Information resources concerning unaccredited degree-granting institutions (3)

Note : the red color of the stated information below is about Irish International University which is belong to Dr. Jeff Wooller, the owner of IUBS his other University which is listed on ODA diploma Mills but recognized by CHED Philippines.
The CAAM-HP at its meeting held on May 12, 2007 in Kingston, Jamaica, took the following decisions:
SJSM: The CAAM-HP after examination of the reports agreed that provisional accreditation be granted on the following conditions:

  1. That the school in its promotional material, states clearly, that it is provisionally accredited.
  2. That the conditions for the requirements in the document Accreditation Guidelines for New and Developing Schools, be followed.
The CAAM-HP will wish to visit in six months time to monitor the progress the school is making towards setting up the facilities for the admission of the first class of students.
BIU: The CAAM-HP after examination of he reports agreed that provisional accreditation be granted on the following conditions:

  1. That the school in its promotional material, state clearly, that it is provisionally accredited.
  2. That the conditions for the requirememnts in the document, Accreditation Guidelines for New and Developing Schools, be followed.
CAAM-HP will wish to visit at least six months before the admission of the first class of studnets to monitor the progress toowards meeting the accreditation Standards of the Authority.
USAT: The CAAM-HP after examination of the reports determined that it could not grant provisional accreditation for the programme as presented.

  • Editorial: Monitoring trade schools-- State's expired efforts need new life, Sacramento, California Sacramento Bee, July 7, 2007.
    You may not have noticed, but California's Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education Reform Act expired on July 1. So the bureau that oversees the state's 1,600 private trade schools has shut down, which means that schools no longer need to seek or maintain approval or registration to operate in California. This is ludicrous.
    All the major players agree that the state should have a law in place to protect the 400,000 students who attend these schools. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last September rejected a bill to extend the law, citing a 2005 report by a special monitor, which said the bureau overseeing trade schools had a record of "fundamental problems" that needed fixing.
    At that time, Schwarzenegger promised he would offer a comprehensive reform package "shortly" and would work with the Legislature to "pass legislation early next year."
    That never happened.
    Senate Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, has a bill (Senate Bill 823), but it is poorly drafted and encompasses far more than needed to cover schools that are not part of the public college and university system or are not private independent institutions accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
    Perata's bill has drawn significant opposition from important groups and failed to pass before the July 1 sunset of the old law. A stopgap bill to bridge the old bureau and a new bureau (Assembly Bill 1525) through Feb. 1, 2008, also hasn't passed in a timely fashion.
    Schwarzenegger and legislators have had nine months to work out a deal on a reform package to enhance protections for students that will ensure that they get what they pay for when they attend a trade school. Their failure to do so is irresponsible and inexcusable.
    The problems with the expired law were real. California is considered to be a state where it's easy to operate poor quality, unaccredited schools, because California has had a weak agency structure and limited enforcement. The bureau almost never assessed fines against poorly performing schools. It never placed a school on probation or revoked a school's license.
    While politicians haggle, the bureau has closed and California students have few protections from schools offering bogus certificates and degrees. The lapse of the bureau marks a return to the bad old days when California had a reputation for being one of the worst centers for "diploma mills" in the country, turning a blind eye to schools that provide neither an education nor a usable credential, at great cost to students.
    With the lapse of the bureau, students also could run into problems trying to use degrees, diplomas or certificates from unaccredited schools that are no longer approved by or registered with the state...

  • Oregon warns governor on loss of schools watchdog, Judy Lin, Sacramento, California Sacramento Bee, July 3, 2007.
    One day after California shut down an agency charged with screening out diploma mills, the state of Oregon warned Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that a lack of oversight will affect graduates who try to use their degrees in other states. Alan Contreras, administrator for Oregon's Office of Degree Authorization, said Oregon is one of 10 states that don't recognize degrees issued by unaccredited schools unless those institutions are approved by the state in which they are located.
    Use of such degrees in Oregon can carry a civil and criminal fine of up to $1,000, he said.
    "We cannot recognize degrees issued by unaccredited schools unless those schools undergo a state approval process," Contreras wrote in a letter dated Monday. "The reason for this is to ensure that an appropriate state agency prevents the operation of diploma mills and similar low-end operations."
    Oregon's law applies to degrees earned after Saturday -- the last day of the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education, California's consumer protection body charged with regulating approximately 1,500 for-profit schools with more than 400,000 students.
    State law dictated that the agency needed to close unless lawmakers and the governor agreed on legislation to continue it, which they have been unable to do.
    Since state oversight began in 1989, the bureau has been criticized by consumer advocates for failing to provide adequate consumer protection, while for-profit vocational and postsecondary schools lobbied for less-cumbersome regulations...
    "I can't believe they let this happen," Contreras said in a telephone interview. "I assumed they had it lined up, and then the clock rang midnight."
    ...As the debate continues in Sacramento, an official in neighboring Nevada says it's ironic to see the regulation die in the Golden State, which was once hailed as a role model for cracking down on unscrupulous schools that charged high prices for useless degrees or certificates.
    "We got a lot of diploma mills when California started regulating," said David Perlman, administrator of Nevada's Commission on Postsecondary Education. "They might move back to California now, because there's no oversight."
    Perlman said California has made itself vulnerable to fraud.
    "Who's going to stop me if I want to open Dave's Thermonuclear Bomb-Building School?" he said.

  • Minister's MBA 'came from degree mill', James Savage, Kista, Sweden The Local: Sweden's News in English, June 19, 2007.
    A senior Swedish minister's MBA was taken at a notorious American 'degree mill' it has emerged. Labour Minister Sven Otto Littorin lists on his CV on the government's website an MBA taken at Fairfax University in the United States. The MBA was on the subject of 'a service company's establishment in the United States'.
    But Swedish blog Friktion has reported that Fairfax University is listed as a so-called degree mill by many US states.
    Degree mills are institutions which are not accredited by the state authorities. Use of their degrees to gain a job is an offence in many parts of the United States. States including Maine, Texas, Oregon and Michigan list Fairfax University as a degree mill. One criticism often levelled at degree mills is that they take undue account of previous life experience.
    Fairfax University applied in 2000 for accreditation from the Louisiana Board of Regents, but then withdrew its application, Friktion reports. The board noted in its minutes that "by withdrawing its application, Fairfax University agrees to discontinue operations immediately in Louisiana as an academic degree-granting institution."
    Fairfax, now known as Fairfax University Institute, is today registered in the Cayman Islands.
    Littorin says he took the MBA as a distance-learning course while working for Swedish-owned PR agency Strategy XXI in New York.
    "I considered it to be a serious course, as I had contact with a tutor," Littorin told Expressen on Monday. Asked where the university was situated, he said he did not remember.
    The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education was unimpressed by Littorin's qualification.
    "We would not rate a degree taken there," said Lars Petersson, head of the department for evaluation of foreign qualifications, to Svenska Dagbladet...

  • Appeals court upholds dismissal of suit against state officials, Anna Jo Bratton, Beatrice, Nebraska Beatrice Daily Sun, June 13, 2007.
    LINCOLN, Neb. - A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit from a California man accused of running a diploma mill in Nebraska. Daniel Gossai of Lawndale, Calif., had said Nebraska officials illegally rebuffed his attempts to offer education to poor and Hispanic students.
    Gossai operated the California Alternative High School, which offered classes in Omaha and Lincoln, primarily to Hispanic students.
    The state sued Gossai, saying that the program misled students into thinking their $575 investment would result in a high school diploma. A judge ruled in 2005 that there was no evidence the school's certificate would help students get into college.
    In February, Gossai was ordered to pay a total of $6,250 in restitution to 18 Nebraskans, and $18,000 in civil penalties to the state, according to Attorney General Jon Bruning.
    Gossai sued the state in 2004, saying the attorney general, the state education commissioner and other state officials conspired against him, destroying his business after he tried to comply with state law. U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf dismissed the lawsuit, and the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision...
    Gossai's schools have been shut down, and he has faced legal action in California, Arizona and Iowa.
    A 2004 investigation by the California attorney general discovered that students were taught that there are 53 states in the United States, that World War II began in 1938 and ended in 1942, and that there are two houses of Congress _ the Senate and the House, and "one is for Democrats and the other is for the Republicans, respectively.

  • Govt to Shutdown Unaccredited Colleges- NCHE Director, Liberia: The Informer, May 21, 2007.
    The Director General for the National Commission on Higher Education (NCHE) at the Ministry of Education, Dr. Michael Slewon is urging colleges and universities that have not met accreditation requirements to do so immediately, lest they face sudden closure. Dr. Slewon told journalists recently that there are some colleges and universities which have not been accredited, but are enrolling thousands of students every academic year.
    He said his Commission has the mandate to close down such colleges and universities, but observed that such action, if taken by the commission would negatively affect a large number of students seeking higher education.
    Dr. Slewon is meanwhile asking all proprietors of universities to properly scrutinize students applying for admission at the various higher institutions of learning before registering them as bonafide students. He said the inability of school authorities to properly vet students seeking entry into these colleges and universities has contributed to the insincerity of students.
    Dr. Slewon is also asking government to employ additional personnel at the Commission in order to enhance its work.

  • WHO demands proper campus and classes for years , Ulamila Kurai Wragg, Cook Islands News, May 16, 2007.
    Any medical school wanting to be listed in the World Health Organisation directory must have a proper campus and be in full operation for some years before any consideration is made. This advice is contained in an email from WHO to the health ministry in 2005 while consultation was underway between then health secretary Vaine Teokotai and WHO.
    The email is part of a report prepared for cabinet by an investigation committee into the South Pacific School of Medicine.
    Last month government withdrew its support of the medical school which was founded by American Dr Larry Sands with a sister campus in Mexico that exists only because of the Rarotonga campus.
    Yesterday, the Cook Islands News was directed by the office of the deputy prime minister to the 2005 email correspondence between Teokotai and WHO in response to comments made by the school's local partner Lily Henderson in yesterday's paper.
    Henderson said that the principals were prepared to invest a considerable amount of money to build a $5 million campus after the school received WHO recognition.
    But the report says prerequisites for WHO listings are that:
    1. The medical school is duly recognised and registered by government as a training institution;
    2. The medical school has been in existence for some time, preferably several years with the course running and students/facilities present in country; and
    3. Evidence of government recognition/registration of the school.
    Dr Ezekiel Nukuro, the regional advisor for WHO, pointed out to Teokotai that the school could not be listed if it was only proposing to build a campus.
    The report also noted that the SPSOM would not be eligible to apply for registration to WHO world medical school directory until 2011.
    This week Henderson said that despite government's withdrawal, the school would still operate because the Development Investment Board had informed them that it was business as usual.
    DIB's chief executive Mark Short says that in his last phone conversation with Henderson on 10 April, he advised her that the medical school case was with the solicitor general Mike Mitchell.
    "I also noted that any involvement by DIB would have to adhere to the requirements under our legislation. I understand that at this point in time, the DPM's office is dealing with this matter."
    The report to cabinet has proposed that a policy or law be designed by cabinet to ensure that any application to set up a medical school in the Cook Islands is not approved by cabinet or considered by DIB without the written support of the education ministry and national human resources department.
    Henderson says that if the SPSOM was encouraged it would have provided aspiring young Cook Islanders the chance to obtain a medical degree on full scholarship.
    "This would be to an international standard, not the limited recognition that a graduate obtains from the University of the South Pacific (USP). When I say this I am not decrying that institution, but graduates do require additional qualifications to practice outside the Pacific region."

  • Vancouver University Worldwide ordered to stop granting degrees: Raises questions about monitoring online universities, Erin Millar, Toronto (Ontario, Canada) Macleans, May 11, 2007.
    Last week's B.C. Supreme Court ruling that ordered Vancouver University Worldwide to stop granting degrees in B.C. brings up an interesting question: where exactly is your university located? With the rise of distance education made possible by the Internet, you can take an array of classes from just about anywhere, from Nunavut to the Queen Charlotte Islands. While correspondence courses can be very convenient, the lack of physical campuses of some institutions is making it difficult to pin down just what jurisdiction a university is located in, and what laws apply. That is just the problem that has fueled a 15-year dispute between B.C. and Vancouver University Worldwide. B.C. says that the private university, with offices on Beatty Street in Vancouver, is breaking the province's Degree Authorization Act by offering degrees without permission. But the university's president Raymond Rodgers says that the school does not operate in B.C.
    "We don't conduct degree programs in B.C.," Rodgers said. "The degrees are printed in other jurisdictions and signed outside of B.C. and have been for some time." Degree ceremonies also take place outside the province.
    But Judge Stephen Kelleher disagreed. He ruled that because some degrees are mailed out from within the province, the university is indeed in violation of the act. "If a degree is posted in B.C.," he wrote in his ruling, "I am satisfied that it amounts to conferring a degree in B.C. although the recipient may be elsewhere."
    Dr. Virginia Hatchette expressed her concern about monitoring private institutions operating online in a report prepared for the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada last year. She notes, "Currently no provincial or territorial degree-granting legislation specifically addresses e-learning."
    Hatchette argues that there is need for specific legislation because of the gap been public perception and law. "The perception of the general public is likely to be that if an organization is advertising in the jurisdiction, then the organization is legally authorized to operate in the jurisdiction."
    However, often that is not the case. Vancouver University Worldwide was first warned not to advertise its degrees in B.C. 15 years ago when the government took issue with the institution using the word "university" in its advertising. Yet, even after the latest ruling, Rodgers says that there will be no change to the university's programs.
    According to its website, the only degrees that Vancouver University Worldwide offers in B.C. are in theology, which is exempted from the Degree Authorization Act.
    What constitutes operating within a given jurisdiction is very unclear in Canada and has made it difficult for B.C. to stop the university from disregarding the law...
    Hatchette also warns of "degree mills" in her report, which she describes as "fraudulent business ventures that sell degrees or have either no academic requirements or have standards that are too low to warrant a degree credential."
    "The result is a plethora of certificates and credentials being awarded to individuals who presume, or are led to believe, that they are transferable to further learning," Hatchette wrote.
    Quality assurance for institutions appearing to operate in Canada has become of mounting concern as a number of school closures have led to China and India warning students of studying in Canada.
    Last month the Times of India reported, "A group of Indian students who traveled across the globe in pursuit of their MBA dreams are living their worst nightmare." The article pointed to the recent closing of Lansbridge University in B.C. as a grim reminder to be careful about Canada's post-secondary system. The school was ordered to close by the government after an investigation ruled that Lansbridge was in violation of the Degree Authorization Act. Approximately 300 students, mostly from India and China, were left without credentials after spending thousands of dollars to study in Canada.
    "We are in shock," an unnamed Lansbridge student told the Times of India. "We never imagined that something like this could happen in the developed world too."
    China also released a statement late last year entitled, "Don't Apply to Canadian Private Schools Blindly.."..
    The Vancouver University Worldwide case is the fourth time recently that the B.C. government has taken action against private universities. In addition to the Lansbridge closing, Kingston College and Upper Iowa University were also shut down.
    Rutherford University was also warned not to advertise degrees in B.C. last year. That case is now before the Attorney General.

  • Ex-celebrity stripper goes on trial for allegedly posing as licensed psychologist, Jonathan Saltzman, Boston Globe, April 26, 2007.
    Lucy Wightman, who drews stares in the 1970s and '80s as the celebrated stripper Princess Cheyenne in Boston's Combat Zone, today held the gaze of 16 jurors as a state prosecutor accused her of fraudulently posing as a licensed psychologist and treating children whose parents had no idea she lacked the proper credentials. "This is a case about trust, broken trust, and breaking that trust to commit theft from parents and their children," Assistant Attorney General David Andrews said as Wightman went on trial for allegedly treating children with eating disorders and other serious problems without a license from 1998 to 2005.
    Wightman, 47, of Hull, who had a practice in two affluent Boston suburbs, faces 14 counts of felony larceny, five counts of filing false healthcare claims, five counts of insurance fraud, and one count of practicing psychology without a license. Andrews said she made nearly $40,000 while posing as a licensed psychologist after buying what he called a bogus doctorate online from a diploma mill.
    But Wightman's lawyer, Katie Cook Rayburn, said her client had a master's degree in psychology and studied five years at the accredited Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology before withdrawing for reasons she said her client will explain while testifying in her defense later in the trial.
    Feeling that she had completed her academic training as well as many hours of internships, Wightman bought a doctorate online from the Dominica-based Concordia College & University, that she believed to be legitimate, Rayburn said. Nonetheless, Wightman denies telling her clients that she was licensed, Rayburn said...
    See information about the news story "Lawyer: Police chief, dog have diplomas from same school" elsewhere on this page concerning other Concordia College & University "alumni." On May 4, 2007 a "Boston jury returned guilty verdicts on 19 of 25 counts against Wightman."

  • UGC asked to sue West Coast University of Panama, Siddiqur Rahman Khan, Dhaka, Bangladesh New Age Metro, April 17, 2007.
    The education ministry has asked the University Grants Commission to sue West Coast University of Panama for offering bachelor's courses without official permission. The ministry in a letter issued on April 10 asked the commission to file a case with the local police station or the court against the university under Article 13 of Private University Act (amendment) 1998.
    Signed by a deputy secretary, the letter said, 'The Bangladesh centre/Khulna campus of blacklisted West Coast University has been enrolling students and running illegally.' In response to a query of the ministry about the West Coast University's centres in Bangladesh, the commission in a letter to an assistant secretary to the ministry, Hafiz Ahmed, on March 21 urged the government to take necessary steps to close down the centres.
    Sources in the ministry and commission said that West Coast University has been offering courses in electrical and electronic engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering and architecture.
    'The Khulna campus has been running under the Dhaka-based AMDA Foundation since December 2006 and the classes started on February 19,' an education ministry document says.
    An UGC official said the authorities of AMDA Foundation started selling certificates in the name of running study centres. Earlier, the UGC published a notice in different dailies, warning against launching courses by any private university or institution without approval from the commission.
    According to the Private University Act 1998, no private university can be established or run and no undergraduate, postgraduate, diploma or certificate course can be offered, and no degree, diploma or certificate can be provided in Bangladesh by any foreign university without authorisation or certification from the government.

  • Legislation proposed by Davis would ban diploma mills, Ian Morrison, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, The Virgin Islands Daily News, April 6, 2007.
    Sen. Liston Davis again has introduced a draft bill into the 27th Legislature that would prevent businesses like International Graduate Center from operating in the territory without meeting rigorous guidelines. If passed, Davis's bill will prohibit nonaccredited, private degree-granting institutions from operating in the territory. The bill would put the territory at the forefront of ongoing efforts during the last several years by states to crack down on diploma mills and unaccredited schools. Davis is chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, Culture and Youth.
    The territory currently has no law governing diploma mills...
    Here is the text of the legislation as reported in the V.I. Daily News:
    The bill: To prohibit the operation of non-accredited private degree granting post-secondary education institutions in the U.S. Virgin Islands and for other purposes. Section 1. Prohibition against operation of institutions
    Any private degree granting post-secondary education institution shall be prohibited from operating in the United States Virgin Islands unless it has been accredited by an accrediting association recognized by the United States Department of Education.
    Section 2. Prohibition against operation of agents
    Agents of any degree granting post-secondary education institution that has not been accredited by an accrediting association recognized by the United States Department of Education shall be prohibited from soliciting resident students.
    Section 3. Prohibition against assistance of government officials and agencies
    Unless a private degree granting post-secondary education institution is accredited as provided for in Section 1, no official or employee of the Virgin Islands Department of Education, or the University of the Virgin Islands or any school district of the territory, shall:
    (i) Permit the institution, or proprietor or agent thereof, to solicit business in any public school within the Virgin Islands; and
    (ii) Provide any list of students or other list of prospects to the institution or proprietor or agent thereof.
    Section 4. Penalties
    a) Any person violating the provisions of this act is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) or by imprisonment not to exceed six (6) months, or both.
    b) Each violation of the provisions of the act shall constitute a separate offense.
    c) Any person violating the provisions of this act may also be enjoined from the continuation of the violation by proceedings brought by the attorney general, any school official or any aggrieved citizen, regardless of whether criminal proceedings have been instituted.
    Section 5: Effective date
    This Act shall take effect immediately upon its enactment.

