banking schools in Connecticut and sparked a war of words in the state's newspapers. Claims that the Connecticut chapter of the American Institute of Banking started making in March sent its rival, the New England Banking Institute, into a tizzy. The southern New England chapter of the American Institute asserted in brochures, course booklets, and advertising materials that it is an accredited banking school that can guarantee college credit for its students. But the New England Institute has taken out newspaper ads and sent letters to bankers in Connecticut and southeastern Massachusetts taking issue with the use of the word "accreditation" and with the guarantee. The Boston-based New England Institute, which has been accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges since 1988, says it is the only banking college licensed by both Massachusetts and Connecticut to issue two-year associate's degrees in banking. The institute says the American Institute chapter is misleading banking students by implying that its accreditation, which was granted in March by its parent, the American Bankers Association, is equivalent to that of a degree-granting college. "This is a terrible, unconscionable deceit," Robert A. Regan, president of the New England Institute, wrote in a memo. "Apparently, respect for the innocent public isn't being observed in Connecticut." American Institute officials have said that they made a mistake in their initial marketing and have since corrected their materials. "They have really been initiating the war of words," said Michael K. Meakem, president and chief executive of the Norwich-based chapter of the American Institute. "We don't think it's helpful to the banking industry to have this war of words." At issue is a distinction between a professional accreditation granted by a trade group and an institutional accreditation for a college. The public controversy also represents a battle for the pocketbooks of the state's bankers. The American Institute is currently winning, with 100 banks providing 4,500 enrollments, as opposed to 40 banks and about 1,000 enrollments for the New England Institute. "It's more of an issue between the two organizations than it is the banking constituency that they serve," said John Carusone, president of Hartford's Bank Analysis Center. "I don't think it's as painful an issue except to the principals." The American Institute chapter was accredited by the ABA under an internal program designed to maintain compliance with national standards at American Institute chapters across the country. Students completing American Institute courses receive recommendations for college credit through a program with the American Council on Education. More than 1,500 colleges and universities have accepted the recommendations. "They're suggesting that all our hoopla is misleading students when we've got concrete evidence that our students are having their credits transferred," he said. The brouhaha is the latest chapter in a rivalry that dates back to 1988, when the New England Institute, then a Boston chapter of the American Institute, broke from the parent organization because banks in New England wanted a degree-granting program. The Hartford American Institute joined the New England Institute as well, in 1991.
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