications from a wide variety of commercial and non-commercial sources, which we continuously update. One company that supplies a significant number of nominees to us for inclusion in our Who’s Who Among American High School Students publication has received an inquiry from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, relating to its supplying names and other personal information of high school students to commercial marketers. We have received a request from the FTC for information relating to this matter and are complying with this request.
Also of interest: the letters that "Leddy Fine" and I received state that "Only 1/2 of 1% of our nation's college students" are named to the National Dean's List. Form 10-K states that
The most recent 29th published edition [of The National Dean's List] honors almost 158,000 high-achieving students, representing in excess of 2,800 colleges and universities throughout the country.
That number would call for a population of 31.6 million college students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, enrollment in degree-granting institutions in 2004 totalled 17.3 million.

Something is rotten in Texas (home of the American Achievement Group).

Update, November 9, 2007: A reader has informed me that the National Dean's List is no more. From the company website:
Educational Communications, Inc. has ceased all operations, including discontinuation of its publications for Who's Who Among American High School Students, Who's Who Among America's Teachers, and The National Dean's List, as well as the Educational Communications Scholarship Foundation.
The Internet Archive shows that Educational Communications, Inc. — or at least its website — was still functioning as of August 2007. Some quick Google searching turns up no details on the company's demise.

I feel sorry for the clerical workers, printers, and bindery workers whose lives will be altered by the demise of Educational Communications, Inc. But I'll still say good riddance to this company. It's mail from outfits such as EC, Inc. that can lead a student to mistake, say, a letter of invitation from Phi Beta Kappa for yet another sham honor. And it's the Internet that allows anyone with an online connection to look around and ask questions. (Type "national dean's list" into Google and see what happens.)
Related reading
Phi Beta What? (Wall Street Journal)

Related posts
Is this honor society legitimate?
The National Dean's List
The National Dean's List is dead

comments: 17

Stefan said...

I just learned that professors at the Citadel (remember Shannon Faulkner and that whole ugly business?) have conferred upon them by the college the "title" of Colonel. Others can draw their own political connections, but there seems to be a "heckuva" lot to say about such empty honors nowadays.

Michael Leddy said...

If you Google "national dean's list," you'll find blogs whose writers are thrilled to have made the NDL, sometimes with less than terrific GPAs. It's sad. They must though feel that they're doing "a heckuva job."

Colonels -- that's very strange!

Anonymous said...

As I sit here thinking about being one of 150000+ names in a book, one that noone will ever see except for other people who are also in the book with names right next to mine, a question occured to me. How many people don't respond at all? Add those names to the list and now we are talking an elite grop.

Matthew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew said...

The problem with the blogs is you have a bunch of people with little to no experience on the subject throwing in their 2-cents, I personally don't give credit to blogs, it seems like a bunch of people with no credibility - ranting on a blog because they have nothing better to do, like myself right now. I can't say the national dean's list is legit, but I see no harm in it, it doesn't cost anything and you only buy stuff if you want, so it is up to you if you want all that junk.

Michael Leddy said...

There's plenty of reason to proceed with caution with anything that one reads online (or in print). Receiving letters for me (30 years after college) and someone who doesn't exist is what prompted me to write the post. My intention in writing this post (which is hardly a rant) was to invite the reader to be skeptical about the honor that the National Dean's List appears to confer.

Matthew said...

Sorry, I did not mean your blog was a rant, I was referring to the other blogs you get when you Google NDL. The only reason I have posted so many times on your blog is that it has a legitimate concern, and you have obviously done some research on NDL.

Matthew said...

Here are links to two universities that think highly of the NDL.

Oklahoma state University http://www.osu-okmulgee.edu/news_and_events/view_news.php?news_id=172

Albany
http://www.albany.edu/africana/announcements.html

Anonymous said...

This Blog is right on the money. I was dumb enough to order one of the NDL books I think it was in 2006 for about $68.00 I completely overlooked the charge and now its on my credit report. Iam trying to pay off the debt but the company is no longer in existence. Does any one know who may be potential creditors collecting debts on behalf of the National Deans List??

Michael Leddy said...

Sorry, I have no idea, Anon. The website that had the company’s out-of-business announcement is now gone.

Anonymous said...

so, i guess phi theta kappa is involved in this too? if not, i wonder why it's a related search on google. also, i got an 'invitation' to phi theta kappa at the same time i was 'nominated' for the 'national dean's list'. i saw online that phi theta kappa was for 2 yr colleges, when i went to a 4 YEAR UNIVERSITY. PLUS, like i said, they came at the same time. ALSO (like i KNEW would be the truth) i predicted that the national dean's list would only provide a 'scholarship' to very few people and for a low dollar amount. I WAS RIGHT on BOTH counts. most got a 'scholarship' of $250 (now what would that do, go towards one book?)The ONLY reason they did that was to try to seem legit. very feeble and predictable attempt. Also, they apparently can't do math like you said that 1/2 of 1% does not begin to add up and like someone else said, that doesn't even count for all those 'nominated' that decided not to get swindled. and if the FTC is looking into commercial businesses that sell victims' addresses, that should give you a BIG hint that they just send those out to as many students as possible, hoping that their parents will purchase the hope (and that's it) that they have for sale. anyone who tries to defend this company, i have to suspect that they must work for them. those meesely $250 'scholarships' do not make up for all the money they have swindled!! THANK YOU for putting this blog up. i knew it was a scam from the get go and i was just thinking of that company and decided to confirm they are all scammers! you've done a good thing with giving people the FACTS and letting them make an informed decision from there!

Michael Leddy said...

I can’t comment with any authority on Phi Theta Kappa. The organization’s website mentions joint programs with Phi Beta Kappa; that would suggest legitimacy. The National Dean’s List connection is something else again. You might want to contact Phi Theta Kappa and see what they say. At any rate, the National Dean’s List is still dead.

Michael Leddy said...

To the reader who asked how to get back a picture:

I think that when it comes to getting back materials from this company, you’re probably out of luck. But you could do a Google search for “American Achievement Group” and see if there's anyone to contact. Or you might contact the Better Business Bureau in Austin, Texas. Or you might decide that it’ not worth the effort.

(I’m keeping your e-mail address private by not publishing your comment.)

Yinglun said...

This really helped a lot. Many thanks!

FYI:

I got to your post while trying to track the credentials put up by an agency in China.

This agency helps students with applications to US universities. Their chief writer for academic writing/PS cites this National Dean's List in his profile, with a capture of the entire letter in display, which makes me think that he probably genuinely believes in it. I feel sorry if he really does.

Michael Leddy said...

It’s sad, isn’t it? I’m sure that there were genuine high-achieving students on TNDL. The problem is that they bought into a dubious honor.

Coralee Benjamin said...

At the risk of beating a dead horse, or organization as the case may be, please see this Better Business Bureau link, contra, scrolling down to the ADDITIONAL INFORMATION section: http://www.bbb.org/chicago/business-reviews/publishers-directory-and-guide/national-deans-list-in-lake-forest-il-26622. I don't normally make posts, but if it can help even one student regain some dignity or pride in their efforts, it's worth it.

Michael Leddy said...

If anyone’s wondering, the additional information says this: “Educational Communications was the recipient of the BBB of Chicago and Northern Illinois Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics in 1999. This award was presented to the company for their commitment to upholding the trust and respect of their customers, employees, suppliers, industry peers and the community in which they do business.” The page also notes that the NDL is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau.

The point of my posts about the (now defunct) National Dean’s List is not to denigrate any student’s academic accomplishment. The point is to call attention to the shoddy practices of a business that confers no real honor on anyone.