  • Governor orders Education to cancel accreditation of online operation , Ian Morrison, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, The Virgin Islands Daily News, April 4, 2007.
    Gov. John deJongh Jr. issued an order Tuesday to Acting Education Commissioner Lauren Larsen to rescind the V.I. Education Department's accreditation of an online business that has the earmarks of a diploma mill... International Graduate Center came under the governor's scrutiny after The Daily News published a special investigative report on Feb. 12 questioning the legitimacy of the online operation and questioning Larsen's current and retroactive authority to do the accrediting.
    The report described International Graduate Center's links to a similar operation, called Berne University, that the St. Kitts and Nevis government shut down in that country last year. The Daily News report also disclosed that International Graduate Center was not accredited by any nationally recognized accrediting entity, such as the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, and that universities do not recognize the center's diplomas or accept course credits for transfer.
    In some states, use of such diplomas to obtain a job or promotion is illegal.
    DeJongh directed Larsen to inform the organization that it is not "an accredited institution of higher learning in the United States Virgin Islands." The governor also told Larsen, "Please transmit to me a copy of your correspondence to the International Graduate Center."
    The V.I. Board of Education announced at its January meeting that based on Larsen's accreditation of International Graduate Center, the board would give credit for degrees and courses offered by International Graduate Center. The decision came amid increasing efforts by both the V.I. Education Department and the board to comply with a federal mandate to increase the ranks of certified teachers in the public schools.
    The Daily News special investigative report showed that Education and board officials missed a number of warning signs that should have raised questions about the organization's legitimacy...
    Warning signs
    The Daily News found that International Graduate Center does not meet national standards for a legitimate academic institution.
    Its shortcomings include:
    - International Graduate Center gives graduate-level academic credits for non-academic work, at a cost of $200 per credit. The center describes the credits as "Life Experience" credits. It counts up to 9 such credits toward a Ph.D. or an Ed.D. degree.
    - The center's St. Croix office, referred to as an "instructional" and "satellite" office in its advertising literature, is a mail delivery box in Christiansted.
    - International Graduate Center's faculty and administrators had worked for Berne University, a diploma mill that operated out of St. Kitts and Nevis and provided fraudulent, substandard degrees and courses. The St. Kitts and Nevis government withdrew its accreditation of Berne University last year. Berne's degrees are considered illegal in four states that regulate diploma use.
    - Advisers to International Graduate Center's president who were listed on its website said they had not been involved with the organization for "years" and at least one adviser asked to be removed after being questioned by The Daily News.
    - The center changed its website when The Daily News asked about the adviser list. The website no longer includes a list of advisers.
    - International Graduate Center, which was incorporated in 2006 in Vermont, has not registered with the V.I. Lt. Governor's Office nor obtained a V.I. business license since it began doing business in the territory in November 2003, when the Education Department gave International Graduate Center a license to operate as an academic services provider for the period from Jan. 1, 2004, to Dec. 31, 2007.
    - International Graduate Center has not been accredited by Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, the only accrediting agency that the U.S. Department of Education recognizes in this region. The University of the Virgin Islands is accredited by Middle States. Accreditation measures an institution's academic quality and is a lengthy process of external quality review, according to The Council of Higher Education Accreditation in Washington, D.C. A normal accreditation process often includes a period of self-study, site visits by independent teams and peer reviews. In other words, the center's accreditation by the V.I. Education Department is meaningless outside of the Virgin Islands. Students could not transfer coursework taken at the center.
    - International Graduate Center lists only four faculty members in addition to president David Gibson and vice president for academic affairs Charles Knisley. All four work as professors for other universities, and none works full-time for International Graduate Center.
    Fraudulent and substandard
    International Graduate Center is on a number of states' lists of questionable degree-granting institutions.
    In Oregon, a state with a reputation as a fraud watchdog, residents are breaking state law if they use a Berne University degree to gain employment, and an employer who knowingly recognizes such a degree also is breaking the law, according to the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization, a state agency that monitors educational institutions "to provide for the protection of the citizens of Oregon and their postsecondary schools by ensuring the quality of higher education and preserving the integrity of an academic degree as a public credential." ...
    An educator's use of credentials from unaccredited institutions like International Graduate Center and Berne University devalues all academic credentials by giving people - whether students, parents or other teachers - the impression that its holder will offer an educational experience of a certain quality, Contreras said. Quality control assures people that a teacher has attained a certain degree of teaching skills and a greater ability to teach students, he said.
    "You assume the students and teachers are going to get a better educational experience," Contreras said...
    The center's operations
    International Graduate Center's brochure and website say that it offers master's and doctoral degrees in education on a full-time or part-time basis through a combination of distance learning and at least one two-week to four-week summer program, which the center refers to as a "residency" period on St. Croix. The center also offers a V.I. history course that does not require students to be enrolled in a graduate course.
    The center has no physical facility. It has two postal addresses: one in Rutland, Vt., and one in Christiansted.
    The center awards its master's degree after two 15-week semesters and a two-week summer residency program on St. Croix worth six credit hours. Students can get a doctoral degree - either an Ed.D. or a Ph.D. - in four semesters and one or two week-long summer stays on St. Croix, according to the center's literature.
    The center's St. Croix "instructional office" is a mail delivery box at Mail Boxes Etc. in Christiansted.
    It rented St. Joseph High School's facilities on St. Croix for the summer residency program.
    The V.I. Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs has no record of International Graduate Center ever receiving a license to operate in the territory, and the Lt. Governor's Office Division of Corporations and Trademarks has no incorporation papers on file for International Graduate Center Inc. David Gibson, president of the center, has said that he planned to file the necessary paperwork with the Lt. Governor's Office.
    Before May 10, 2006, International Graduate Center existed under the auspices of MC Squared Inc., which was incorporated as a nonprofit operation in Vermont in 1999. International Graduate Center began as an MC Squared project, but it was spun off on its own so it would have a greater chance of receiving regional accreditation, Gibson said.
    MC Squared Inc. has a website that describes the company as providing consulting and professional development services for educational organizations, universities and schools. The operation is in Montpelier, Vt., and is headed by Robert McLaughlin, the founder of International Graduate Center.
    McLaughlin was listed as a dissertation reader for Berne University, the now defunct operation on St. Kitts that lost its accreditation in that country and bears a number of similarities to International Graduate Center.
    Gibson and Mario Golden are listed as corporate officers on MC Squared's incorporation documents.
    In interviews with The Daily News, Gibson and vice president Charles Knisley described International Graduate Center as a start-up online university that offers an alternative to UVI and gives teachers a new method to meet their educational goals.
    International Graduate Center charges $400 per credit hour. A master's degree costs $14,400 for 36 hours. A doctoral degree in education costs $26,400. By comparison, UVI charges $110 per academic credit for resident students and $330 per credit for non-residents.
    Berne University connection
    International Graduate Center has ties to Berne University. Administrators and a board of trustees member working for International Graduate Center held positions with Berne University.
    The fourth edition of Webster's New World College Dictionary defines a diploma mill as "an unaccredited school or college that grants relatively worthless diplomas, as for a fee."
    Berne University Global Graduate Education opened in 1993 and received accreditation from the St. Kitts and Nevis Ministry of Education, Labour and Social Security in 1998. It offered graduate degrees in a number of fields, including business and education.
    As is the case with International Graduate Center, Berne University was a distance learning operation with two-week to four-week summer programs on St. Kitts. It claimed to have offices in Basseterre, St. Kitts, and in Wolfeboro Falls, N.H.
    Berne's location on St. Kitts was a post office box. The summer residency classes were on the campus of Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College in Basseterre.
    The St. Kitts and Nevis government officially withdrew its accreditation of Berne University last year because "the university has failed to provide relevant information and to meet the requirements to maintain its status as an accredited institution," according to a written statement.
    In addition to McLaughlin, Knisley and Gibson worked for Berne University, along with an International Graduate Center board of trustees member.
    Gibson was a leadership and cross-cultural studies professor for Berne University, according to Berne's website. Knisley, an elementary school principal in Vermont, worked as Berne's director of academic technologies and student support.
    Kenneth Hood, who was dean of academic affairs and a faculty member for Berne, also is a corporate officer for International Graduate Center. Hood also is secretary of International Graduate Center's board of trustees.
    In interviews with The Daily News, Gibson and Knisley both said their involvement with Berne University did not have any effect on International Graduate Center, and both said they eventually quit their posts at Berne.
    Other than the physical set-up of the universities, the two operations could be not be more different, according to Gibson. While Berne offered numerous programs in different subject areas, International Graduate Center offers only degrees and courses related to education.
    He said Berne's faculty and the its board of trustees had diverging ideas about the university's role.
    Unlike Berne, International Graduate Center is focused heavily on the use of the Internet as a learning tool, whereas Berne used mail and telephones to run its courses, he said.
    Golden, the former assistant commissioner in the V.I. Education Department who now sits on International Graduate Center's board of trustees, has said that no connection between the two institutions exists other than Gibson and Knisley working there. Golden is also listed as an officer on MC Squared Inc.'s incorporation documents and has received a stipend from the organization in past years.
    Golden said he worked closely with McLaughlin and Gibson in previous years. In particular, Golden said, McLaughlin has organized and run a number of successful professional development programs for the territory's teachers and facilitated technology-based projects in some of the territory's schools.
    In an earlier interview, Larsen said he knew McLaughlin when he worked with the V.I. Education Department in the mid-1990s through the National Institute for wCommunity Innovations, an MC Squared program.
    However, McLaughlin is no longer involved with International Graduate Center. He left to focus his attention on other projects, Gibson said. His name does not appear on the center's website or in its literature.

  • New law prompts online school changes, Mead Gruver (Associated Press), Jackson Hole (Wyoming) Star Tribune, March 15, 2007.
    CHEYENNE -- Preston University has moved to Alabama -- where there's less oversight of post-secondary education -- now that Wyoming requires private universities to be accredited. Preston is now based in Montgomery, Ala., and joins at least one other online school, Rutherford University, that has left Wyoming in response to the law.
    "They don't require accreditation, and they allow you to operate there before you get accredited," Preston Chancellor Jerry Haenisch said of Alabama's laws.
    A new school, Fairmount International University, meanwhile, will offer an online business program from Preston's former Cheyenne offices. Preston and Fairmount share the same owner and president, Abdul Basit, and chancellor, Haenisch.
    Haenisch said Fairmount is seeking accreditation through the Distance Education and Training Council in accordance with Wyoming's new accreditation law. The law went into effect last July and requires all private universities to be accepted as accreditation candidates and to become accredited within five years.
    The new school won't offer classroom instruction. Nor will it have affiliations with schools overseas, like the dozens of Preston-linked schools in Pakistan and other countries.
    "Because we were complying with the Wyoming law, we changed the name of the school here to Fairmount International to differentiate from Preston," Haenisch said...
    Some Professors Are Surprised to Be on a University's Roster, Andrea Foster, The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 23, 2001.
    Call them the phony faculty members. Their names appear on the Web site of Preston University, an unaccredited institution here. But they have never taught a course for Preston or supervised any of the university's students. Preston has a list of 49 faculty members on its Web site (, which includes William Lieberman and Kenneth Dolbeare. But both -- selected at random and contacted by The Chronicle -- say they have nothing to do with Preston.
    "I'm not affiliated with Preston and never was," says Mr. Dolbeare, who teaches political science at the University of Colorado at Denver...
    Jerry P. Haenisch, chancellor and chief executive officer of Preston, has a simple, if incomplete, answer. Professors like Mr. Dolbeare and Mr. Lieberman usually end up on Preston's faculty list, he says, because they responded to a university advertisement seeking professors with doctoral degrees to supervise students.
    "They send us their transcripts and credentials, and we put them on our faculty list and say, 'You're an adjunct faculty,' " he asserts. If Preston enrolls a student seeking a degree in that professor's field, the student will be paired with the professor, but "for 50 percent of our faculty, that never happens," says Mr. Haenisch. He acknowledges that it is misleading for the university to say Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Dolbeare are Preston professors, and admits that only about 15 of the 49 faculty members listed on the institution's Web site actively teach students or serve as mentors...

  • Lawyer: Police chief, dog have diplomas from same school (Fostoria, Ohio),, March 2, 2007.
    FOSTORIA, Ohio (AP) -- The city's police chief and police dog have degrees from the same online school, according to a defense lawyer challenging the chief's authority. The issue gives "one pause, if not paws, for concern" about what it takes to get a degree from the school, based in the Caribbean, Gene Murray wrote Monday in a motion seeking to have the dog introduced as evidence.
    Chief John McGuire and Rocko -- listed as John I. Rocko on his diploma -- are graduates of Concordia College and University, according to copies of diplomas that are part of Murray's motion.
    Murray did not say how he knows the criminal justice degree is for the dog or how Rocko supposedly enrolled in the college.
    A woman who responded to an e-mail from The Associated Press Thursday listed on what appeared to be the school's Web site said that the college is legitimate and that no alumnus named Rocko was listed in its database. The woman, Elizabeth C. Marley, said the diplomas may have been issued by someone operating a spoof of the school's site.
    However, the woman would not provide a phone number, and it could not be confirmed that she was a spokeswoman or representative for the school.
    Dean Henry, McGuire's lawyer, said the department had the dog before McGuire was hired.
    "My client had absolutely nothing to do with any animal getting a degree from an institution of higher learning," Henry said. "The whole thing is bizarre."
    Murray argues that a drug charge against his client should be dismissed because McGuire was not legally employed and had no authority as an officer.
    McGuire, hired as chief in this northwest Ohio city a year ago, is to go on trial this month on charges of falsification and tampering with records. A special prosecutor said McGuire lied on his application and resume about his rank, position, duties, responsibilities and salary in three of his previous jobs...
    The Concordia College & University site includes a page describing accreditation. It cites as a reference (among other things) "Dr. Hoyer's Guide to Accreditation" by Richard J. Hoyer.

  • Australian held in Uganda over fake uni, Australian Associated Press, Melbourne, Australia The Age, February 21, 2007.
    An Australian man has been arrested in Uganda, accused of illegally operating a university and fleecing students who paid almost $A2,000 a year to attend online seminars. Police arrested 52-year-old Tony Lenart in the capital, Kampala, on Tuesday and also allege he issued students with fake degrees, diplomas and certificates in an illegal enterprise that spanned five years.
    "Lenart has been awarding students fake degrees, diplomas and certificates since 2002 when he established the fake university. He did not register it with the relevant authority," said Criminal Investigations Department officer Muhamed Atepo.
    He alleged Lenart has been charging hundreds of students tuition fees of $US750 ($A950) per semester.
    "Lenart had more that 200 students who have been attending lectures on internet. He claimed that he wanted then to study on the internet so that they (could) attend same lectures with students in Australia," Atepo said.
    Police allege Lenart disappeared with students' fees about a month ago.
    He was arrested on Tuesday when he went to a building linked to the university enterprise to pick up a computer.
    He is expected to face court soon, charged with defrauding students and unlawfully establishing a university.
    The National Council of Higher Education, responsible for registering universities in Uganda, said it had never registered Lenart's, which police named as the World University of Leadership.
    The World University of Leadership website, which lists its head office in New York, carries a link to "our agents in Africa" including: The Institute of Advanced Leadership - Uganda."
    The institute's site ( says that since its first workshop in Uganda in 2000 "our International Chairman Tony Lenart has trained over 1,200 people from 100's of organisations, in 14 seminars."
    It says the institute has a small campus with 14 training rooms and was once contracted to train the country's resident district commissioners who report to the president, and had been asked to train Uganda's top military officials.
    The institute claims to have trained more than 3,000 government, charity and corporate leaders from Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo "and others."
    It even boasts that in 2002, "the Institute trained the entire rebel Government of Eastern Congo (DRC) in the skills, approach and attitudes necessary to achieve peace with their opposition - in a war that has already cost over 3 million lives, and which has left 15 million starving."

  • Fraudulent forensic expert jailed: A bogus forensic psychologist who supplied evidence in hundreds of court cases has been jailed for five years, BBC News, United Kingdom, February 22, 2007.
    Gene Morrison, 48, of Hyde, was described in court as a charlatan who had tricked judges, lawyers and police. About 700 cases he worked on over 26 years, across the UK, will now have to be re-assessed, Manchester's Minshull Street Crown Court was told.
    Judge Jeffrey Lewis said Morrison, who was convicted of 20 charges, was an "inveterate and compulsive liar."
    The charges included obtaining a money transfer by deception, obtaining property by deception, perverting the course of justice and perjury.
    He was cleared of one count of obtaining a money transfer by deception.
    The court heard Morrison was paid at least £250,000 in taxpayers' money for giving apparently expert advice, but had actually bought his qualifications from a sham university.
    Morrison's firm, Hyde-based Criminal and Forensic Investigations Bureau (CFIB), had been hired to give evidence in court. Many of his reports were cut and pasted from the internet.
    Judge Lewis said: "You yourself had no expertise worth speaking of. Your business was built on a whole series of lies.
    "My impression of you as an inveterate and compulsive liar is borne out by the verdict of the jury.
    "Your activities in various ways struck at the heart of the judicial process.
    "You did not care about the truth, you were wholly dishonest, you did not care of the consequences of your actions to the administration of justice."
    Morrison admitted to police he began working as a forensic investigator in 1977 after buying certificates by post for a BSc in Forensic Science, a Masters with excellence in Forensic Investigation and a Doctorate in Criminology...
    700 court cases thrown into doubt by fraudster, Yorkshire (U.K.) Post, February 22, 2007.
    The court heard he held degree certificates for a BSc in Forensic Science, a Masters with excellence in Forensic Investigation and a Doctorate in Criminology – gained, not from years of study and learning, but from accessing a website, www.affordable, and paying a fee. The qualifications were awarded by Rochville University in the United States. Users could even chose their own grades Morrison, awarded himself his MA "with excellence."
    Morrison set up a firm called the Criminal & Forensic Investigations Bureau (CFIB), motto "Exposing unrighteousness for the sake of righteousness" and a website which boasted he had more than 20 years of experience in forensic investigations.
    Working from an office near his home in Hyde, Cheshire, he placed advertisements in the Solicitors' Journal, and started out by hiring real forensic scientists to carry out handwriting and fingerprint analysis which he would then claim as his own and charge clients twice the true price.
    Later he cut and pasted old reports together and changed details claiming the analysis was new.
    He was hired by legal firms, insurance companies, private businesses and individuals to carry out original work and examine other expert reports.
    Firms of solicitors hired him to work on the defence of their clients – paid for by the taxpayer. They should have checked his credentials but many failed to do so.
    The defendant gave evidence in cases involving armed robbery, rape, death by dangerous driving, unexplained death and drugs offences.

  • Tighter regulation of unaccredited schools is needed , An editorial: Tuscalossa, Alabama Tuscaloosa News, February 13, 2007.
    As states elsewhere tighten their restrictions, more and more unaccredited schools are migrating to places like Alabama, where regulations are lax. Offering courses in a variety of fields, what some of these unaccredited institutions actually provide is an impressive-looking sheepskin in return for an appropriate fee from the consumer.
    Some require little or no academic work, crediting consumers with "experiential learning" outside the classroom. Others may ask for a perfunctory essay.
    This is fraud, purely and simply. It enriches hucksters, devalues legitimate college degrees and confuses employers and professional licensing boards.
    Sometimes even the consumers are bilked. After completing and paying for a full course of studies, usually offered via the Internet, they are surprised find their academic credits won't transfer to an accredited college.
    Not all unaccredited schools are fraudulent. But all too often they are. In large part, that's the fault of the state for failing to keep pace with technology.
    Alabama is the only state in the country with a two-tier system to license and oversee out-of-state schools that dates back to the days when correspondence schools taught courses by mail. The Internet has given more mobility to diploma mills.
    The Alabama Commission on Higher Education has a rigid set of guidelines that it uses to approve out-of-state colleges doing business in Alabama. But until a change approved by ACHE goes into effect this spring, online colleges can get a waiver and buy a license from the Department of Education, registering as an in-state corporation.
    ACHE voted in December to close that loophole. But officials say they don't have the staff to do thorough reviews of all online institutions.
    There are other problems as well. Current state law requires only that private colleges prove they are financially viable and offer what they claim to offer -- regardless of the actual education value of their course offerings.
    ACHE and the Department of Postsecondary Education hope to get the Legislature to pass a law this spring that would consolidate the review and licensing processes within one agency
    Meanwhile, the exodus from other states to Alabama continues.
    Recently, the Wyoming Legislature passed a bill to give colleges and universities five years to become accredited, begin the accreditation process -- or leave the state.
    Preston University in Cheyenne, which had only a few students in Wyoming but thousands at affiliated campuses around the world, opted to move to Alabama because of its more relaxed rules on accreditation. Maintaining that it is not a "diploma mill," school officials say they can offer quality courses without accreditation.
    Oregon took a no-nonsense approach by establishing an Office of Degree Authorization to find and stop diploma mills. It approved strong penalties for violators. Alabama would do well to follow suit.

