Jeff Jawer managed to get a BA in the “History and Science of Astrology” from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst back in 1970, but to do so he had to create his own program through the school’s Interdisciplinary Studies program, one of those do-your-own-thing experiments that colleges were so fond of back in the day. Today, he could get virtually the same degree from an accredited, state-recognized college based in Lynnwood, although he would have to do it over the Internet.

After years of planning and fund-raising, the Kepler College of Astrological Arts and Sciences is, according to its president, Enid Newberg, the first college in 400 years specifically granted the authority to award bachelor’s and master’s degrees in astrology. The school is named for Johannes Kepler, the famous 16th century German astronomer, known as the father of modern astronomy for determining the basic laws of planetary motion.

Getting the school established and accredited “has been a nine-year project,” says Joanne Wickenburg, chairman of the college’s Board of Trustees. “We started our freshman class in July.” She says the motivation for creating the college was “not only to reexamine the authenticity of astrology” by sponsoring objective research, but to “bring back some of the credibility that was lost and to let people know that it is a serious area of study.”

The college has established itself as a distance-learning school, relying on the Internet to furnish the connections between professors and students. Students are also required to show up in person for a weeklong symposium each quarter, as well as write at least three term papers and a final research project.

Just as naturopathic medicine and acupuncture have gained acceptance over the past decades, Kepler’s supporters are banking on the idea that, by providing an academic setting where researchers can conduct objective studies and students can take serious classes, astrology will be able to enter the social mainstream in the 21st century. In fact, Kepler is using the campus of Bastyr University in Bothell for their first symposium, scheduled for mid-January.

“The founding of the college will lead to heightened public respect and expectations of what astrology is capable of providing to the full spectrum of society,” Newburg said in a press release when the state certification was finally granted.