  • Education chief accredits online degree program despite red flags: Newly accredited International Graduate Center has no V.I. [Virgin Islands] business license or incorporation, Ian Morrison, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, The Virgin Islands Daily News, February 12, 2007.
    Under pressure to get more certified teachers into Virgin Islands schools, the V.I. Education Department and the V.I. Board of Education now will accept credits from a questionable online operation similar to one that the St. Kitts and Nevis government shut down there. At a meeting last month, the Board of Education announced that it would give credit for degrees and courses offered by International Graduate Center because it had been accredited by the Education Department.
    A Daily News investigation of International Graduate Center shows that Education and board officials missed a number of red flags.
    V.I. accreditation
    On Nov. 22, 2006, Deputy Education Commissioner Lauren Larsen signed an accreditation certificate that retroactively accredited International Graduate Center back to June 1, 2006, and further accredited the center until Dec. 31, 2010.
    Larsen did not officially become acting Education commissioner until Jan. 1, 2007.
    In November 2003, the Education Department gave the center a license to operate - meaning that Education recognized International Graduate Center as an academic services provider - for the period Jan. 1, 2004, to Dec. 31, 2007.
    Larsen said he was surprised to hear questions about International Graduate Center. Larsen said he has personally visited a summer residency session put on by the center and that the classes appeared legitimate and "rigorous."
    "I haven't seen anything suspicious about their intent," Larsen said.
    He said that International Graduate Center went through the same accreditation process as any non-public school approved by the Education Department. Non-public schools must have V.I. accreditation in order to operate, but higher education institutions do not, he said...
    "We mostly do the non-public, private and parochial schools in the K-12 spectrum," Larsen said.
    The University of the Virgin Islands is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, which is the regional accreditor recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
    Larsen said that the V.I. Education Department previously had accredited only such higher education institutions as trade training programs and ministry schools.
    Now, the Education Department has accredited International Graduate Center, which competes with UVI to enroll students seeking credits for teacher certification.
    Larsen said that International Graduate Center approached the Education Department about accreditation and submitted documents that department officials compared to a checklist of requirements that an organization must meet in order to to be accredited. Those requirements include delineating its mission, looking at its courses and evaluating its facilities, Larsen said.
    Education Department accreditation inspections are conducted by a committee made up of a rotating group of retired educators, principals and administrators, who use a checklist, Larsen said.
    The accreditation team did not examine any facilities related to International Graduate Center, however, because it is a distance learning school, Larsen said.
    International Graduate Center also did not meet the first requirement on the department's checklist: proof of V.I. incorporation and a V.I. business license.
    The V.I. Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs has no record of a license for International Graduate Center to operate in the territory, and the V.I. Lt. Governor's Office Division of Corporations and Trademarks has no corporation papers on file for International Graduate Center Inc.
    Responding to questions from The Daily News, International Graduate Center president and founder David Gibson said that he planned to file the necessary paperwork with the V.I. Lt. Governor's Office.
    Before May 10, 2006, International Graduate Center existed under the auspices of MC Squared Inc., which was incorporated as a nonprofit operation in Vermont in 1999. International Graduate Center began as an MC Squared project, but it was spun off on its own so it would have a greater chance of receiving regional accreditation, Gibson said.
    MC Squared Inc. has a website that describes the company as providing consulting and professional development services for educational organizations, universities and schools. The operation is in Montpelier, Vt., and is headed by Robert McLaughlin, the founder of International Graduate Center.
    McLaughlin was listed as a dissertation reader for Berne University, a defunct operation in St. Kitts that lost its accreditation in that country and bears a number of similarities to International Graduate Center... Teacher certification struggle
    For the V.I. Board of Education and the V.I. Education Department, the accreditation of International Graduate Center could reduce a significant problem: the comparatively large number of uncertified teachers in V.I. public schools.
    The Board of Education is an elected government organization that develops policies for the territory's public schools. It prescribes rules and regulations for teacher certification, administers the territorial scholarship program and conducts reviews and hearings on complaints in disciplinary and promotion issues.
    The board and the Education Department, which administers and operates the territory's public school system, have struggled for years to meet federal No Child Left Behind Act requirements, which include teacher certification.
    To be considered "highly qualified," a teacher must hold a bachelor's degree, be certified and be proficient in the subject matter taught.
    Fewer than half of the territory's teachers are certified, putting the department years behind the rest of the United States in meeting the "highly qualified" requirements of No Child Left Behind.
    After years of public criticism, the board made improving the certification process a priority in its first meeting of this year and announced initiatives to certify more teachers.
    The Education Department's human resources division did not recognize courses or degrees from unaccredited institutions and has not accepted any of those from International Graduate Center since it began operations in 2003. However, in January the board agreed to recognize International Graduate Center - and, in particular, V.I. culture and history courses - for use as credits toward the territory's teacher certification requirements. V.I. law requires that teachers complete a V.I. history course before they can be certified.
    The board's decision signifies that Education can reimburse teachers for taking International Graduate Center courses to meet certification requirements.
    Education already reimburses teachers for the cost of UVI courses toward certification, but International Graduate Center charges nearly four times as much per credit as UVI charges.
    Degrees offered
    International Graduate Center will offer an alternative to the University of the Virgin Islands and allow teachers to meet their educational goals at their own pace, Gibson said.
    The center's brochure and website say that it offers master's and doctoral degrees in education on a full-time or part-time basis through a combination of distance learning and at least one two-week to four-week summer program, which the center refers to as "a residency" period on St. Croix.
    The center also offers a V.I. history course that does not require students to be enrolled in a graduate course.
    "The program is rather intensive and very good," Board of Education executive director Carol Henneman said. "I felt very comfortable with it."
    The center has no physical facility. It has two postal addresses: one in Rutland, Vt., and one in Christiansted.
    The center awards its master's degree after two 15-week semesters and a two-week summer residency program on St. Croix worth six credit hours. Students can attain a doctoral degree - either an Ed.D. or a Ph.D. -Â in four semesters and one or two summer residencies on St. Croix, according to the center's literature.
    The center's St. Croix "instructional office" is a mail delivery box at Mail Boxes Etc. in Christiansted.
    St. Joseph High School's facilities on St. Croix have been the site of the center's summer residency program.
    St. Joseph principal Marla Matthews said International Graduate Center began using space at St. Joseph last summer. The school has benefited from the arrangement, she said, and she cited wireless and videoconferencing equipment received from the center.
    "They've done a lot for us," Matthews said, adding that she never had reservations about International Graduate Center.
    Comparative costs
    International Graduate Center charges $400 per credit hour. A master's degree costs $14,400 for 36 hours. A doctoral degree in education costs $26,400.
    By comparison, UVI charges $110 per academic credit for resident students and $330 per credit for non-residents.
    International Graduate Center awards credits for non-academic work at a cost of $200 per credit. The center describes them as "Life Experience" credits. It counts up to 9 such credits toward a Ph.D. or an Ed.D. degree.
    An institution that offers credit for life and work experience should always be examined closely, said John Bear, a nationally recognized expert on diploma mills.
    In addition, The Council for Higher Education Accreditation warns on its website that any school that places emphasis on life and work experience credits should be scrutinized closely.
    UVI does not award credits based on work and life experiences outside of the academic environment.
    Berne University
    International Graduate Center has close ties to Berne University, a defunct institution formerly accredited in St. Kitts and Nevis and now listed in at least four states' Education databases as a suspected diploma mill.
    The fourth edition of Webster's New World College Dictionary defines a diploma mill as "an unaccredited school or college that grants relatively worthless diplomas, as for a fee."
    Berne University Global Graduate Education opened in 1993 and received accreditation from the St. Kitts and Nevis government's Ministry of Education, Labour and Social Security in 1998. It offered graduate degrees in a number of disciplines, including business and education.
    As is the case with International Graduate Center, Berne University operated as a distance learning institution with two-week to four-week summer programs on St. Kitts. It claimed to have offices in Basseterre, St. Kitts, and in Wolfeboro Falls, N.H.
    Berne's location on St. Kitts was a post office box. The summer residency classes were on the campus of Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College in Basseterre.
    The St. Kitts and Nevis government officially withdrew its accreditation of Berne University last year because "the university has failed to provide relevant information and to meet the requirements to maintain its status as an accredited institution," according to a written statement.
    Berne University then went out of business.
    A degree from Berne University is considered fraudulent or substandard in Maine, Michigan, Oregon and Texas. Those four states have laws regulating the use of degrees from unaccredited institutions and diploma mills.
    For example, the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization lists Berne University among foreign degree-granting institutions that it does not recognize. An Oregon resident would be breaking state law if he used a Berne University degree to gain employment, and an employer who knowingly recognized such a degree also would be breaking the law, according to the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization, a state agency that monitors educational institutions "to provide for the protection of the citizens of Oregon and their postsecondary schools by ensuring the quality of higher education and preserving the integrity of an academic degree as a public credential."
    Berne University had close ties with a number of people also involved with International Graduate Center.
    Two Berne University administrators and a member of the Berne board of trustees are International Graduate Center corporate officers, according to its Vermont incorporation documents:
    - David Gibson, the president of International Graduate Center, was a leadership and cross-cultural studies professor for Berne University, according to Berne's website. In addition to being International Graduate Center's president, he is listed on its faculty for three programs.
    - Charles Knisley, International Graduate Center's vice president for academic affairs, was Berne's director of academic technologies and student support. Knisley, who is the principal of a public elementary school in Vermont, is listed among International Graduate Center's faculty for three degree courses.
    - Kenneth Hood, who was dean of academic affairs and a faculty member for Berne, also is a corporate officer for International Graduate Center. Hood also is secretary of International Graduate Center's board of trustees.
    In interviews with The Daily News, Gibson and Knisley both said their involvement with Berne University did not have any effect on International Graduate Center, and both said they eventually quit their posts at Berne.
    "There's no institutional connection with that at all," Gibson said. "The institution really got off track and was heading in the wrong direction."
    Knisley said Berne left a bad taste in his "professional mouth."
    "It was a situation where the board of trustees was doing something, and all of us were doing something else," Knisley said. "That was a sad time in a lot of people's lives. It was not a good time."
    Other than the physical set-up of the universities, Gibson said, the two operations could be not be more different. While Berne offered numerous programs in different subject areas, International Graduate Center offers only degrees and courses related to education.
    Unlike Berne, International Graduate Center is focused heavily on the use of the Internet as a learning tool, whereas Berne used mail and telephones to run its courses, he said.
    "You may see some similarities, but I see a lot of dissimilarities," Knisley said.
    St. Kitts and Nevis government officials did not return calls from The Daily News requesting further comment and information about Berne University.
    Personnel questions
    Two of the three people that International Graduate Center's website listed as "advisers" told The Daily News that they had not heard from anyone involved with the organization since they first were approached about the concept.
    Eva Kampits, director of the Executive Director's Office of New England Association of Schools & Colleges Inc., was listed on International Graduate Center's website as an adviser.
    She asked Gibson to take her name off the list after she received inquires from The Daily News about her role.
    Earlier this month, Kampits' name was removed from the site and a message that preceded the organization's list of advisors was added, stating: "These experts provide informal personal advice to the President from time to time on a wide range of issues in education."
    That message did not include the words "from time to time" until after The Daily News contacted Kampits.
    As of this weekend, that message was changed again, deleting "from time to time."
    Leslie Conery, deputy chief executive officer of the nonprofit International Society for Technology in Education, has not had any formal communication with International Graduate Center since she was contacted a couple of years ago, according to Marlene Nesary, communications manager for the society. Nesary said Conery did give the center permission to use her name.
    Gibson e-mailed a statement to The Daily News about the advisers' roles.
    Gibson said in that e-mail: "Notice that I try to say on the website that these are informal advisors to me. I approach them when and if I have a question that relates to their areas of expertise."
    "I have indeed not called upon any of these advisors recently in the context of IGC, but they are "there for me" when needed, and I believe that I have good relationships with them all," Gibson wrote.
    "The point of having powerfully connected and very smart people in a personal network is to be able to seek outside advice when needed. I have not needed them much recently, so IGC will not be on the tip of their tongues," Gibson also wrote.
    Other advisers listed on International Graduate Center website include Helen Barrett, portfolio development advisor for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; Terry Dozier, former assistant U.S. Secretary of Education for postsecondary education; Camilla Gagliolo, chairwoman of the Information Technology Council of International Schools; and Joellen Killion, director of special projects for the National Staff Development Council.
    In the same e-mail, Gibson said that he and Barrett were good friends and co-authored articles together in the past but that that he has not spoken with Dozier "in quite a while."
    Conceding that Barrett has not provided advisory services to International Graduate Center, Gibson wrote: "But I bet if you asked 'what's going on with IGC,' she'd say 'what's that?'" Gibson wrote.
    The Daily News could not reach Barrett or Dozier for comment.
    One of the others on the adviser list, Joellen Killion, spoke highly of the program. "The folks that are involved in this are very experienced and well-known educators," she said. "This is a serious and rigorous educational program."
    International Graduate Center's faculty and administration list also raises questions about its legitimacy.
    According to its course catalogue, the center has only four faculty members in addition to Gibson and Knisley. None of those faculty members works full-time for International Graduate Center.
    All four work as professors for other universities.
    International Graduate Center's faculty members are Gina Amenta-Shin, an associate professor of education at California Lutheran University; Judy Carr, an assistant professor of educational leadership at the University of South Florida; Christy Hammer, an associate professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Southern Maine; and Gayle Moller, an associate education professor at Western Carolina University in North Carolina.
    In an e-mail to The Daily News on Sunday, Hammer said she worked only for the 2003 summer on St. Croix and taught about 20 people. Hammer said she then followed up with them "virtually" - via online communication - on their master's and doctoral thesis work. She described the the program as "innovative."
    She could not be reached by phone on Sunday.
    The three other people listed as faculty members did not return calls for comment.
    The faculty serve "as needed," depending on class sizes, according to International Graduate Center's catalogue. The catalogue says the center plans to offer them full-time tenure-track positions in the future.
    Gibson responded to questions about the small size of the faculty by saying the institution was working to increase the number, but with only about 30 students enrolled this semester, the faculty-student ratio is comparable to graduate programs at major universities, he said.
    "It's hard to start up a university," Knisley said.
    Gibson said he was working on setting up cooperative programs with UVI.
    UVI Provost Al Hassan Musah confirmed that he met with Gibson a while ago. He said that cooperative programs or courses may be considered in the future, but International Graduate Center "has a lot of work to do" before that can happen.
    Identifying diploma mills
    John Bear, one of the nation's foremost experts on diploma mills and unaccredited schools, said International Graduate Center -Â especially because of its close ties with Berne University and its lack of permanent facilities - "raises some red flags."
    Bear is co-author with Allen Ezell of "Degree Mills: The Billion Dollar Industry That Has Sold More Than a Million Fake Degrees" and has helped the FBI investigate degree mills. He lectures widely on the subject.
    Bear said he once visited Berne University's offices in New Hampshire when it still offered degrees and found what appeared to be a shuttered one-room office in a strip shopping center.
    Operations such as Berne University provide enough instruction and veneer of credibility with the backing of dubious accrediting agencies to fool people, he said...

  • State's diploma mills draw academic ire, Adam Jones, Tuscaloosa, Alabama Tuscaloosa News, February 11, 2007.
    ...Alabama education leaders hope to reverse the state's reputation as a haven for diploma mills by strengthening laws regulating how private colleges like Chadwick [University in Birmingham] are set up. As other states have toughened their stance on diploma mills, which offer degrees for little or no academic work, those schools have migrated to states like Alabama, which has lax regulations.
    "It's a concern in all states, but some states have moved faster than others," said Gregory Fitch, executive director of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.
    Watchdogs decry Alabama's dual system for private college approval, which has allowed diploma mills to work the system for an operating license.
    To obtain a license, some are sent to ACHE and others to the Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education. Until this year, ACHE waived some colleges from review, and the Department of Postsecondary Education does not review the quality of the education offered.
    Fitch and Thomas Corts, interim postsecondary chancellor, have agreed that ACHE should take over the approval role, and plan to introduce a bill this legislative session to change state code...
    In Alabama, there are currently 10 state-licensed, degree-granting institutions operating without accreditation, generally considered the seal of approval for educational quality. Chadwick is seeking to have its license renewed.
    A school without accreditation is not necessarily a diploma mill, but nearly all diploma mills lack accreditation.
    "If Alabama could have a truly centralized oversight, it would be more efficient and prevent these institutions from setting up," said Alan Contreras, administrator of degree authorization for the state of Oregon, which has strict standards for institutions...
    He's noticed the movement of diploma mills around the country, with many of them moving from Idaho and Wyoming, which recently changed approval laws, to Alabama, Mississippi, Hawaii and California.
    Even the states with relaxed regulations are dwindling, as Hawaii legislators debate changes to its laws. Mississippi passed minor reforms a year ago.
    "These are people looking for some place to go, and they are quickly running out of places," Contreras said. "If you want the message sent that these creatures aren't welcome, you need to start a process to change regulations.."..
    American Liberty University, a school given a waiver from a full review, set up a "campus" in Montgomery but comes from California. On its Web site, ALU lists that it is licensed by the state but does not inform visitors that ALU is not recognized by the federal Department of Education as an accredited institution. That means its credits will be nearly impossible to transfer to accredited institutions.
    The school also gives credit for "experiential learning," defined as "previous life or work experience outside of the classroom, or self-study in some courses and departments."
    ...diploma mills can still turn to the state's postsecondary education system. Though state guidelines allow postsecondary officials the authority to review programs and conduct on-site visits, the department does not have the staff to do such in-depth reviews in all cases, said Joan Davis, general counsel for the Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education.
    Currently, the law requires only that private colleges prove they are financially viable and offer what they claim to offer, regardless of whether the actual offerings are of questionable educational value, Davis said.
    "We're pretty much hamstrung by the law," she said. "We cannot ensure quality, and we are hoping to tighten the loopholes with this bill."
    For example, Chadwick University in Birmingham has been labeled a diploma mill for granting degrees with little or no work in most courses. One person who claimed a bachelor's degree from the school was later hired by the National Nuclear Security Administration, one of 463 federal workers identified in a 2004 Government Account-ability Report as having obtained degrees from unaccredited universities.
    In 2005, Chadwick was re-approved to operate in the state by the postsecondary education system. Its license expired in January this year, but the school is seeking re-approval, Davis said.
    Like many diploma mills, Chadwick gives credit for life experience. Its Web site claims enrollment is full and no more applications are being accepted.
    Its founder, Lloyd Clayton, could not be reached for comment. An office suite address listed for Chadwick in a four-story building on Birmingham's Southside was labeled instead as the location of Magnolia Corporate Services. A call to a phone number listed for Chadwick went to voicemail for Magnolia Corporate Services, where Clayton's name is listed first in its phone directory.
    Clayton also started the Clayton College of Natural Health, which claims to be accredited by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, which is not recognized by the federal government as a legitimate accreditor.
    "The problem with Clayton is their accreditation is not recognized so there's no known oversight," Contreras said. "We don't know what they do, and that's why people who get degrees there can not be licensed in Oregon."
    But the leaders of two non-accredited institutions in Alabama say colleges can be legitimate without accreditation.
    "That's a journey, and it's expensive, but our goal is to do that," said Dominick Flarey, president of Breyer State University-Alabama.
    Breyer State is licensed to operate in the state until March 2008, and the approval process with postsecondary education included a two-day site visit. If ACHE is put in charge of approval instead, Flayer said he has no problem with that.
    "If the legislation and goal is to strengthen, and there is no hidden agenda, we welcome that," said Flarey, who lives in Ohio. Breyer State also counts life experience toward credit, and allows students to self-design their own doctoral degrees. However, Flarey maintains his school is not a diploma mill.
    Course syllabi are listed on-line, as are faculty and their credentials, he said. Credit for life experience adheres to standards held by traditional universities for portfolio experience, he said.
    "Just because someone calls you a diploma mill does not make it so," he said.
    Breyer State claims to be accredited by the Central States Consortium of Colleges and Schools, which has accredited two other online colleges, according to its Web site. The consortium is not recognized as an approved accreditor by the federal government, a fact Breyer State acknowledges on its Web site.
    But Flarey heads both Breyer State and the consortium. In other words, Flarey is the executive director of the body that accredited his own institution.
    In response, Flarey said he hired three outside evaluators to evaluate Breyer State.
    "Of course, I did not do the evaluation," he said. "That would be stupid."
    Accrediting bodies do not need to be recognized by the federal Department of Education to ensure quality, Flarey said. The consortium [was] created to provide standards for those not accredited by federally recognized organizations.
    "We are not claiming to be an approved accreditor," he said. "We are very clear on our Web site about that. What we are saying is, we've developed good standards, which are on the Web for all the world to see, and we comply with those standards."
    Jerry Haenisch, another leader of a nonaccredited school, said accreditation is voluntary. He is in the process of moving his college, Preston University, to Alabama from Wyoming. The postsecondary education system licensed Preston until Dec. 2008.
    Haenisch, Preston's chancellor, lobbied Wyoming officials not to force out non-accredited institutions when lawmakers there were debating changes to its laws, but failed.
    Most of Preston's nearly 3,000 students are international students, and the university does not need the student federal aid money that accredited schools are eligible for, Haenisch said.
    "The United States accreditation system constrains schools from operating internationally," he said. "We can exist as a quality school and deliver a good education without it."
    He said he's moving the college to Montgomery because the state allows non-accredited schools to operate, and he hopes state officials do not implement sweeping changes that force him out.
    "We are seeking for Alabama to have very strict academic guidelines without requiring outside, private accreditation," Haenisch said.
    The school grants credit for experiential learning, according to its Web site, but Haenisch maintains that Preston is not a diploma mill...

  • U.N. fired staff member with academic degrees from diploma mill, Associated Press, New York, International Herald Tribune, February 9, 2007.
    The United Nations fired a staff member in November because his academic degrees turned out to come from a well-known Internet diploma mill, not a legitimate university, a U.N. official said Friday. The incident was especially embarrassing because Trinity College and University is on a list of universities and colleges offering degrees for life experiences rather than formal education that had been circulated at the United Nations, U.N. staff members said.
    Jonathan Blankson, chief of the Human Resources Information Technology Section, had been suspended for 11 months before he was terminated, the staff members said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
    A photocopy of his fake degrees said Trinity College and University had conferred a Bachelor of Science with honors in Computer Science on Jonathan Michael Philip Blankson on June 12, 1996 and a Master of Science in Computer Science and Information Management on May 21, 1997. It said he met all requirements of the Board of Regents and Examiners.
    According to the Trinity College and University website, the master's degree cost 195 British pounds, about US$390 — and the bachelors degree with honors for just 150 pounds, about US$300. The website said the college "is an organization, registered in Dover, Delaware, and running its degree program from Spain."

  • State of Hawaii Senate Bill No. 909, Twenty-fourth legislature, filed January 19, 2007.
    Description: Requires the state post-secondary education commission to adopt licensing standards to govern unaccredited degree granting institutions consistent with the minimum educational standards used by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

  • House Democrats back penalty for use of fake diplomas, John Stamper, Lexington, KY Herald-Leader, February 9, 2007.
    Doctors or other professionals who present an employer with a fake education degree would be guilty of forgery under a proposed state law being pushed by House Democrats. The bill, which passed the Democratic-controlled House but foundered in the Republican-led Senate last year, gained prominence after a Herald-Leader series last year documented the cases of three men who have been convicted of practicing medicine without a license...
    "It's one of the fastest-growing crimes in our country," said Democratic Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington, who is sponsoring House Bill 175. "For $400, you can select what you want to be."
    Diploma mills, or schools without accreditation that award degrees for money and little work, now offer degrees that look so realistic that many employers have difficulty discerning their authenticity. For example, the state Transportation Cabinet has received applications containing seemingly-authentic engineering degrees that later turned out to be forgeries, Westrom said.
    The entire House Democratic Caucus endorsed the diploma mill bill yesterday as part of its "Commitment to Kentucky Families" agenda, giving Westrom hope that it will soon become law.
    "The federal government is going after the people making the diplomas; we're going after those who are presenting the diplomas," Westrom said.

  • Report Says 14 in Fire Dept. Used Fake Degrees, Sewell Chan, The New York Times, February 1, 2007.
    Fourteen employees of the Fire Department of New York bought phony diplomas over the Internet and submitted them to the city in an attempt to meet educational requirements for being promoted or hired, according to a report released yesterday by the Department of Investigation. Of the 14 employees, 3 were promoted in 2001 and 2002 based on the phony degrees; they did not have the required college credits.
    The other 11 turned in phony diplomas that were subsequently rejected; 10 were promoted or hired anyway because they eventually obtained enough legitimate credits, but one was improperly promoted without proper credits...
    The phony diplomas were purchased from St. Regis University, described by federal prosecutors as a diploma mill that churned out thousands of fake degrees, at hundreds of dollars apiece, from a base near Spokane, Wash., using various Web sites.
    In October 2005, a federal grand jury in Spokane indicted eight people at St. Regis on charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Three have pleaded guilty. The other five cases are pending, including those of Dixie E. Randock and Steven K. Randock Sr., who were described as the main owners of St. Regis and were also charged with money laundering.
    St. Regis had called itself an "online distance learning institution," based in Liberia and accredited by the Education Ministry there.
    "The officers simply paid for a piece of paper," according to the investigative report, which added, "In fact, all of the officers admitted that they did no work beyond writing a short life experience essay.."..
    According to the report, some confusion led officials to accept three phony diplomas. In 2002, Victor Herbert, a supervisor of tenure and promotions, wrote a letter that appeared to validate the St. Regis degrees when, in fact, he mistakenly believed the degrees were from Regis College, a legitimate Catholic liberal arts institution in Weston, Mass.
    The three officers promoted based on their phony diplomas were identified as Deputy Chiefs Paul Ferro and Richard Howe and Battalion Chief Daniel O'Gara.
    Ten others were promoted or hired based on legitimate credentials, after submitting St. Regis degrees that were rejected: Battalion Chiefs Gary Esposito and John Polly; Capts. Donald Brown, Martin Cass, Mark Barra, Thomas Fitzgerald and Lawrence Sloan; Lts. Ralph Talarico and Matthew Zitz; and Firefighter Mark Thalheimer.
    According to the report, Edward O'Donnell was promoted to captain in 2004, even though his St. Regis transcript had been rejected and he did not have enough credits...
    A follow-up story: Fake-College Bravest Fined, David Seifman, New York Post, September 7, 2007.
    Fourteen FDNY members caught submitting bogus college credits bought from an online diploma mill have agreed to pay fines totaling about $136,000, The Post has learned. The individual penalties range from about $4,000 to $25,000. "They agreed to this settlement in lieu of going to [administrative] trial," said a source. The Department of Investigation reported in January that 13 members of the FDNY and one civilian applying to become a firefighter provided fake degrees and course work from "St. Regis University" or its affiliates.
    DOI said the college was a fake that peddled academic credentials to anyone who forked over its fees, typically several hundred dollars.
    In some cases, DOI said the coursework was backdated "so the FDNY members could comply with the necessary educational requirements in order to be hired or promoted."
    Sources said all the personnel involved, including battalion chiefs, have since completed genuine courses to qualify for their jobs.

  • Beware of online diploma mills: State warns many universities don't have accreditation, Bob Lowry, Huntsville, Alabama Huntsville Times, January 25, 2007.
    Many of the hundreds of online colleges and universities that are operating in Alabama are nothing more than cheap diploma mills, state education officials say. Some started out as correspondence schools advertised on the backs of matchbooks.
    Now, the online schools that promise accelerated degrees at cheap prices are advertised frequently in flashy television commercials and constantly pop up on Internet portal sites.
    Gregory Fitch, executive director of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, estimates that more than 300 online institutions are operating in Alabama. Some grant academic degrees, while others award certificates in programs ranging from veterinary assistant to child-care worker to bridal consulting...
    Most states have tightened their regulations over online schools over the past few years, forcing many to move their operations to more hospitable environments in Alabama and Mississippi.
    "It's been quite some time since there has been any initiative in Alabama to govern the private proprietary sector," said Elizabeth French, director of institutional effectiveness and planning at ACHE.
    "There are a number of institutions that are currently attempting to cross the border into Alabama that have been essentially eliminated from other states."
    Of the more than 300 online institutions operating in Alabama, only about 70 have gone through ACHE's full program review, she said.
    The rest are operating with a license from the state Department of Postsecondary Education and/or an incorporation certification from the secretary of state.
    Two-part system
    Alabama is the only state that has a two-part system to license and oversee out-of-state schools. Online colleges that don't want to submit to ACHE's strict review process simply buy a license from the Department of Education and register as an Alabama corporation.
    Their "campus" could be a post office box or a motel room, said Fitch...

  • Attorney General Steve Carter Seeks Sanctions against Seller of Fake University and High School Diplomas, Office of the Indiana Attorney General, January 19, 2007.
    Indiana University joins Carter in expressing concern about sales of fake documents The Indiana Attorney General's Office has filed a lawsuit and obtained a preliminary injunction against an Indianapolis company and its owner for selling fake diplomas online. A Marion Superior Court has signed an order halting Allen Kleiman d/b/a from selling the fake diplomas which were marketed as 'highly passable' and 'realistic'. "The products being sold were not only unauthorized replicas of university and high school trademarks, but they also helped others to commit fraud by using them as authentic documents," Attorney General Steve Carter said. "This perpetuates academic fraud that has consequences for employers and the universities and schools whose reputations are at stake." manufactured and created university diplomas and transcripts designed to give the appearance of being authentic. The company represented that the products had benefits and characteristics that it knew, or should reasonably have known they did not have. The diplomas and transcripts do not indicate they are not authentic and have appearances of being genuine...
    "There is no legitimate use for this sort of document, and we at Indiana University are pleased that the Attorney General has acted decisively to shut this business down," Applegate said. "The potential for abuse here is enormous. People depend on the high quality of legal training that an IU degree represents. We cannot stand back and allow someone to sell fake and fraudulent legal credentials.."..
    "These products have a damaging impact on the reputation of educational institutions and serve to help others commit fraud by potentially representing they have more credentials and qualifications than they have earned," Carter added.

  • Latrobe man's medical school in Caribbean is target of probe, Robin Acton, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Tribune-Review, December 27, 2006.
    FEDERATION of ST. KITTS and NEVIS - Government officials in this tiny Caribbean nation are investigating a medical school started by a Latrobe man who was fired from another school for falsifying his academic credentials. St. Theresa's Medical University opened last year in St. Kitts, where Thomas M. Uhrin holds himself out as a doctor even though he has admitted he did not complete medical training and has never been licensed as a physician.
    Uhrin, 43, of 17 Barbara Road, the chancellor and executive dean, has not responded to repeated requests to discuss the school attended by a dozen students last semester. In the British West Indies, St. Theresa's is more than 2,400 miles away from its headquarters in Latrobe, where Uhrin's employees field phone calls, collect mail from a post office box and handle admissions applications, financial information, advising and faculty hiring, according to its Web site, staff and students...
    Lord help those kids that are there. I don't know what they're getting," said R.J. Simms, of Boca Raton, Fla., vice president of administration and finance at the International University of the Health Sciences in St. Kitts.
    Simms said Uhrin was terminated in September 2004 from the university that provides the bulk of its instruction online after it was revealed he lied about earning a doctoral degree and other matters.
    "You always have a target on your back when you are a Caribbean medical school. We're working to improve things. Tom Uhrin isn't someone we wanted to be in charge of a medical school," Simms said.
    Incomplete training
    Records show Uhrin graduated in 1985 from St. Vincent College near Latrobe with a degree in religious studies and later earned a master's degree in education from Duquesne University. He said he also earned a doctor of medicine degree in February 1999 from Central American Health Sciences University, but that could not be confirmed because registrar Martha Castillo said student information is not public record at the school, which has campuses in Belize and Mexico.
    In a professional portrait in St. Theresa's reception area, Uhrin is wearing a stethoscope and white physician's lab coat embroidered with his name and the designation "M.D."
    Appearances aside, in 1999 he admitted his training is incomplete. He publicly apologized for being misleading and resigned as medical director of a Greensburg clinic after a Tribune-Review investigation revealed he had not completed medical training and was never licensed.
    The newspaper contacted campuses but found no records to support Uhrin's claim that he'd earned a doctoral degree in philosophy from the University of Health Sciences, College of Medicine, United Kingdom, Wales. Uhrin also admitted that his certificate of completion for a post-doctoral fellowship in molecular pharmacology was produced on a friend's computer...

  • Psst. Want a Western University Degree Without Studying? A diploma mill finds a home and an accredited university partner in Cambodia, Erik Wasson and Prak Chan Thul, Asia Sentinel, December 12, 2006.
    The time-honored practice of awarding university degrees for money is alive and well in Cambodia. After being turfed out of Malaysia for being neither Irish nor a university, the Internet-based Irish International University of Europa is showering Cambodian political leaders with degrees and establishing an "Asian campus" in Phnom Penh.
    The advent of the Internet and a growing thirst for university degrees in Asia have coalesced into a potent combination for diploma mills, organizations that award degrees with little or no academic study. Unrecognized by official accrediting bodies, they have nonetheless given the sheepskin to some of Asia's top bureaucrats and politicians, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, and used the publicity surrounding those awards to deluge prospective students.
    The Irish Embassy in Malaysia said in an emailed statement that the Irish government has informed IIU that by using the term university in its business name it is violating Irish law. "Any awards it makes...have no academic standing whatsoever in our country," the statement said. In Cambodia, however, Irish International University has found a relatively prestigious partner. In April 2005, the organization teamed up with Cambodia's largest private higher-education institution, Build Bright University, which is accredited by Cambodia's Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports. That officially made BBU Irish International's "Asian Campus." Its East Africa campus is located in Kenya.
    Next year BBU expects to begin awarding up to 100 Irish International doctorate degrees. Posters of Irish International graduations adorn BBU's main hall and a degree template with the phrase "your name here" sits in its administration office.
    The dean of the faculty of business at BBU, Samrith Chanheng, holds an MBA from Irish International University as well. He said that he obtained the MBA by transferring online credit from the US-based Americus University and paying $500 to Irish International. According to the US state of Maine, Americus University degrees are not accredited in the US.
    In large color advertisements running in November in major Khmer-language newspapers, Cambodian tycoon and Senator Mong Reththy's company announced that its owner had received a PhD in Business Strategy from Irish International University.
    The ads show Mong Reththy, a construction and palm oil magnate, dressed in red academic gown and cap, standing before a stately building in Cambridge, England with his wife at his side. Asked about his new degree, Mong Reththy acknowledged that he had not taken any courses or completed any assignments at Irish International University.
    "They gave it to me through looking at the previous working leadership," he said. "I didn't spend anything, only for a flight on the plane," he said. "I don't know if it is faked...they organized such a big ceremony and is it even faked? I also don't know."
    Mong Reththy is not the first prominent Cambodian to receive an award from Irish International. Hun Sen got his honorary doctorate in April 2004. The Phnom Penh degree ceremony is prominently featured on the university's website.
    After an investigation, it appears BBU students paying $4,500 for an Irish International University PhD may not be getting the academic qualification they or employers are seeking. Irish International's "degrees" are not recognized in Ireland, where it says it is based. Nor are its degrees recognized in the UK, where the group also has offices.
    Last year, the Irish Ambassador to Malaysia asked the Malaysian government to close Irish International University, according to media reports. Emails to the Irish Embassy in Malaysia were returned by Lesley Hoh, who directs the educational consulting agency affiliated with the Embassy. Hoh said she has brought the information that Irish International is operating in Cambodia to the Embassy's attention and that the Embassy "has been concerned for some time about the activities of the so-called Irish International University ("IIU") and other such enterprises."
    "IIU is not recognized as a university in Ireland and its awards have no academic standing there," she wrote. "IIU has a business address only in Ireland."
    No longer in Malaysia, Irish International has told Build Bright that it is accredited to deliver university degrees in the UK. However, upon closer inspection and despite a contorted explanation of how it is permitted to offer UK degrees, it turns out the UK government does not recognize Irish International degrees either.
    The UK Department for Education and Skills officially recognizes institutions that can award degrees. Its Web site maintains two lists, one of recognized degree-awarding bodies and one of other institutions that can offer courses that lead to a degree by one of the degree-awarding bodies. Irish International University is not on either list.
    "Only those organizations on the above lists are permitted to award UK degrees or offer provisions that leads to a UK degree. If an organization is not contained on one of these lists then it is NOT offering a recognized UK degree," the department Web site states. "It is an offence in the UK for any organization to offer a degree qualification which could be taken to be that of a recognized UK institution...Such organizations will be reported to the appropriate Local Trading Standards Department for investigation which could lead to prosecution."
    Irish International claims that its masters and doctorates are approved by something called the Business Management Association, which is also not on the UK government list. While it is not accredited by the official British Accreditation Council, it claims to be accredited by the little-known Christhomas Consortium.
    The Web site for Christhomas no longer functions, but in paid advertisements placed in a book put out by a private publisher entitled "British Qualifications," Christhomas shares the same office address as Irish International University: 5 Westminster Bridge Road, London, raising questions about whether the university and its supposed independent accreditation body are in fact the same group of people.
    BBU Rector In Viracheat on Monday said that BBU believes the claims for accreditation offered by Irish International. But in the face of clear lack of recognition by the British and Irish governments, the accreditation claims, however elaborate, matter little.
    These claims included advertisement in the unofficial "British Qualifications" book and a "Quality Mark" given by a newly formed private company called the Quality Assurance Commission UK. This body, founded in 2004, has so far accredited 18 institutions, none of which are recognized by the UK government.
    "We knew from the beginning that this is distance learning and that is something new, not recognized by most governments," BBU Vice Rector of Academics Dy Davuth said Monday. Producing a stack of actual PhD thesis proposals to be forwarded to Irish International, the BBU official said that local Irish International staff do not actually read the proposals...
    Emailed questions to Irish International Executive President H Sandhu about accusations he is operating a degree mill were returned by an assistant named Olivia, who referred all questions to the university's Web site.
    That Web site claims Irish International can award degrees based on a proposed European Union European Qualifications Framework that has not yet been adopted by the EU. That framework is intended to translate national qualifications from one country to another, not supplant the UK or Irish recognition systems, however.
    Opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said the way Irish International has flourished here is a sign of deep problems in academic accreditation here.
    "Higher Education is a disaster in this country," he said. "The government needs to establish a body to carefully monitor the curriculum and training that these private university. What will happen to Cambodia with all these certificates issued to people with no skills or training? In Cambodia senior officials want to be called Iodom [Excellency] or Okhna [Knight] or General and now they want to add Doctor to the title. It is a disturbing trend."
    In January advertisements announced that Cambodian Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh had received a doctorate from America's Ashwood University, which also not accredited to offer degrees in the US, according to several US state governments.
    Chan Roth, the director of the Education Ministry's Department of Scientific Research in charge of Master and PhD programs said that Dy Davuth had assured him of Irish International University's ability to grant degrees. Nonetheless, he said he would investigate the matter. He said that he had not yet seen the UK or Irish Web site lists that exclude the institution...
    More information:

  • Fire department one of first to pass policy on Web degrees, Shanna McCord, Santa Cruz (California) Sentinel, December 3, 2006.
    A Santa Cruz County fire department was recently caught in one of the fastest-growing scams on the World Wide Web. A degree from an online university — unaccredited, requiring no tests or classroom time, and selling diplomas for as little as $199 — proved enough to grant an employee a $7,000 raise and promote him to assistant fire chief under the Central Fire District's policy of paying more to employees with higher education.
    District leaders, having discovered the loophole in June, revoked the extra pay that came with the degree, and to make sure they weren't caught off guard again, put on the books specific guidelines to steer them through the quagmires of the Internet age.
    "We found a problem and we fixed it," district Fire Chief Bruce Clark said.
    Policies to specifically address online degrees are rare, and Central Fire District is one of few public agencies nationwide to create such rules.
    But experts say that may change.
    "People are just learning to ask, 'Accredited by whom?' " said Judith Watkins of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, a national organization that scrutinizes accrediting organizations for quality.
    "The biggest problem with phony online degrees is that most employers don't have clear policies," she said.
    An investigation by the federal General Accounting Office in 2002 discovered more than 1,200 resumes on a government Web site listed degrees that came from the Internet...
    For many years Central Fire, with 88 employees and a $13.5 million annual budget, has awarded firefighters with promotions and higher pay based on education.
    A firefighter with a master's degree makes an additional $240 a month while a bachelor's degree earns $180 more a month and an associate's degree $120.
    Roughly 26 of the department's firefighters have a college degree. Problems arose when the department conducted an audit this summer.
    Assistant Fire Chief Steve Van Den Heuvel, a 32-year veteran of the department, was found to have obtained an associate's degree in fire science in 2005 from Rochville University...
    Rochville claims to be an online university, internationally recognized with accreditations from Board of Online Universities Accreditation and Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation. Its Web site boasts "study while working" and alleges to have served more than 38,000 students.
    A message from Rochville's president is signed on the site with an illegible name, and there is no phone number or address for the university's administration.
    With the degree, Van Den Heuvel was making about $135,000 a year. His pay has been reduced to $128,000, and he has retained the assistant chief position...
    The fire department's education standards now state only degrees recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation are accepted. Course study and degree programs must be preapproved from the department's training chief as part of the new rule.
    Clark said the diploma-mill problem took the department by surprise, and when writing the new policy, they called around to other fire departments and found none had a similar protocol.

  • Other political officials' educational credentials have raised questions , Megan Poinski, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, Daily News, October 30, 2006.
    Sen. Adlah Donastorg Jr. is not the first gubernatorial candidate to put a questionable degree on his resume. Former V.I. senator Alicia Hansen, who ran for the territory's highest office in 2002, claimed to have received a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's degree in public administration from St. Regis University in June 2001.
    St. Regis University, a Dominica-based operation that claimed to be accredited by the Education Ministry of the Republic of Liberia, sold degrees over the internet largely based on applicants' personal experiences...
    V.I. Police Commissioner Elton Lewis also listed a questionable degree on his resume when he was appointed to the territory's top law enforcement post in 2003. Lewis claimed to have earned a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from Columbia Pacific University in 1984.
    In 1999, a California Superior Court judge ordered Columbia Pacific University to cease all operations in the state. Columbia Pacific appealed but lost. In 2001, the court ordered it to shut down, pay thousands of dollars in fines, and refund student fees...

  • Fraud conspiracy admitted: Diploma mill Web site designer enters plea, Bill Morlin, Spokane, Washington Spokesman-Review, October 11, 2006. (The Spokesman-Review has given permission for a copy of the article to be posted here.)
    The man who designed and maintained 125 phony online university and high school Web sites for a Spokane-based diploma mill pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal conspiracy and child pornography charges. Kenneth Wade Pearson's plea in U.S. District Court was part of a deal that should guarantee him less prison time in exchange for his "substantial assistance" in helping federal prosecutors convict the alleged ringleaders, Dixie and Stephen Randock, of Colbert.
    The case involved the paying of substantial cash bribes to Liberian diplomats, including one hand-off that was caught on video in a Washington, D.C., hotel room by U.S. Secret Service agents.
    The Liberian "Board of Education" was offering accreditation for the online diploma mills in exchange for the bribes, federal court documents say.
    Pearson, the 31-year-old webmaster for the scheme, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and receipt of child pornography. He became the third of eight defendants who have struck deals to testify against their former associates...
    Pearson admitted that between September 2002 and August 2005, he "joined a conspiracy" with the Randocks, Heidi Kae Lorhan, Amy Leann Hensley, Roberta Lynn Markishtum, Richard John Novak and Blake Alan Carlson "to operate so-called 'diploma mill' universities that were falsely accredited and sold fraudulent degrees." Novak and Carlson previously pleaded guilty and will be prosecution witnesses.
    "During this period, the diploma mill universities run by the Randocks sold approximately $1.9 million in fraudulent academic products to thousands of persons located in the United States and other locations," Pearson's plea agreement says...
    Federal prosecutors handling the case, Assistant U.S. Attorneys George Jacobs and Joseph Harrington, have not revealed the list of approximately 6,000 purchasers.
    But Pearson's plea agreement says those who bought the bogus degrees include firefighters and military personnel, among others, who used their enhanced educational portfolios to win job promotions and pay increases.
    Morlin obtained a copy of the (publicly available) plea agreement for case CR-05-180-8-LRS and CR-06-010-LRS filed October 10, 2006 in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Washington. The case is United States of America, plaintiff vs. Kenneth Wade Pearson, Defendant. A scaned version of the document Morlin obtained is posted here:
    A related story:
    Federal employees bought degrees, Bill Morlin, Spokane, Washington Spokesman-Review, October 12, 2006. (The Spokesman-Review has given permission for a copy of the article to be posted here.)

    An unidentified member of the White House staff and employees of the National Security Agency are among 6,000 people who bought online college degrees from a Spokane-based "diploma mill" now at the center of a criminal case, a federal judge was told Wednesday. Others who paid thousands of dollars for the bogus diplomas include a senior U.S. State Department employee stationed in Kuwait and a U.S. Department of Justice employee who works in Spokane, defense attorney Peter Schweda told U.S. District Court Judge Lonnie Suko...
    The primary operators of the diploma mill, Dixie and Stephen Randock, of Colbert, are named in a federal indictment accusing them and a half dozen other defendants of conspiring to commit wire and mail fraud and laundering almost $2 million that the scheme brought in between 2002 and 2005.
    Their trial is now scheduled to begin Oct. 1. Three defendants have pleaded guilty and agreed to be prosecution witnesses in exchange for lighter prison sentences.
    At the status conference, the defense attorneys for five remaining defendants asked the judge in a separate closed-court proceeding for funds to send defense investigators to Liberia and build a computer network to analyze a mountain of digital evidence associated with 125 Web sites that sold degrees.
    Defense investigators want to travel to Liberia because officials of that strife-torn nation are accused of accepting cash bribes in exchange for the Liberian "Board of Education" offering accreditation for the online colleges and universities set up by the Randocks.
    The defense wants to investigate reports that the U.S. Department of Education threatened to withhold U.S. aid funds for Liberia unless its government officials cooperated with the diploma mill investigation, Schweda told the court...


  • With medical credentials, it's patient beware: In Kentucky, No Agency Oversees Online Schools' Authenticity and Graduates, Valarie Honeycutt Spears, Lexington, KY Herald-Leader, October 1, 2006. (This is one article in the series Degrees of Harm.)
    No one knows how many "doctors" are practicing with a degree from one of the online medical schools that Stephen J. Arnett of Falcon, Ky., has operated or promoted over the years. Even if someone did know, there's no agency in Kentucky that oversees the authenticity of online degrees.
    But three men who did seek medical diplomas online -- John Curran, Andrew Michael and Larry Lammers -- have been convicted of charges associated with practicing medicine without a license. Michael and Lammers, who both turned up in Lexington hospitals and clinics, served jail time. Curran was sentenced in August to 12 1/2 years in federal prison.
    Over the last decade, local, state, and federal officials have all been aware of Arnett's medical activities, records show.
    But no action was ever taken against him. Arnett has never been charged in connection with the schools.
    Todd Leatherman, the executive director of consumer protection for the state Attorney General's office, said he was not aware of the Kentucky connection to the three convicted men until he was contacted by the Herald-Leader.
    He acknowledged, however, that he was familiar with Arnett. Both men served on a legislative commission to craft new alternative medicine laws for Kentucky in 1999. That task force met 13 times...
    Both Lammers and Michael were students at St. Luke School of Medicine, an online school whose legitimacy has been questioned in the United States and abroad. Because they said they were medical students, they were able to observe medical procedures or work with patients in Kentucky.
    Officials at Kentucky's Board of Medical Licensure say its primary focus is on physicians who are already licensed by the state...
    For the last three years, State Rep. Susan Westrom, (D-Lexington), has unsuccessfully introduced a bill that would make the use of bogus credentials a Class D felony, punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years.
    "It's a no-brainer piece of legislation," Westrom said. "When you have people who have lives in their hands and they have a diploma on the wall, you want to be careful that they are legitimate. But people in the general population have no idea how to go about checking credentials."
    The bill has always passed the House, Westrom said, but has never been heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee...
    Related information: Doctored Diplomas: For Some Medical Degrees, It's Log On, Pay Up--A trail of bogus claims and life-threatening consequences, Valarie Honeycutt Spears, Lexington, KY Herald-Leader, October 1, 2006.

    When prosecutors here talked about the cruelty of John E. Curran, it was the face of Taylor Alves they saw. The young woman, who, at 18, was a filmmaker, photographer and model, was described by her mother as "born with wings." She was also dying of ovarian cancer.
    Curran, who billed himself as a natural healer and physician, told her he could make her healthy with a green drink, a concoction of powdered vegetables in water. The promise of recovery led her to spend her final weeks refusing other food.
    "He did so much harm on so many levels," Rhonda Alves, Taylor's mother, said recently. "I don't blame John Curran for Taylor dying. What I blame John Curran for is the anguish he brought to her life."
    In August, Curran, who charged most patients a standard fee of $10,000 for his treatments, was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison on charges of wire fraud and money laundering.
    Curran, 41, followed the same course of study as two men who appeared on the Kentucky medical scene: Andrew E. Michael and Larry Lammers.
    Michael was welcomed to Lexington's Central Baptist Hospital in 2003 and briefly observed heart specialists there treating patients.
    In 2004, Lammers cared for patients at several accident injury clinics in the state. Lammers and Michael have also been convicted of practicing medicine without a license and have received jail sentences.
    Curran, Michael and Lammers all worked toward medical degrees from online schools that were promoted from the remote mountain community of Falcon, Ky. There, sitting at a computer, was the man behind the schools -- Stephen J. Arnett, 47, who had been a Free Will Baptist minister before becoming involved in the medical field, court records say.
    Arnett first opened several medical clinics in Eastern Kentucky, where he worked without a license as an assistant to the very doctors he hired. When the clinics closed, he moved on to promoting various online schools that offered degrees in medicine and naturopathy -- a system of healing with natural substances. The schools were neither accredited nor licensed.
    Yet the people who received degrees from the schools that Arnett promoted opened real clinics, practiced in real offices and treated real patients...
    Arnett has been investigated by state officials for more than a decade but never prosecuted. He has been free to open clinics, assist physicians and place would-be doctors in hospitals and clinics...
    The most prominent of the schools Arnett has been associated with is St. Luke School of Medicine, which has had a number of incarnations. St. Luke and its Southern Graduate Institute -- a division that focused on naturopathy -- are central to the criminal cases against Curran, Michael and Lammers.
    Arnett was also tied to Lady Malina Memorial Medical College; the University of Sciences, Arts and Technology, with an address on the volcanic island of Montserrat in the Caribbean; and the Asian-American University.
    Prosecutors say that the degrees that Lammers, Curran and Michael received while Arnett was involved with St. Luke were bogus.
    St. Luke President Jerroll Dolphin, contacted in Liberia, West Africa, said Arnett had been affiliated with the school and that, at one point, the two planned to establish a school in Kentucky. However, when Dolphin received calls from people he didn't know were students, he suspected that Arnett was granting St. Luke diplomas without the appropriate course work.
    In 2003, the two men severed their relationship and Dolphin said he revoked Arnett's honorary medical degree...
    By 2002, Arnett was forming new Internet medical schools, according to state records.
    He incorporated a company called Foreign Alternative Medical Education, as well as St. Luke School of Medicine. Both had a Falcon, Ky., address that Arnett used.
    Not long afterward, Robert Irving, a student from one of Arnett's online schools, was warned by the state medical licensing board to close a medical practice he had begun in Elizabethtown, according to board documents.
    Irving said he received a doctor of naturopathy degree from Southern Graduate Institute, a division of St. Luke, in 2001. His contact was Arnett. Irving did six-week rotations for orthopedics, physical rehabilitation and anesthesiology at an Accident Injury Center in Lexington where Larry Lammers worked.
    In 2005, Irving said he was still studying at St. Luke and was pleased with the education he received.
    Irving, Curran, Lammers and Michael have all said they thought they were receiving a legitimate medical education from schools Arnett was promoting.
    Michael's use of his so-called education was particularly egregious. He practiced medicine without a license for two years in Las Vegas before he came to Kentucky. He supervised potentially dangerous injections for MRI patients and told patients he had trained at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
    Last year, when Las Vegas District Judge Valorie Vega sentenced Michael to six months in jail, she had another way of describing the way he had used that education:
    "This was a time bomb ticking," she said.
    Credentials Arnett has claimed, Valarie Honeycutt Spears, Lexington, KY Herald-Leader, October 1, 2006.

    Stephen J. Arnett of Magoffin County has presented himself as a man of many degrees and titles. This is a description posted on the St. Luke School of Medicine Web site around 2002-2003:
    • M.D., N.M.D. (Medical Doctor, Naturopathy Medical Doctor)
    • Vice president, St. Luke School of Medicine
    • Director, public relations, student loan programs at St. Luke
    • Director of alternative education and research at St. Luke
    • President, Southern Graduate Institute of Naturopathic Medicine, Kentucky
    • Doctor of Medicine, Far Eastern University, Manila, Philippines
    • M.D. (M.A.), Open International University for Complementary Medicine, Sri Lanka
    • Diplomate, National Board of Naturopathic Examiners
    • Senior Professor of Naturopathic Medicine: Alternative Medicines Research Institute, Vancouver, B.C., Canada; Clayton College of Natural Health, Birmingham, Alabama
    • Indian Board of Alternative Medicine, Calcutta, India MD (AM)
    The St. Luke School of Medicine was declared to be an illegal entity by the Liberian National Commission of Higher Education in 2004. This announcement, posted to the Embassy of Liberia's web site, also named St. Regis "University." See other material in this page concerning St. Luke and St. Regis. Med schools scrutinized: State Board Opens Investigation, Valarie Honeycutt Spears, Lexington, KY Herald-Leader, October 5, 2006.

    The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure has opened an investigation into whether a Magoffin County man who promoted online and foreign medical schools has broken any state laws, C. Lloyd Vest, an attorney for the board, said yesterday. Stephen J. Arnett, a former tombstone salesman and Free Will Baptist minister, promoted the St. Luke School of Medicine, an online school based in Liberia, from an address in Falcon, a small Magoffin County community, until 2003.
    He held key titles at the school, including vice president, and helped recruit students and place them in Kentucky hospitals and clinics...
    St. Luke President Jerroll Dolphin said in a recent interview that he stopped working with Arnett in 2003 and took away an honorary medical degree the school had given him because he thought Arnett was giving degrees without requiring proper course work.
    Though some states have questioned the school's legitimacy, Dolphin said St. Luke offered an intensive curriculum and was not a diploma mill -- a school without accreditation that awards degrees for money and little work.
    Note this June 4, 2002 internet archive of the SLSOM list of graduates:
    Peter Michael Kolosky, M.D.: August 10, 2001
    Laurie Ann Luisi Kolosky, M.D.: August 10, 2001
    Michael Hejazi, M.D.: August 24, 2001
    Mary Anthony Julve, M.D.: August 24, 2001
    Astara Sunrise Burlingame, M.D.: August 24, 2001
    Ilene Susan Young, M.D.: December 14, 2001
    Munawar Hussain Shah, M.D.: January 4, 2002
    Rita Patangia, M.D.: January 18, 2002

    Recent Graduates
    Stephen J. Arnett, M.D.: March 22, 2002
    Brenda C. Arnett, M.D.: March 22, 2002
    Herbert W. Winstead, M.D.: March 22, 2002
    Edwin Muniz, M.D.: March 22, 2002
    Thomas J. Mulvi, M.D.: March 22, 2002
    Egbert G. Phipps, M.D.: March 22, 2002
    John E. Curran, M.D.: March 22, 2002

    Doctoral Candidates
    David A. Belshaw: June 2002
    David Karam Wade: June 2002
    Antwi Boakye: July 2002
    Masilamony Pauliah: July 2002
    Alfred Egedovo: August 2002

    A May 29, 2004 internet archive of the St. Luke School of Medicine faculty roster includes these entries, among others:
    Stephen J. Arnett, M.D., N.M.D.
    Vice President, St. Luke School of Medicine; Dean, Department of Natural Medicine; Director, Public Relations, Student Loan Programs, and Director of Alternative Education and Research
    President, Southern Graduate Institute of Naturopathic Medicine, Kentucky
    Doctor of Medicine, St. Luke School of Medicine
    M.D. (M.A.), Open International University for Complementary Medicine, Sri Lanka
    Doctor of Naturopathy (N.D.), Clayton College of Natural Health, Birmingham, Alabama
    Diplomate, National Board of Naturopathic Examiners
    Professor of Naturopathic Medicine: Alternative Medicines Research Institute, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
    Indian Board of Alternative Medicine, Calcutta, India MD (AM)

    Jerroll B. R. Dolphin, M.D., President of Medical School & Board Member
    Doctor of Medicine, Spartan Health Sciences University, St. Lucia
    Doctor of Naturopathy, Southern Graduate Institute
    BS Physics and Mathematics, San Jose State University
    ECFMG Certified, Chief Advisory Physician, African Development Foundation
    Responsible for school administration and program development and coordination. Primary curriculum developer for USMLE Part 1, Part 2, and CSA examination contents.

  • Md. Officials Seek Crackdown on 'Diploma Mills', L. Reed Walton (Capital News Service), Washington, D.C WTOP-FM, September 18, 2006.
    ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Maryland higher education officials are proposing to toughen accreditation standards in order to protect Maryland students against phony degree-granting institutions known as "diploma mills." The Education Policy Committee of the Maryland Higher Education Commission, which is writing the proposal, wants to require all for-profit schools to be accredited by an agency approved by the U.S. Department of Education.
    "It's about not wanting our students to invest a lot of money in an institution only to find out that it's a diploma mill," said Dr. Regina Lightfoot, the commission's director of planning and academic affairs.
    The policy committee's proposal is still several steps from taking effect.
    First, the Education Policy Committee must present the proposal to the full commission. Then it must be subject to public comment for 30 days. Then it will return to the Education Policy Committee and once again to the full commission before it can become part of the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR).
    If approved, the regulation probably won't affect the state's existing four-year or community colleges, most of which are already accredited.
    But the specialized trade schools like beauty academies and technical schools which are not accredited or are members of a specialized agency not sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Education may need to apply for accreditation. At the end of fiscal year 2005, there were about 60 non-accredited career training schools with over 5,000 students enrolled across the state...
    To prevent questionable programs from gaining a foothold in the state, the commission's proposal also would require an independent audit from a certified public accountant and includes an ethics clause that lets the commission stop any institution whose governing board members "have a history of fraudulent educational practices" from operating in Maryland.

  • Job offer pulled after degree revelation: Newly named chief didn't provide master's work, Richard D. Walton, The Indianapolis Star, September 9, 2006.
    The man named to run the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center lost the chance after he failed to offer tests or other papers to verify that he completed course work for a master's degree. County court officials withdrew their job offer Friday, a week after Troy Hoppes was named superintendent and the same day The Indianapolis Star reported that the master's degree he claimed to have came from a "diploma mill" shut down by the Federal Trade Commission in 2003.
    While stopping short of saying Hoppes deliberately misled them about the University of Ravenhurst diploma listed on his resume, officials suggested that possibility.
    Robert Bingham, Marion County chief probation officer and the man in charge of reforming the troubled juvenile center, took responsibility for the failure to adequately check Hoppes' educational credentials. One reason, he said, was his unfamiliarity with online universities. "This was new to us," he said.
    Checking backgrounds has been a problem at the center. In June, it was revealed that more than one-fourth of staff members who supervised youths had criminal records. Officials criticized what they called inadequate vetting of employees' backgrounds.
    In the latest case, Bingham said the issue was a matter of Hoppes' "presentation" of his credentials. Ron Miller, Marion County court administrator, called it "a question of ethics..."
    Related stories:

  • American University of Hawaii: Trial of the state's claims against Hassan Safavi personally and the state's motion to have him held in contempt have been completed and a decision has been entered in favor of the state on both., Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (Honolulu, Hawaii), June 13, 2006. From Permanent Injunction and Final Judgment Against Defendant Hassan H. Safavi:

    IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that:1. Defendant Hassan H. Safavi and his agents, servants, employees, attorneys and those persons in active concert or participation with him, directly or indirectly, individually or in concert with others, or through any corporate or other device who receive actual notice of this order be and hereby are permanently enjoined from any of the following:

    a. Providing any post-secondary instructional programs or courses leading to a degree; b. Acting as or holding himself out as a "college, academy, institute, institution, university" or anything similar thereto;
    c. Failing to comply with Hawaii Rev. Stat. Chap. 446E (2005) or § 480-2(a) (2005)in any particulars; and
    d. Owning or operating any business in the State of Hawaii, claiming to operate under the laws of the State of Hawaii, having a presence in Hawaii or maintaining a website using the name American University of Hawaii until all restitution and civil penalties entered herein are fully satisfied.
    2. Defendant Hassan H. Safavi be and is hereby liable, jointly and severally with Defendant American University Hawaii, Inc., for restitution to consumers as set forth herein. To the extent not already done, upon entry of this judgment, Defendant Hassan H. Safavi be and hereby is ordered to notify all American University of Hawaii degree holders and degree applicants who enrolled or received their degrees subsequent to July 1, 1999 in writing that they are entitled to full restitution (conditioned only on the return of any diploma awarded). Said notice shall be in a form agreeable by Plaintiff and shall also notify the recipients of their rights under Hawaii Rev. Stat. §480-13. Defendant Hassan H. Safavi or Defendant American University Hawaii, Inc. shall provide a full refund to any recipient requesting one by certified check within fourteen days of receipt of the request for such and the return of the diploma, if applicable. 3. Defendant Hassan H. Safavi be and is hereby liable to Plaintiff for civil penalties pursuant to Hawaii Rev. Stat. § 480-3.1 in the amount of Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($500,000.00).
    4. Defendant Hassan H. Safavi be incarcerated until such time as he terminates the website using the name American University of Hawaii, agrees to and notifies each student as required by this Court's prior orders, in a form agreed to by the State of Hawaii, of his or her right to restitution, provides the State of Hawaii with a list of the names and addresses of all of its students who enrolled since Hawaii Rev. Stat. Chapter 446E (2005) became law, and changes the name of the Mississippi Corporation to something other than the American University of Hawaii.
    From 01-13-2006: American University of Hawaii, Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (Honolulu, Hawaii), January 13, 2006:
    On January 31, 2005, the Second Circuit Court of the State of Hawaii entered a Permanent Injunction and Final Judgment Against Defendant American University Hawaii, Inc. PDF Icon The judgment has not been appealed and is in full force and effect. Under the terms of the judgment AUH was required to offer and pay full restitution to its graduates and students. Although AUH claims to have written its students and graduates offering them restitution, to our knowledge it has not actually paid any restitution. In addition the judgment imposed a fine of $500,000. AUH has not paid one dime towards the fine. Hassan H. Safavi, the proprietor of AUH, has sworn that AUH has no assets or income to satisfiy the judgment and our office deems the judgment uncollectible.
    As a result, AUH is prohibited from offering courses leading to degrees, holding itself out as a university, receiving tuition payments, enrolling students or offering degrees.
    Rather than shut down as ordered, Safavi, continued operations by creating a new corporation of the same name in the State of Mississippi and continuing to run AUH overseas.
    A motion to have Safavi held in contempt for evading the judgment was heard by the court on January 4, 2006. The trial to decide whether Safavi will be held personally liable and the amounts therefore also concluded on January 4, 2006.
    On May 17, 2006 the court entered its decision in the form of Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. That document can be found online at The court has ordered Safavi liable, with the corporation, for restitution and imposed a $500,000 penalty against him individually. Moreover, the court found him in contempt and ordered him incarcerated until such time as he terminates the website using the name AUH, provides the restitution notice to students, and changes the name of the corporation. Final judgments incorporating the decision have been entered. The judgments against AUH and Safavi have been deemed uncollectible in the State of Hawaii.
    Prospective students are warned that AUH has no affiliation or connection to the legitimate, accredited University of Hawaii or American University.
    You should address future complaints about AUH to the appropriate authorities in either the country in which you enrolled or to the state of Mississippi:

    Ms. Menia Dykes
    Executive Secretary
    Mississippi Commission on College Accreditation
    3825 Ridgewood Road
    Jackson, MS 39211
    Mr. Grant Hedgepeth
    Assistant Attorney General
    Office of the Attorney General
    State of Mississippi
    P.O. Box 22947
    Jackson, MS 39225-2947
    The proprietor Hassan H. Safavi is believed to reside in the State of California. The government agency in California dealing with education issues is the

    Bureau For Private Postsecondary & Vocational Education
    Department Of Consumer Affairs
    400 R Street Suite 5000
    Sacramento Ca 95814
    Related information: Iran: Wrangle Continues Over Diploma Mill, Bill Samii, Radio Free Europe, September 20, 2005.

    In his 16 September Friday Prayer sermon in Tehran, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati demanded to know why nothing has been done about the case of the American University in Hawaii. Approximately one year ago, Iranian legal officials reported that the American University of Hawaii, a diploma mill with headquarters in the United States, was issuing degrees that the government did not recognize. This institution granted degrees in exchange for the payment of fees, and it did not require class attendance. On 15 September, "Iran" newspaper criticized the judiciary for its failure to take action.
    In August, the university case was referred to the judiciary for action. But since then, according to a 7 September "Jomhuri-yi Islami" report, there has been a bureaucratic tie-up. When the case first came to light, Iranian newspapers noted that a number of government and judiciary officials had gotten their credentials from the American University of Hawaii.
    Justice Minister and Judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimirad tried to allay in early September any concerns about the possibility of a conflict of interest. According to the "Jomhuri-yi Islami" report, he said, "Some media organs have suggested that since a number of individuals who are currently working in different parts of the judiciary are graduates of that university, the judiciary as a whole does not intend to investigate and process this legal dossier seriously." He continued, "Full investigative and judicial work on this dossier will commence during the coming month."
    According to its website, the American University of Hawaii has campuses in 19 countries, and Iran is not the only place where it is having problems. The U.S. state of Hawaii's Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs has filed several injunctions against the institution. The founder of the institution, Hassan Safavi, will go on trial in the state on 7 November 2005. The complaint against the institution notes that it is not accredited by any recognized agency or association, is "engaged in the operation of the unaccredited degree granting institution," and "offered to sell and sold post-secondary degrees..."
    Related information:
    Domain registration information for "American University of Hawaii's" internet domain
    Domain Name: AUH.EDU
       American University of Hawaii
       981 Highway 80 East
       Clinton, MS 39056
    Administrative Contact:
       Hassan Safavi AUH
       981 Highway 80 East
       Clinton, MS 39056
       (310) 234-9211
    Domain registration information for "American University for Humanities Tbilisi College Campus" internet domain
    Domain Name: AUHTC.NET
    Registrant Contact:
       American University of Hawaii
       Henry Safavi
       (310) 234-9211
       1722 Westwood Blvd., #201
       Los Angeles, CA 90024-5610
    Administrative Contact:
       American University of Hawaii
       Henry Safavi
       (310) 234-9211
       1722 Westwood Blvd., #201
       Los Angeles, CA 90024-5610
    Technical Contact:
       American University of Hawaii
       Henry Safavi
       (310) 234-9211
       1722 Westwood Blvd., #201
       Los Angeles, CA 90024-5610
    Name Servers:
    Creation date: 04 Jan 2005 21:14:47
    Expiration date: 04 Jan 2011 21:14:47

  • Three On Your Side Investigates: Mississippi Diploma Mills, Marsha Thompson, Jackson, MS, WLBT-3, August 10, 2006.
    College students will soon be hitting the books. The goal, diplomas and good jobs. But others may cheat. Some opt out for the "easy degree" churned out by illegal diploma mills. Officials with the Institution of Higher Learning say Mississippi is a mecca for these "degrees of suspicion..." One higher education official told WLBT they don't have a grasp of just how big this multi-million dollar world of diploma mills is in Mississippi. Non-approved entities operating in Mississippi according to the Mississippi Commission on College Accreditation include the following.

    American University of Hawaii in Clinton, Gulfport; American World University of MS, Inc. in Pascagoula; Bienville University of Mississippi in Woodville; Cambridge State University, Inc. in Jackson; Columbus University in Picayune; Lacrosse University, Inc. in Bay St. Louis; Madison University in Gulfport; Novus University International, Inc. in Diamondhead, Slidell, LA and University of Central Europe (Global Headquarters-Mississippi) in Pascagoula.
    We tracked down Cambridge State University, Incorporated. It operates out of Jackson. There's a phone number but you won't find an address...
    College professors, even employees working in upper echelon corporations have bought and used these phony credentials on resumes. WLBT contacted the Institutions of Higher Learning for comment. The IHL tells us a tougher law went into effect July 1st making it easier to go after non-approved degree businesses cropping up in the state. It reads in part, "all colleges and universities not already authorized to grant degrees to students graduating from their courses must be approved by the commission in order to grant diplomas of graduation or degrees. The provisions of this section shall not apply to private commercial schools and colleges."

  • Diploma Mill Legislation Introduced in House of Representatives, Barmak Nassirian, Washington D.C. AACRAO Transcript, August 2, 2006.
    On Friday, July 28, representatives Betty McCollum (D-MN), Tim Bishop (D-NY), and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) introduced a bill, H.R. 6008, to address the growing number of diploma mills and the corresponding increase in credentials fraud. The legislation represents the first comprehensive attempt on the part of Congress to deal with the problems of fake academic degrees issued by phony schools. H.R. 6008—the "Diploma Integrity Protection Act of 2006"—defines academic credentials used for purposes of federal employment as those issued by institutions of higher education that are accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The bill also similarly restricts postsecondary eligibility to enroll international students to those institutions that are accredited by agencies recognized by the Department...
    The text of the bill can be found on this Library of Congress site.

  • Diploma Mill Calling: Continuing Ed Without the Ed, Christine Lagorio, The New York Times, July 30, 2006.
    YOU'VE probably gotten the spam: "Online Diploma for Working Professionals in Less Than 2 Weeks" — "Prestigious Nonaccredited Universities" — "Call Now." We called. Our message was forwarded to representatives for "Felton University" and "Glenndale University." A Felton diploma would cost $2,000, minus a $500 scholarship; we could graduate for $500 from Glenndale (not to be confused with the Glendale colleges in Arizona and California). The competing reps gave the same spiel: no classes, no accreditation but a diploma to convince any employer.
    Diploma mills have become savvy enough not to deceive customers; such deceit would be a violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act, says J. Reilly Dolan, a staff lawyer for the commission. But they do provide "the instrument for others to become involved in deceptive practices." The Office of Degree Authorization in Oregon lists known diploma mills ( though these institutions often change names.
    A snippet of the conversation with Glenndale's representative shows how it's done...

  • State targets 'diploma mill', Curtis Lum, Honolulu, Hawaii The Honolulu Advertiser, July 19, 2006.
    The state Office of Consumer Protection filed a lawsuit yesterday to stop an unaccredited university from operating in Hawai'i. The complaint, against San Francisco International University Inc., is the latest in a series of lawsuits filed against Mainland and local institutions that offer college degrees for a fee. In most cases, no classes are taken and students receive degrees for performing little or no work.
    The state has taken legal action against nearly 60 of the so-called "diploma mills" and received court judgments against many of the schools, said Stephen Levins, executive director of the Office of Consumer Protection...

  • FEMA official picked as disaster director, Jeff Switzer, Everett, Washington, The Herald, July 1, 2006.
    Regional FEMA director John Pennington has been hired to work as Snohomish County's emergency management director, County Executive Aaron Reardon said Wednesday. Pennington, who will earn $119,000, will start July 13 as acting director until the County Council approves the appointment, officials said.
    Once confirmed, he will oversee an $8.7 million county department that receives federal Department of Homeland Security funds to prepare and respond to disasters in the county.
    Pennington was a four-term Republican member of the state House and a close colleague of Reardon when the two were in the Legislature.
    He was appointed director of FEMA Region 10 in 2001, overseeing disaster readiness and response in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Alaska.
    Pennington received his bachelor's degree from California Coast University in Santa Anna, Calif., which was later described as a diploma mill by federal authorities.
    County officials were aware of the diploma Pennington had received from California Coast, Reardon's spokeswoman Donna Ambrose said.
    Based on strong references, not the diploma, she said Pennington rose to the top of the list of 25 to 30 job candidates in a national search conducted by Washington State Executive Search Services...
    Note: California Coast University obtained accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council in 2005, four years after Pennington acquired his CCU degree. More information:

    Local FEMA chief had little disaster experience, Mike Carter and Susan Kelleher, Seattle, Washington, Seattle Times, September 10, 2005. John Pennington, the official in charge of federal disaster response in the Northwest, was a four-term Republican state representative who ran a mom-and-pop coffee company in Cowlitz County when then-Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn helped him get his federal post.
    Before he was appointed regional director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Pennington got a degree from a correspondence school that government investigators later described as a "diploma mill."
    Pennington, 38, says he worked for his degree and he is qualified for the FEMA job...
    GAO special agent Paul DeSaulniers told The Seattle Times this week that his investigation showed that California Coast University sold degrees for a flat fee...

  • Online school departs, Joan Barron, Wyoming Star-Tribune, June 16, 2006.
    CHEYENNE -- Rutherford University, an online school with an office in Evanston, quit doing business in Wyoming as of Thursday, the state Department of Education announced. Whether other online schools follow suit remains to be seen, but the state's top education official credited a new state law with helping bring about Rutherford's departure.
    The Canada-based degree-granting school was licensed in Wyoming but not accredited.
    The new law adopted by the Legislature last winter requires all private, post-secondary institutions doing business in Wyoming to be accredited or in the process of accreditation by July 1. Supporters said the new law will erase the state's reputation as a haven for diploma mills.
    "The new law has already begun to make a difference," Superintendent of Public Instruction Jim McBride said in a news release.
    He praised the Legislature for passing the law and said the Department of Education will continue to monitor each school's progress toward full accreditation.
    The department and the state Board of Education had been working on the Rutherford situation for some time before the new law passed.
    The board lodged a complaint against Rutherford based on department inspections in May 2004 and June 2005. The inspectors found that Rutherford was not in compliance with state regulations because the school conducted no substantive academic or student service activities at the Evanston location. The school also was faulted for failing to keep complete records of faculty members, their qualifications and the classes they teach, according to earlier published reports...

  • Unwanted Export?, Rob Capriccioso, Inside Higher Ed, May 24, 2006.
    A new online university is set to open its virtual doors on June 1, promising to provide free tuition to 150 students from developing nations. A number of circumstances surrounding the program — including an empty headquarters in Washington, accreditation from a self-proclaimed autonomous government operating in Italy, and a Web site based in the French Antarctic — have several real-life diploma mill experts raising caution flags... The institution, which founders deny is a diploma mill, is called DiUlus Institute and University. It is the brainchild of Fred DiUlus, a former associate professor of business at the College of the Southwest, a private, Christian institution in New Mexico. According to Terri Blandin, a spokeswoman for the college, most current administrators do not know DiUlus, and she couldn't specify why he resigned in 2002. "There has been a large amount of turnover since then," she says. DiUlus says he resigned to pursue new projects in higher education...
    "DiUlus University came about as a result of us starting Global Academy Online back in 2002," says DiUlus. He calls the organization "the premier provider of online curriculum and instruction to colleges, universities and distance learning institutions worldwide." The academy, he says, was created to provide expert advice involving online education issues, accreditation standards, implementation of competent and inexpensive delivery systems and state of the art course management. DiUlus has also written a guide, called "The Best Worst in Online Degree Programs," which is available through the academy's Web site. To date, the academy has not offered any online courses...
    While DiUlus spends much of his time operating Global Academy Online from his home base in New Mexico, its official address is in the heart of downtown Washington.
    When one visits the office, however, there is no official Global Academy or DiUlus University presence, although the Washington address is featured on the university's contact Web page. A secretary who works at the suite, which is also home to lawyers, accountants and several nonprofit groups, said recently that people from DiUlus come to the suite only if they schedule an appointment there, which she said happens rarely.
    "The D.C. address is the headquarters for the academy," says DiUlus. He adds that the degrees from the online university will not be granted from Washington or from New Mexico. Rather, they will be granted from Seborga, a small self-proclaimed principality in Italy, from which the university received accreditation on March 17. "There's no ands, ifs or buts about that," he says. "There will be no degree-granting for schooling from the United States. Not until the state licensing and applications are moving through the mill." He doesn't anticipate getting licensure or accreditation in the U.S. for another two to three years.
    The Seborgan accreditation grants the DiUlus Institute and University the ability to offer doctoral, masters, bachelor's, high school and other degrees for five years, before the license must be renewed. According to an unsigned e-mail received from the Seborga "General Office" on Tuesday, "the Sovereign Order of the Antico Principato di Seborga's Association Castrum Sepulcri for Distance Education, Culture and Faith and its Board of Accreditation was created to improve the development of educational delivery systems and to promote ethical standards in education, culture and faith."
    "The board carries out its mission through standard-setting, assessment, evaluation and consultation processes," according to the e-mail. "Following a long tradition, the board identifies and accept membership for institutions that have attained and continue to maintain standards deemed necessary to operate at an acceptable level of quality."
    Denis Pierre-Francois, a former tourism director with the principality, according to Internet records, has registered several Web sites listing the Seborga accreditation, one of which is called " The Principality of the Flowers," which lists 26 Seborga-accredited institutions. (That Web site also says that accreditation costs $62.20 per month.)
    The question of Seborga's autonomy has long been debated by citizens of the town, but the Italian government does not recognize its independence. Therefore, its ability to grant accreditation as a sovereign nation has been questioned by several American accreditation experts.
    Alan Contreras, an administrator with the Office of Degree Authorization in the Oregon Student Assistance Commission, contends that the Seborga accreditation is worthless. "Any person using a degree earned from this entity, as long as it uses a Seborga accreditation, is earning and using a meaningless degree," he says. The DiUlus Institute and University is on Oregon's list of "degree suppliers ... that are not in the U.S. and do not meet the statutory requirements in ORS 348.609 for foreign degree use in public or licensed employment in Oregon." A number of other institutions on this list claim association with Seborga...

  • Officer has to pay back raise after degree-mill probe, Aisling Swift, Naples, Florida Naples Daily News, May 21, 2006.
    Popka's degree from Almeda University wasn't from an accredited school recognized by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement One of two Naples police officers placed on paid administrative leave this month pending an internal investigation into college degrees was forced to pay back a $620 salary increase after city officials concluded Almeda University was a degree mill.
    According to records in Detective Sgt. Joe Popka's personnel file, he was earning mandated state incentive pay for his Almeda University degree in Criminal Justice Administration, which he earned with distinction in December 2004...
    Almeda University's Web site says its online program, where a degree for "life experience" can be purchased for $595 in just days, is accredited by the Council For Distance Education Accreditation, the Association for Online Academic Excellence and Interfaith Education Ministries...
    Follow up information: Police officers fired over fake degrees, Kara Kenney, Naples, Florida NBC-2, July 17, 2006.
    Two Naples Police Officers have been fired after an internal affairs investigation showed they bought diplomas through an online degree mill called Almeda University. Sergeant Joe Popka, an eighteen year veteran and Master Officer Drew McGregor, an eight year veteran, were both fired on Friday. They each paid about $600 to get a degree from Almeda University in Idaho and received degrees in criminal justice.
    Naples Police Chief Steven Moore says the degrees are worthless because the officers didn't attend class – they just paid for the degree. Both officers received hundreds of dollars in incentive pay for the degrees.
    Popka received a total of $620. McGregor took in $2,660 from the state...

  • Arbitration finds against teachers in Canyon Creek, Laura Tode, Billings, Montana Billings Gazette, May 6, 2006.
    Two teachers at Canyon Creek School who received master's degrees from a bogus online college will see a cut in pay and have to return the difference in salary they've received since they earned the degrees, according to an arbitrator hired to settle a dispute between the Canyon Creek School District and the state teachers' union. In 1999, longtime teachers Beverly Henckel and Candice Holzer received master's degrees from Columbus University, an online institution not recognized by formal accrediting agencies. Both teachers paid less than $3,000 for the degrees and were awarded them in less than six months...
    The Canyon Creek Board of Trustees demanded the teachers return the additional money they earned since receiving the degrees -- about $37,000 each -- and adjusted their salaries to what they were before...
    During the hearing, Henckel and Holzer said they did not set out to intentionally deceive the school district and had no idea the degrees from Columbus University were not legitimate. They both said they did no coursework, did not correspond with any instructors, took no exams and wrote no thesis papers. They were required only to compile transcripts from previous college courses and workshops and provide information on classroom practices. The process, they said, is called "credentialization."
    "It's difficult to imagine them granting credit, in the classes they teach, for the resubmission of work which a student had done in prior years for other teachers," Lankford [the arbitrator] wrote in his summary decision...

  • HB 2507 - 2005-06: Prohibiting false or misleading college degrees, Washington State Legislature, 2006. The bill passed the Washington State Senate March 6, 2006. The yes/no/absent/excused totals for the Senate vote were 46/0/0/3. It passed in the House March 8, 2006. In the House the yes/no/absent/excused totals were 96/0/0/0. Governor Christine Gregoire signed the bill March 27, 2006. The legislation's effective date is June 7, 2006.
    The driving force behind the legislation has been Senator Mark Schoesler. Mr. Schoesler's press release about the legislation can be found here.
    The text of the bill can be found here.
    The digest of HB2507 is this:
    Declares that a person is guilty of issuing a false academic credential if the person knowingly: (1) Grants or awards a false academic credential or offers to grant or award a false academic credential in violation of this act; (2) Represents that a credit earned or granted by the person in violation of this act can be applied toward a credential offered by another person;
    (3) Grants or offers to grant a credit for which a representation as describe in this act is made; or
    (4) Solicits another person to seek a credential or to earn a credit the person knows is offered in violation of this act.
    Provides that a person is guilty of knowingly using a false academic credential if the person knowingly uses a false academic credential or falsely claims to have a credential issued by an institution of higher education that is accredited by an accrediting association recognized as such by rule of the higher education coordinating board.

  • Our View: Degree of certainty. Law will help eradicate fake academic credentials, Spokane Spokesman-Review, March 30, 2006.
    What an all-America success story. After only one year at Spokane Community College, Richard John Novak went to work selling cars. Practically overnight, though, he had doctorates in international business, educational administration and psychology. Or so claimed the Web site of Saint Regis University.
    Trouble is, federal authorities say Saint Regis is part of an international scheme that peddles bogus college degrees to online buyers who want the credentials but don't want to put any more work into them than "Dr." Novak did.
    Novak, for the record, pleaded guilty this month in Spokane to charges of conspiracy and violating the federal Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He admitted paying more than $43,000 in bribes to Liberian diplomats who would see to it that their country accredited Saint Regis...
    Diploma mills are big business, and the feds consider Spokane a center for one of the biggest. Authorities contend Saint Regis has taken in some $4.7 million for about 6,000 college degrees, 40 percent of them going to foreign residents who want to enter the United States. College graduates receive special consideration under U.S. immigration rules.
    It was a noteworthy milestone, then, when Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law a bill making it a Class C felony to knowingly award phony academic credentials – and a gross misdemeanor to knowingly use them. The governor's action Monday was a legislative victory for state Sen. Mark Schoesler, a Ritzville Republican who's spent the past two years going after diploma mills.
    Even setting foreign intrigue aside, no-effort academic credentials are a problem. In a global economy that puts an increasing premium on knowledge and information, educational qualifications are critical. Those who present themselves on paper as something that they can't substantiate in reality are undermining state and national competitiveness. They are claiming an unearned advantage over more forthright job-seekers, and they are defrauding employers and consumers...

  • Scammer says he bribed diplomats, Bill Morlin, Spokane, Washington Spokesman-Review, March 21, 2006. (Full text of the article is linked here with permission of the Spokesman-Review. The following is a short extract from the story.)
    The operators of Spokane-based diploma mills used an Arizona man to pay three top-ranking Liberian diplomats more than $43,000 in a series of cash bribes, according to court documents filed Monday. Richard John Novak admitted in U.S. District Court in Spokane that he paid the bribes to senior Liberian diplomats in Washington, D.C., Liberia and Ghana, with the money coming from the Spokane bank accounts of Dixie and Stephen Randock of Colbert, Wash.
    The Liberian diplomats, who aren't named in the public documents, allegedly took the money after agreeing that Liberia's Board of Education would provide "accreditation" for Saint Regis University.
    Federal investigators describe the online university as a worldwide fraud scheme – one of several diploma mills operated in Mead, Hillyard and Post Falls by the Randocks and six other co-conspirators.
    With the accreditation, their diploma mill raked in $4.7 million in fraudulent sales of an estimated 6,000 college degrees, about 40 percent of them to foreign residents seeking entry into the United States, investigators say.
    The bribes to the Liberian officials were carried out by Novak, formerly of Spokane, who pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act...
    Bill Morlin obtained a copy of the (publicly available) superseding information document and plea agreement for case CR-05-180-3-LRS filed March 20, 2006 in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Washington. The case is United States of America, plaintiff vs. Richard John Novak, Defendant. A scaned version of the document is available here:

  • Wyoming has passed "AN ACT relating to private school licensing... The vote was strongly in favor ot the bill: 51 for, 7 against in the House and 27 for, 3 against in the Senate. It was signed by the governor March 10, 2006. The bill requires a post-secondary institution granting degrees to Wyoming citiizens to be accredited, or to be a candidate for accreditation. There is an exemption for religious schools.
    A digest and legislative history of the bill is available here: The end stages of the bill's passage are these:
    3/7/2006 H[ouse] Passed 3rd Reading ROLL CALL Ayes: Representative(s) Alden, Bagby, Barnard, Berger, Brown, Buchanan, Childers, Cohee, Davison, Diercks, Edwards, Esquibel, Gay, Gilmore, Gingery, Goggles, Hammons, Harshman, Harvey, Hastert, Hinckley, Iekel, Jones, Jorgensen, Landon, Lockhart, Lubnau, Luthi, Martin, McOmie, Mercer, Meuli, Morgan, Olsen, Osborn, Pedersen, Petersen, Powers, Quarberg, Reese, Robinson, Samuelson, Simpson, Slater, Thompson, Walsh, Warren, Wasserburger, Watt, White and Zwonitzer.
    Nays: Representative(s) Anderson, R., Brechtel, Hageman, Illoway, Miller, Philp and Semlek.
    Excused: Representative(s) Bucholz and Jackson.
    Ayes 51 Nays 7 Excused 2 Absent 0 Conflicts 0
    3/8/2006 S[enate] Did Concur
    Ayes: Senator(s) Anderson, J., Aullman, Barrasso, Boggs, Burns, Coe, Cooper, Decaria, Geis, Hawks, Hines, Jennings, Job, Johnson, Larson, Massie, Meier, Mockler, Nicholas, Peck, Peterson, Ross, Schiffer, Scott, Townsend, Vasey and Von Flatern.
    Nays: Senator(s) Case, Hanes and Sessions.
    Ayes 27 Nays 3 Excused 0 Absent 0 Conflicts 0
    3/8/2006 Assigned Number SEA0031
    3/8/2006 S[enate] President Signed SEA No. 0031
    3/9/2006 H[ouse] Speaker Signed SEA No. 0031
    3/10/2006 Governor Signed SEA0031
    3/10/2006 Assigned Chapter Number
    Chapter No. 0034 Session Laws of Wyoming 2006.
    Take note of the no vote in the Wyoming Senate from Sen. Kathryn Sessions, D-Cheyenne. In a May 9, 2005 Associated Press story by Mead Gruver it was reported that
    Wyoming Department of Education officials say that state law requires them to inspect any campus of any Wyoming-licensed private university, anywhere in the world, with the school covering all expenses. So, last fall, two department officials visited campuses of Cheyenne-based Preston University in the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and Britain. Two state senators also went, and Preston also paid their way.
    Seven months later, the four have little to show from the 10-day trip.
    For example, each of three inspection reports by Deputy Superintendent Quinn Carroll and the department's finance director, Fred Hansen, was about 1-1/2-pages - about as long as the application form for opening a private fish farm in Wyoming.
    The reports conclude that the Preston campuses in Ajman, Islamabad and London were mostly in compliance with Wyoming law.
    And, while neither Sen. Jim Anderson, R-Glenrock, nor Sen. Kathryn Sessions, D-Cheyenne, has formally reported on their perspective of the trip, Sessions came back and, with the backing of Preston Chancellor Jerry Haenisch, submitted a bill that could have helped the school.
    The bill sought to remove several specific laws for private-school licensing from statute in favor of new rules overseen by the state Board of Education.
    "I can't see how anyone has any problem with a decently priced education with nontraditional students," she said...
    But the Pakistani government has reached a less-complimentary conclusion.
    In February, based on its own inspections and rules, Pakistan's Higher Education Commission classified all 15 Preston campuses in that country as "seriously deficient" or "illegally operating." The Islamabad campus was deemed "seriously deficient.."..
    Here is an interesting selection of text from the bill:
    21-2-402. Licensure; registration of private degree granting post secondary education institutions; fees; suspension and revocation; notification upon entry into state. ...
    (b) Except as provided by subsection (f) of this section, private degree granting post secondary education institutions shall annually apply to the department of education for registration under this article. Application shall be in a manner and on a form prescribed by the department and shall include documentation or other verification of accreditation by an accrediting association recognized by the United States department of education or verification of candidacy or verification of otherwise being in the application process status for accreditation. Except as otherwise provided under this subsection, an annual registration fee of one hundred dollars ($100.00) shall be collected by the department prior to issuing a registration certificate under this article. If the applicant is a candidate for accreditation or is otherwise in the application process for accreditation, and the applicant submits verification of candidacy or application status together with a performance bond or other form of security required under W.S. 21-2-405, the department shall collect an annual registration fee of one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) for each year the applicant institution remains a candidate or continues the application process, up to a period of not to exceed five (5) years, until the institution receives accreditation or upon refusal of accreditation by the accrediting association, whichever first occurs. The period of candidacy or otherwise in the application process status expires at the end of the five (5) year period or at the time the applicant is refused candidacy or application status or accreditation by the accrediting association, or otherwise loses candidacy or application status, whichever occurs first, and the applicant shall not operate or conduct business in this state unless, upon a showing of good cause by the applicant, the department finds the five (5) year period of candidacy or applicant status should be extended. As used in this article, "candidate for accreditation or otherwise in the application process" means that within three (3) months of first enrolling students, or by July 1, 2006, for any private degree granting post secondary education institution licensed to operate or do business under this article prior to July 1, 2006, the private degree granting post secondary education institution has applied for accreditation by an accrediting association recognized by the United States department of education and is being considered for candidacy status or for accreditation by that association and is in the process of gathering information and performing activities requested by that association to complete the application process.
    (d) Subject to the requirements of the Wyoming Administrative Procedure Act, the state board department may suspend or revoke a license registration certificate issued under this section to any private degree granting post secondary education institution for loss of accreditation status or loss of accreditation candidacy or application status during any registration period.

  • Dozens of teachers resign amid cheating scandal: Florida checks claims of credits from nonexistent classes, Associated Press, reported on, March 17, 2006.
    A growing scandal over teachers who paid to get credit for courses they never took has cost nearly three dozen educators their jobs, and hundreds of others are being investigated. The Miami-Dade County School Board in Florida voted 5-4 on Wednesday to fire six teachers and accept the resignations of 26 others.
    The punishments stem from a scam run by former high school teacher William McCoggle, who claimed to offer continuing-education classes through a private company. McCoggle pleaded guilty to fraud in November, admitting he did little more than sell transcripts, requiring no tests, homework or other academic work...
    McCoggle, who had taught in Miami-Dade County schools since 1983 before retiring last summer, agreed to serve two years in prison in a deal with prosecutors and must pay up to $100,000 in restitution.
    Hundreds of teachers who never took classes are being investigated for buying continuing education transcripts.
    Last fall, Ohio's Otterbein College, which has about 3,000 students, revoked nearly 10,000 credits given to 657 teachers. It was one of five schools that prosecutors say provided the course credits through McCoggle's company, Move On Toward Education and Training.

  • Fake diplomas sold globally: Operation based in Spokane made $4.7 million, feds say, Bill Morlin, Spokane, Washington Spokesman-Review, March 10, 2006. (Full text of the article is linked here with permission of the Spokesman-Review. The following is a short extract from the story.)
    A Spokane-based diploma mill operation raked in $4.7 million in fraudulent sales before a federal task force made eight arrests late last year, newly filed court documents say. The documents outline a plea bargain by Blake Alan Carlson, the owner of a Hillyard stamp shop, who became "Professor Blackwell" and "Chief Provost" as part of the conspiracy that sold bogus online college degrees and accompanying fake transcripts around the world.
    More than half the phony diplomas were sold to foreign nationals, including possible terrorists, who may have been using the credentials to gain legal entry into the United States, Justice Department officials say.
    Carlson joined the phony diploma conspiracy after his rubber stamp business, at 5210 N. Market, fell on hard times and he needed money, he admitted in the 37-page plea bargain with Assistant U.S. Attorney George J.C. Jacobs and U.S. Attorney Jim McDevitt...
    Schools at the focus of the investigation included Saint Regis University, Robertstown University, James Monroe University, James Monroe University High School and Trinity Christian School...
    Morlin obtained a copy of the (publicly available) plea agreement for case CR-05-180-4-LRS filed March 7, 2006 in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Washington. The case is United States of America, plaintiff vs. Blake Alan Carlson, Defendant. A scaned version of the document Morlin obtained is posted here:
    Here are some selections from the plea agreement.

    1. Guilty Plea and Maximum Statutory Penalties
    • [pp. 1-2] The Defendant, BLAKE ALAN CARLSON, agrees to plead guilty to Count One of the Indictment filed on October 5, 2005 charging the Defendant with Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud and Mail Fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 1341, and 1343. The Defendant, BLAKE ALAN CARLSON, understands that the charge contained in the Indictment is a Class D felony. The Defendant, BLAKE ALAN CARLSON, also understands that the maximum statutory penalty for Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud and Mail Fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 1341, and 1343, is not more than 5 years imprisonment; a fine not to exceed $250,000; a term of supervised release of not more than 3 years; the payment of restitution; and a $100 special penalty assessment....
    5. Factual Basis and Statement of Facts

    • [p. 4] ...Business records obtained during the investigation and analyzed by the Department of Homeland Security, United States Secret Service, revealed that during the period August 4, 1999, to August 11, 2005 the diploma mill businesses operated by Dixie and Steve Randock sold approximately $4.7 million in fraudulent academic products to thousands of consumers throughout the world...
    • [pp. 15-17] Mr. CARLSON told investigators that he decided to become involved in Dixie Randock's "schools" because after September 11, 2001, his stamp business was having financial problems and he hoped he could make some money. After talking with Dixie Randock he hoped he could make up to $10,000 per month. Mr. CARLSON recalled having a conversation with Steven Karl Randock, Sr. in the Spring of 2002 whereby Steven Karl Randock, Sr. claimed that Heidi Lorhan, who he said had just started working for "Saint Regis University," was making $7,000 to $9,000 per pay period (every two weeks), working as an "advisor." Steven Karl Randock, Sr., told Mr. CARLSON that customers would access the Saint Regis website, fill out a prior learning assessment, Heidi Lorhan would take down the information and she would determine what type of degree would be sold. Beginning in approximately July 2002, Mr. CARLSON and his wife attended diploma mill training at Dixie and Steve Randock, Sr.'s residence and at an office located on Newport Highway... Mr. CARLSON told the investigators that to promote the scheme, Dixie Randock purchased over one million e-mail addresses of potential consumers on two or three different occasions....
      Mr. CARLSON told the investigators that Dixie and Steve Randock were in charge of the diploma mills and also served as "advisors." In approximately July 2002, Mr. CARLSON began working for one or more of Dixie and Steven Randock, Sr.'s diploma mill businesses as an "evaluator..".. Mr. CARLSON estimated that between July 2002 and August 11, 2005, he made approximately $41,000 from the sale of fraudulent academic products. According to Mr. CARLSON, his commission dropped significantly due to adverse media coverage. In order to conceal his identity when communicating with a consumer... he used the alias of "Professor Blackwell" and the fictitious academic title of "Professor..".. Mr. CARLSON had not graduated from college... When asked by the investigators if he was qualified to "evaluate" a consumer or make a determination as to whether the consumer was qualified to obtain a PhD or other advanced degree when he had not graduated from college, Mr. CARLSON responded that he did not feel qualified, then said he did feel qualified, then said "I was in over my head."
    • [pp. 18-20] On August 11, 2005, Department of Homeland Security, United States Secret Service Agents interviewed Steven Karl Randock, Sr. The Agents advised Mr. Randock of his Miranda Rights and he waived them. Mr. Randock admitted that he and Dixie Randock were the owners of Saint Regis University, James Monroe University, an other "on-line distance education schools." Mr. Randock said that his initial intent of setting up these schools was to set up legitimate on-line schools similar to he University of Phoenix, but that "they did not end up that way..".. Mr. Randock admitted that he used the alias of "Fr. Frendock," Dixie Randock used the alias of "Thomas Carper," and Heidi Lorhan used the alias of "Advisor James..".. When the agent questioned Mr. Randock whether he thought it was right for the "buyers" of the fraudulent degrees from his "schools" to obtain employment or promotions for positions they clearly were not qualified to obtain or gain illegal entry into the United States via an H1B Visa based on a "Saint Regis University" degree, which Dixie and Steven Karl Randock, Sr. promoted on one of their websites, Dixie Randock voluntarily interjected and stated that "if the employers or Immigration believe something that is not true, then that is their fault.."..
      Mr. Randock then admitted to setting up the "Academic Credential Assessment Corporation" (ACAC) in Casper, Wyoming and stated that ACAC evaluates the "degrees" issued by Dixie Randock and Steven Karl Randock Sr.'s schools and determines them to be equivalent to U.S. Regionally Accredited degrees...
    • [pp. 24-25] When Ms. Hensley was asked what, if anything, Dixie Randock told her to say to law enforcement if they came to talk to her about what was going on in the diploma business, Ms. Hensley stated that Dixie Randock instructed her to say that it was not a diploma mill, but rather a printing facility... Ms. Hensley stated that "Frendock," "Thomas carper," "Jallah Faciann," "Tia," "James Cooper," and Patrick O'Brien" were all aliases used by Dixie Randock when she corresponded with various people over the internet. Ms. Hensley said that even though Jallah Faciann was a real person in Liberia, Dixie Randock would sometimes send out e-mails using his name... Dixie Randock hired Pat Myers to work as an "advisor" and to sell degrees. Pat Myers had dropped out of high school in the tenth grade and her prior work experience included working as a farrier [a person who shoes horses], grading potatoes for a produce company in Alaska, a gas station attendant, and a nurse's aide. Dixie Randock provided Ms. Myers with "templates" to use for manufacturing transcripts for consumers. Because Ms. Myers had worked as a nurse's aide she did not like giving nursing degrees to consumers who had contacted Saint Regis University. Ms. Myers estimated that on approximately three occasions Dixie Randock instructed her to issue nursing degrees. When interviewed by law enforcement in 2006, Ms. Myers recalled that she refused to issue nursing degrees to approximately ten consumers. However, those consumers were then referred to Heidi Lorhan for approval....
      Records obtained by investigators revealed that Saint Regis University issued a PhD Degree in Radiological Sciences to an individual...
    • [p. 28] The investigation further revealed that Dixie Randock paid Sheila Danzig aka Liz Ross to send out inquiries to legitimate educational institutions in the United states in the names of fictitious individuals (e.g., Harold Williams and Dana Harmon) who had supposedly obtained degrees from Saint Regis University in order to determine if those legitimate institutions would accept applications into their programs from those "Saint Regis University graduates."
    • [p. 28] Mr. Pearson stated that he "doesn't think it's legal to sell degrees," and that the only reason he deals with Dixie Randock was that he was trying to "get out on his own" and needed work. Mr. Pearson reiterated that he did not think what Dixie Randock was doing was legal and described her operation as "fly-by-night." At one point during the interview with law enforcement, Mr. Pearson said "what took you guys so long to start this investigation?"

  • St. Kitts and Nevis Board withdraws accreditation of Berne University, Announcement by the Government of St. Christopher (St. Kitts) & Nevis, February 15, 2006.
    BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, FEBRUARY 15TH 2006 (CUOPM) – The accreditation of Berne University School of Graduate Studies in St. Kitts has been withdrawn. "The University has failed to provide relevant information and to meet the requirements to maintain its status as an accredited institution in St. Kitts and Nevis as agreed to in our meeting last February," Chair of the St. Christopher and Nevis Accreditation Board, Dr. Hermia Morton-Anthony said.
    She told the Communications Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister that as a result, the name of Berne university has been removed from the List of Accreditation.
    The Accreditation Process in St. Kitts and Nevis is guided by two Acts passed in the National Assembly – The Saint Christopher and Nevis Accreditation of Institutions Act, 1999 (No. 21 of 1999) and the Saint Christopher and Nevis Accreditation of Institutions (Amendment) Act, 2001 (No.9 of 2001)...
    The Berne University web site had been In 2005 Berne appears to have changed its name to Bernelli University.

  • Registrars' Group Takes On Diploma Mills, Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed, February 10, 2006.
    Diploma mill operators often manage to stay one step ahead of the law, changing their location or how they operate whenever state or other authorities zero in for a crackdown. And the laws and other tools available to regulators, higher education officials, students and others to stop degree mill operators are few and flimsy. So occasionally they turn to alternative tactics to fight the degree mills and other companies that help them do business. Last month, the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers filed a federal trademark infringement lawsuit against the American Universities Admission Program. The program, which says it is based in Sarasota, Fla., operates among other things a service in which it evaluates the academic credentials of foreign students to help them gain admission to American universities. ("AUAP guarantees your admission into the best American universities possible with the best available conditions!" it boasts on its Web site).
    On the site, and on the analyses it does of individuals' credentials, the program lists itself as a member of the American Council on Education, NASFA: Association of International Educators, and the registrars' association, which is among the leading evaluators of foreign students' academic credentials. (Evaluators of foreign degrees in the United States are not regulated, and most traditional colleges use AACRAO or a service that belongs to the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services. )
    None of the groups listed by AUAP claim it as a member, and AACRAO's lawsuit aims to stop the program and its owner, Jean-Noel Prade, from suggesting otherwise. "The harm to AACRAO is real and present," the association argues in its legal complaint. "Defendants are providing evaluations of foreign academic credentials of less than adequate quality," and the program's use of the AACRAO name "will mislead academic institutions into believing that AACRAO has reviewed or endorsed AUAP's services." The lawsuit asks a federal court to stop AUAP from using the name or logos of the registrar's group...
    Alan Contreras, who heads the State of Oregon's Office of Degree Authorization and is a national watchdog on diploma mills, connects the dots more directly. He asserts that Prade, the owner of AUAP, also owns a series of "faux French degree suppliers that use variants on the name 'Robert de Sorbon.' To add credibility to the degrees issued by those institutions (which Oregon, among other states, declines to recognize), Contreras asserts, "an 'evaluation service' magically appeared that made itself look like it was AACRAO-related. It did this because AACRAO is one of the best known 'names' in the international degree evaluation business.
    "The net effect of this," Contreras added, "is that AACRAO's name is being used to promote foreign diploma mills, and AACRAO quite rightly objects to having its reputation trashed..."

  • Tougher fake-degree penalties sought, Richard Roesler, Spokane Spokesman-Review, January 27, 2006.
    Annoyed at the prospect of people paying for effortless diplomas – like those advertised at two now-defunct diploma mill Web sites – state lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives want to toughen the criminal laws against "false or misleading degrees." "It's a matter of academic and professional integrity," said Sen. Mark Schoesler, prime sponsor of Senate Bill 6487. It's unfair, he said, for people working nights or weekends, trying to balance education with family, to have to compete with people who bought a meaningless degree from an Internet Web site. A hearing on his bill is scheduled today in Olympia.
    "We want to be assured that when we see a degree listed on a resume that it's really a bona fide degree," Rep. Jan Shabro, R-Bonney Lake, one of the sponsors of a similar House version, HB 2507, told a House hearing recently. "I think it's essential that this happens, so we can make sure that when we hire, promote or elect someone to office, that those people have truly made the investment and paid the price for a truly legitimate college degree"
    In October, federal investigators in Spokane filed indictments against eight people accused of running Internet-based "diploma mills" and earning millions of dollars by selling bogus college degrees. They were accused of conspiring to commit wire and mail fraud in the six-year sale of thousands of degrees from schools like Saint Regis University, Robertstown University and James Monroe University.
    "The diploma mill case, just in Spokane, all by itself justifies what we're trying to do," said Schoesler...

  • Diploma Mills Represent Security Threat to United States?, CNN, Paula Zahn Now, December 15, 2006.
    The House has passed the bill. The Senate is still considering it. But, while that debate rages on in Washington right now, there happens to be a loophole the Patriot Act would do nothing to fix. It is an alarming security gap that virtually puts out the welcome mat for potential terrorists, and all it takes is a credit card and a few clicks of a computer mouse. Here's investigative correspondent Drew Griffin. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
    DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Abu Salsabil Hassan Omar's Master of Science degree in chemistry from Rochville University.
    Who is Omar? The federal government says he's an explosives and chemical weapons expert for the terrorist group al Qaeda. So how did this alleged terrorist with a five million dollar bounty on his head earn a Masters in Chemistry from this American university?
    Well, we earned it for him with $500 and an Internet connection. And the United States district attorney in Spokane, Washington, says there could be thousands of potential terrorists who have done what we just did.
    JIM MCDEVITT, U.S. DISTRICT ATTORNEY, EASTERN DISTRICT, WASHINGTON STATE: This is a concern to us because this is one -- not the only one, but one of many kinds of documents or kinds of things that you can use to, you know, gain credibility, build your -- build up your portfolio, and maybe gain access into the country.
    GRIFFIN: This past October, McDevitt and federal agents broke up what they allege could be one of the largest diploma mills in the country. They say a couple living in this home outside Spokane, Washington, ran the operation, which awarded thousands of fake degrees from legitimate sounding schools, Saint Regis University, James Monroe University, and several others.
    The diplomas, like the one we bought Abu Salsabil Hassan Omar, all look real, some coming with full transcripts and certificates of accreditation from what looks like a government agency.
    According to the U.S. attorney, anyone could log on and buy what appears to be an advanced degree. It sounded like just another scam, until McDevitt found out that almost half the bogus degrees were being purchased overseas, and mostly from so-called students in Saudi Arabia.
    MCDEVITT: Terrorists, and let's say al Qaeda, who has proven themselves to be very, very patient, very, very intelligent, and are willing to go to great lengths to -- to gain entry or to do harm to the country.
    GRIFFIN: There is no evidence a bogus diploma has been used by a potential terrorist to gain access to this country, but McDevitt fears it is possible.
    H-1B visas can be issued to anyone who is highly skilled and can get a job in the U.S. McDevitt is concerned a phony advanced degree could be the first step for someone in a terrorist sleeper cell.
    And to prove just how troublesome the problem is, Secret Service agents did what we did, bought their own degree for a perfect terrorist candidate, although theirs was fictional.
    Mohammed Syed was the applicant, no formal education but years of chemical training and chemical engineering with the Syrian army. The Secret Service even added to Syed's application that he needed a degree quickly, so he could find employment and obtain an H-1B visa, allowing him to stay in the U.S.
    In less than a month, the imaginary Syrian army expert was notified, James Monroe University was awarding him three advanced degrees in engineering and chemistry, all for $1,277.
    GRIFFIN (on camera): What is surprising is just how this potential hole in homeland security was discovered. It turns out, the fake universities selling fake degrees were done in by a real physics professor from the fully-accredited University of Illinois, who was conducting more of his own investigation than a research project...
    The problem is, there are plenty more diploma mills on the Web, willing to graduate anyone with a credit card. Remember the degree we bought from Rochville University for a wanted terrorist? We tried to find Rochville, sent e-mails to the site and got an automated response telling us our student counselor would contact us soon. It never happened.
    The diploma itself was mailed from the United Arab Emirates. Rochville related Web sites and e-mails have links to Karachi, Pakistan; Sarasota, Florida; a Web hosting site in Atlanta; and a Web billing address in this largely
    abandoned building in Dover, Delaware...
    (voice-over): As far as we know, Rochville is still out there, still willing to award degrees to anyone willing to pay, even a suspected al Qaeda bomb maker named Omar.
    Drew Griffin, CNN, Malden, Massachusetts.
    ZAHN: And, if that's not enough, Drew tells us his suspected terrorist managed to graduate with top honors from Rochville University and a B-plus in an ethics course, all for only an extra $30.

  • Fake diploma case goes to court: A Spring couple is accused of selling nearly $1 million in bogus documents, Dale Lezon, Houston, Texas Chronicle, December 8, 2005.
    A Spring couple accused of selling nearly $1 million worth of phony college diplomas and transcripts on the Internet is scheduled to appear in a Harris County courtroom today. Randall Shane Dodson, 33, and his wife, Wendi Bailes Dodson, 35, of the 6900 block of Wimbledon Estates, were indicted Nov. 30 on felony charges of tampering with a government record, said Tom Kelley, spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office...
    At least 14,000 people across the country bought the bogus diplomas, including six people who used them to land government jobs in Texas, according to the Texas Attorney General's office. Some of the fake diplomas were embossed with phony seals of the University of Texas and other state universities.
    The Dodsons printed bogus diplomas and transcripts and sold them for $300 to $1,000, Kelley said. The couple earned about $873,000 from it. Forged university seals, high-grade parchments, embossing tools, printers and specialized inks were found at an office the couple leased, Kelley said.

  • Panel backs bill to ban unaccredited colleges, Associated Press (probably Mead Gruver), Cheyenne, Wyoming Billings Gazette, December 7, 2005.
    A legislative committee on Tuesday endorsed a proposal to crack down on unaccredited private colleges in the state. Supporters say the bill is necessary to protect Wyoming's academic reputation. But a spokesman for one such school - Preston University in Cheyenne - said the legislation promises to cost Wyoming millions by cutting it out of the lucrative business of international education.
    Speaking after the committee vote, Preston Chancellor Jerry Haenisch said the state is poised to establish itself as the center of international education, meaning offering degrees to foreign students for course work over the internet.
    Left alone, he said, the long-term economic value of such programs to Wyoming "would exceed the future benefits of coal, if I may be so bold."
    The bill that the Joint Education Interim Committee endorsed would require all colleges in the state either to be accredited or be accepted as candidates for accreditation. The vote means the legislation will be listed as a committee-sponsored bill in the legislative session that starts in February. Jim McBride, state superintendent of public instruction, spoke in favor of the bill, saying Wyoming's policy of licensing nonaccredited schools poses a threat to the state's academic reputation.
    "I would applaud the way the bill stands right now," McBride told the committee.
    McBride has said he believes the schools exist mainly to provide foreign students with a diploma that looks as though it originates in the United States.
    "And I think a lot of those students think that they're real degrees, and they're not," McBride said. "And I think a lot of the students think that they're trained to be employed, and they're not. That's why we're so focused on accreditation."
    Jon Hughes, president of the Associated Students/University of Wyoming, told the committee that the student senate voted unanimously last month to endorse taking action to address the issue...

  • Bill would make phony degrees a felony: Would target those who use them, Jim Niemi, Lexington, Kentucky Herald-Leader, Novemer 26, 2005.
    Only four states -- Illinois, New Jersey, North Dakota and Oregon -- currently have laws prohibiting the use or sale of bogus degrees. State Rep. Susan Westrom wants to add Kentucky to that group, and she's drafting a bill to present in the next session of the General Assembly that would make the use of bogus credentials a Class D felony, punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years.
    "I want to make it illegal for someone who presents a fraudulent degree," Westrom, a Lexington Democrat, said this week. "It defrauds the employer and defeats a level playing field."
    Westrom is patterning her bill after a similar one she co-sponsored this year. House Bill 13 would have amended a forgery statute to include forgery of an academic degree. That bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Jon Draud, R-Edgewood, passed the House 93-0 but died in the Senate Judiciary Committee in the short legislative session...

  • Poor Grades Aside, Athletes Get Into College on a $399 Diploma, Pete Thamel and Duff Wilson, New York Times, November 27, 2005.
    By the end of his junior year at Miami Killian High School, Demetrice Morley flashed the speed, size and talent of a top college football prospect. His classroom performance, however, failed to match his athletic skills. He received three F's that year and had a 2.09 grade point average in his core courses, giving him little hope of qualifying for a scholarship under National Collegiate Athletic Association guidelines.
    In December of his senior year, Morley led Killian to the 2004 state title while taking a full course load. He also took seven courses at University High School, a local correspondence school, scoring all A's and B's. He graduated that December, not from Killian but from University High. His grade point average in his core courses was 2.75, precisely what he wound up needing to qualify for a scholarship.
    Morley, now a freshman defensive back for the University of Tennessee, was one of at least 28 athletes who polished their grades at University High in the last two years...
    University High, which has no classes and no educational accreditation, appears to have offered the players little more than a speedy academic makeover...
    Athletes who graduated from University High acknowledged that they learned little there, but were grateful that it enabled them to qualify for college scholarships...
    The N.C.A.A. has allowed students to use correspondence school courses to meet eligibility requirements since 2000. That year, the N.C.A.A. also shifted the power to determine which classes count as core courses to high school administrators. In doing so, it essentially left schools to determine their own legitimacy.
    "We're not the educational accreditation police," Diane Dickman, the N.C.A.A.'s managing director for membership...
    The man who founded University High School and owned it until last year, Stanley J. Simmons, served 10 months in a federal prison camp from 1989 to 1990 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud for his involvement with a college diploma mill in Arizona. Among the activities Simmons acknowledged in court documents were awarding degrees without academic achievement and awarding degrees based on studies he was unqualified to evaluate...

  • Miami-Dade man gets 2 years in prison for setting up phony diploma mill, Ihosvani Rodriguez, Miami Sun-Sentinel, November 11, 2005.
    A former Miami-Dade County teacher who awarded more than 600 South Florida teachers bogus college credits through his diploma mill has agreed to plea guilty to theft and fraud charges and serve two years in prison, prosecutors announced in court on Thursday. William McCoggle, 74, a retired physical education teacher, was scheduled to enter his plea on Thursday...
    Under the terms of the plea deal, McCoggle will pay up to $100,000 in restitution and cooperate with investigators who want to see how far his scheme reached.
    At least a dozen Broward and Palm Beach county teachers are among 783 people prosecutors say received college credits through McCoggle's classes. Teachers used the credits to fulfill state certification requirements or to receive endorsements in different subjects and qualify for higher pay.
    Among the teachers who received credits are three Florida legislators: state Rep. Ralph Arza, R-Hialeah, and state Rep. Edward Bullard and his wife, state Sen. Larcenia Bullard, both Democrats and former educators. Prosecutors have not charged any of the teachers, but officials with the Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade county school districts said internal investigations could lead to disciplinary actions, including firings.
    In Miami-Dade, where the bulk of the teachers on the list are from, 14 have resigned or retired, schools spokesman Joseph Garcia said...

  • Bail granted for alleged operators of online diploma mill, Associated Press (probably based on Bill Morlin's reporting for the Spokane Spokesman-Review), Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 27, 2005.
    The alleged kingpins of a phony diploma operation that has federal investigators concerned about its possible use by terrorists have been granted bail. U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno agreed Wednesday to release Dixie E. and Steven K. Randock Sr. on bond, but banned them from using the Internet for anything but a real estate licensing venture.
    The Randocks were indicted Oct. 5 on charges of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and money laundering stemming from an alleged scheme to sell academic degrees online for bogus universities.
    Federal investigators contend that half the phony degrees sold by "Saint Regis University," "Robertstown University" and "James Monroe University" went to overseas purchasers, many of whom were "students" from Saudi Arabia...
    Prosecutors contend Steven Randock dug up as much as $200,000 buried in his back yard after federal agents served a search warrant at the residence in August. Randocks lawyers disputed the claim.
    Six others were indicted in connection with the phony diploma operation, but federal prosecutors allege the Randocks were the kingpins of the scheme that may have sold as many as 15,000 degrees and created more than 300 fictional online colleges over the past six years...
    Bill Morlin has given permission for his story Fraud suspects buried cash, prosecutor says to be posted in its entirety.

  • Degree of doubt for Bertie's boffin, Donal Lynch, Dublin, The Irish Independent, October 9, 2005.
    THE Government's chief science adviser, Dr Barry McSweeney, got his doctorate from a US 'university' that globally advertises its unrecognised "fee-for-degree" qualifications on the internet, the Sunday Independent can reveal. The Swedish government has listed Pacific Western University (PWU) as a fake institution that issues bogus degrees, while the investigative arm of the US Congress said in a report that PWU was an unaccredited "diploma mill" for CV cheats... Mr McSweeney, referred to as 'Doctor' in all Government press releases, was appointed Ireland's first chief science adviser by Tanaiste Mary Harney in June last year.
    The appointment was part of a package of decisions taken by Government to maximise Ireland's potential in science, technology and innovation (STI).
    Mr McSweeney has responsibility for providing the Government with independent expert advice on all aspects of science, technology and innovation, including investment in technology and analysis of innovations in science...
    In contrast to Mr McSweeney, his British equivalent, Sir David King, holds a doctorate from Cambridge University. Similarly, the American chief science adviser, John Marbuger,obtained his PhD in applied physics from Stanford, a world-renowned Ivy League university. Both men also hold professorships, which is the next academic step up from a doctorate...

  • Indictments accuse eight of running diploma mills, Bill Morlin, Spokane Spokesman-Review, October 6, 2005. (paid subscription required) Bill Morlin has given permission to have the article posted here. In addition, he scanned the indictment into a 2.2 MB pdf file that is available here.

    For the first time in the United States, federal investigators in Spokane have obtained indictments against eight people accused of operating Internet-based diploma mills, making millions by selling bogus college degrees and "defrauding consumers worldwide." The 40-page indictment accuses the eight of conspiring to commit wire and mail fraud during the past six years as they operated out of businesses in Mead and Hillyard, and a Post Falls office complex...
    "The operators of these 'universities' created a sophisticated web of supporting infrastructure using the Internet which gave the operation an aura of legitimacy," said Kevin M. Miller, agent in charge of the Spokane office of the Secret Service. The defendants "built networks of fake government agencies, accrediting organizations, and credential evaluators."
    "The investigation continues to determine if these documents have been used by individuals to enroll for advanced degrees in U.S. and foreign universities or to seek employment and promotion in both public and private sector companies to include those involved in critical infrastructure," Miller said...

  • Owners And Employees Of Diploma Mill Indicted For Conspiracy To Commit Wire Fraud, Mail Fraud And Money Laundering: press release dated October 6, 2005 concerning case CR-05-0180-LRS. For More Information Contact:
         James A. McDevitt, United States Attorney. Telephone No. (509) 353-2767
         Thomas O. Rice, Criminal Chief. Telephone No. (509) 353-2767.

    U. S. Department of Justice
    United States Attorney
    Eastern District of Washington
    300 United States Courthouse (509) 353-2767
    Post Office Box 1494 FAX (509) 353-2766
    Spokane, Washington 99210-1494

    Today, James A. McDevitt, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that a Federal Grand Jury in the Eastern District of Washington returned a three-count Indictment charging eight individuals with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. According to the 40-page Indictment, Dixie Ellen Randock, Steven Karl Randock, Sr., Blake Allan Carlson, Heidi Kae Lorhan, Amy Leann Hensley, Roberta Lynn Markishtum, and Kenneth Wade Pearson, using the internet, conspired to manufacture, print, and sell fraudulent academic products, i.e., high school diplomas, college and graduate-level degrees, and related documents to consumers throughout the world so those consumers could get hired or promoted in their jobs or obtain H1B Visas. Thousands of degrees were sold. The Indictment alleges that Colbert, Washington residents, Dixie Ellen Randock and Steven Karl Randock, Sr. owned several diploma mills and related businesses, including "Saint Regis University," Robertstown University," "James Monroe University," James Monroe University High School," and Trinity Christian School." According to the Indictment, by accessing one of those websites and paying fees between $399 and $2,454, consumers could be "evaluated" for a degree by Heidi Kae Lorhan, a high school dropout, and Amy Leann Hensley. Alternatively, a consumer could access one of their websites and take a 125-question test, answer only twenty-five percent of the questions correctly, and be awarded a high school diploma. The degrees and related documents would then be printed and shipped to consumer throughout the world. According to the Indictment, to make the degrees look official, Spokane businessman, Blake Allan Carlson, manufactured fraudulent rubber stamps and seals, and Spokane resident, Kenneth Wade Pearson, acted as the web server for several of the diploma mill websites. According to the Indictment, Mead, Washington resident, Roberta Lynn Markishtum, printed some of the fraudulent documents and falsely confirmed via telephone to employers and potential employers that the degrees purchased were valid.
    As part of the scheme to defraud, the Indictment alleges that Dixie Ellen Randock and Steven Karl Randock, Sr. also caused a fabricated website to be created, which posed as the official and legitimate government website of the Liberian Embassy in Washington, D.C. The Indictment also alleges that Peoria, Arizona resident, Richard John Novak, worked as a "consultant" to process the fraudulent degrees sold to foreign consumers. The Indictment also alleges that a Special Agent with the United States Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, while acting in an undercover capacity as a retired Syrian military officer who wanted to quickly obtain an H1B Visa, and using the undercover name Mohammed Syed, was able to purchase from "James Monroe University" degrees in chemistry and environmental engineering.
    Dixie Ellen Randock and Steven Karl Randock, Sr. are also charged with conspiring to launder $1,026,874.80 as a result of the diploma mill scheme. The Indictment seeks forfeiture of the Randock's property and other assets including their Colbert home, approximately $55,000 in U.S. currency and $480,000 in various bank accounts, and a 2001 Jaguar.
    If convicted of the wire and mail fraud conspiracy, each defendant could be sentenced to up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, the payment of restitution, and a $100 special penalty assessment. If convicted of the money laundering conspiracy, Dixie Ellen Randock and Steven Karl Randock, Sr. could be sentenced to up to twenty years in prison, a $500,000 fine or twice the amount of money laundered, five years of supervised release, and a special penalty assessment of $100.
    The case is being investigated by a multi-agency task force led by the United States Secret Service, in cooperation with the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Department of Treasury, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Washington State Attorney General's Office, the Spokane Police Department, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Washington. The case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, George J.C. Jacobs, III.
    The United States Attorney's Office in Spokane has established a 1-800 number if you believe that you were a victim of the fraud or can provide information to the investigators. The telephone number is 1-800-775-6357.
    An Indictment provides notice to the individual of the crimes he/she is alleged to have committed. Each individual is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
    Penny Pass
    Executive Assistant
    U. S. Attorney's Office
    Post Office Box 1494
    Spokane, WA 99210
    (509) 353-2767
    (509) 353-2766 Fax

  • 'Natural healer' charged with fraud: A federal grand jury charges that John E. Curran, of Exeter, collected $1.4 million by fraudently diagnosing and treating 354 people. , Felice J. Freyer, Providence Rhode Island Providence Journal, date.
    Federal agents yesterday arrested John E. Curran, the "natural healer" whose practice was shut down by the Health Department in June, after a federal grand jury charged him with pretending to be a doctor, fraudulently diagnosing people and selling them more than $1 million in bogus treatments... [The indictment] alleges that he led people to believe he was a doctor and a naturopathic healer, despite having no legitimate degrees. In one instance, in 2004, according to the document, Curran paid $2,650 for a diploma saying he had a Ph.D., then asked the seller to back-date it to 2000. He advertised a medical degree from a "school" in Liberia, which operates only online and without accreditation, and he wore name plates that identified him as an "M.D."
    More information from Quackwatch is here: "For several years, Curran's Web site has stated that he has a Doctor of Naturopathy (ND) degree from the American Institute of Natural Healing; a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (NMD) degree from the Southern College of Naturopathic Medicine; Doctor of Medicine (Alternative Medicine) (ND, AM) from the Southern Graduate Institute; and a Doctor of Medicine (MD) from the St. Luke School of Medicine."

  • Alarm at the ungentlemanly claims by bogus 'university', Phil Baty, London, The Times Higher Education Supplement, August 19, 2005 (subscription required).
    One is an elite members' club in London's Pall Mall and a favourite haunt of vice-chancellors and famous intellectuals. The other is a private business with bogus academic credentials that is registered in Panama but whose "international studies centre" is a postbox in the English town of Barton-upon-Humber. But the fact that they share Athenaeum in their titles - one being the Athenaeum Club, the other Athenaeum University UK - has set alarm bells ringing that the latter is being wrongly linked with the prestigious London establishment.
    Both are named after the Greek goddess of knowledge, Athena. But the connection stops there.
    The first, a 180-year-old members' club that voted to admit women in 2002, is an edifice to which university heads retreat to wine, dine and discuss the latest developments in the higher education sector.
    The second is an establishment that calls itself a "university" and promises degrees based on "life experience", reassuring students that the words "life experience" will not appear on the certificate.
    Jonathan Ford, the club secretary, said: "The Athenaeum Club has neither knowledge of, nor any connection to, the Athenaeum University."
    An investigation by The Times Higher established that the Athenaeum University UK falsely claims on its website that it is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation - the body that compiles the world list of recognised universities.
    The "university" says that it has established its "incorporated branch in the UK (Athenaeum University UK)I as the International Studies Center of the university" - but the given address is a postbox on the side of a terraced house. It claims its aim is to provide its graduates "with fully recognised/ accredited" degrees - offered by a cohort who describe themselves as a "group of academicians, educators, scholars and professionals."..
    The "university" is not listed on the Department for Education and Skills register of genuine education and training providers. A DfES spokesman said it would "report to Companies House any organisation that is using the word 'university' in its name without permission from the Privy Council. Similarly, we will initiate the appropriate action against any organisation that misleads students about the status of the degrees being offered."
    No one from the "university" was available to comment as The Times Higher went to press. But, according to its website, Athenaeum University UK is run by Professor John S. Dovelos.
    The Athenaeum Club said that he was not among its members.

  • Wyoming Legislature targets diploma mills, Associated Press, Billings, MT, Billings Gazette, August 18, 2005.
    CHEYENNE -- A proposal that would require private post-secondary schools to become accredited stands a good chance of passing the Legislature next session, some legislators predict. "I think it will pass, because we're going to have to do something," Rep. Jeff Wasserburger, R-Gillette, said.
    Wasserburger, who is chairman of the House Education Committee, said the proposal may create a hardship for some of the legitimate schools, but others are just "diploma mills."
    But the chancellor of Preston University, Jerry Haenish, contends a mandatory accreditation law isn't needed and will damage the alternate post-secondary education industry in Wyoming...

  • Federal agents execute search warrants in Spokane, Idaho, and Arizona.
    As part of an ongoing investigation, federal, state, and local investigators carrying search warrants entered seven private and commercial addresses in Washington State, Idaho, and Arizona on Thursday, August 11. Agents removed documents and computer hardware for further inspection. The investigation focuses on businesses that are alleged to sell university degrees.
    Agencies participating in the investigation include the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement Bureau, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Office of the Attorney General of Washington State, and the Spokane, Washington Police Department. The Secret Service is the lead agency in the investigation.
    Searches were conducted at the following addresses:
    14525 N. Newport Hwy, Mead, WA
    601 E. Seltice Way B-8, Post Falls, ID
    office of Northwest Business Stamp, Inc.
    5210 N. Market Street, Spokane WA
    residence of Dixie Randock and Steve Randock, Sr.
    3127 E. River Glen Drive, Colbert, WA
    residence of Heidi Lorhan and Douglas Lorhan
    14308 E. 22nd Ave., Veradale, WA
    residence of Richard Novak
    14628 North 90th Dr., Peoria, AZ
    residence of Amy Hensley
    8015 E. Baldwin, Spokane, WA
    A number of legal documents relating to the investigation (case number MJ-05-222-00) have been released. According to the Office of the Attorney General, "these are public documents filed in open court so there are no confidentiality restrictions whatsoever." See, for example:

    Other court documents:
    See also:

    • Feds Crack Down On Alleged Diploma Mills, KXLY News (Spokane, Washington), August 11, 2005. The web page currently includes a link to a video of the broadcast story.
    • Agents visit diploma mill sites, Bill Morlin, Spokane Spokesman-Review, August 12, 2005.
      A task force of federal and state agents, investigating one of the biggest diploma mill schemes in the United States, served search warrants Thursday in Spokane, Post Falls and Arizona. The search warrants are part of an eight-month investigation that is building a criminal case against Dixie and Steve Randock of Colbert, who are believed to be the masterminds behind the bogus college degree operation.
      Hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit from the scheme are being laundered through domestic and off-shore bank accounts, according to documents filed Thursday in U.S. District Court.
      Those documents say the Randocks and others are under investigation for possible mail and wire fraud violations and money laundering...
    • Bogus degrees offer way to U.S., Bill Morlin, Spokane Spokesman-Review, August 16, 2005.
      Foreign nationals, including potential terrorists, could legally gain entry into the United States with fraudulent degrees purchased from Spokane-based diploma mills, documents made public Monday reveal. Half the "degrees" sold by Saint Regis University and other diploma mills were sold to overseas purchasers, a majority of which were for "students" from Saudi Arabia, the documents say...
      The documents don't give a specific number of degrees sold overseas, but they disclose the operation based in Spokane and North Idaho has "made millions" in the last few years.
      Offshore bank accounts are being used as part of the alleged money-laundering operation directed by Dixie and Steve Randocks, the documents allege.
      An eight-month task force investigation, outlined in the documents, revealed that a top-ranking Liberian diplomat based in Washington, D.C., was soliciting cash bribes from the Randocks and their associates based in Spokane, Post Falls and Arizona.
      The Liberian Embassy official demanded the bribes in exchange for lining up "accreditation" for Saint Regis University and other diploma mills and for arranging payments of $50 to $100 a month to Liberian educators who would pose as "faculty members" for the online universities.
      As part of the investigation, the demands for the "cash payments" were secretly videotaped during a July 5 meeting at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., where an undercover U.S. Secret Service agent from Spokane attempted to buy an online diploma mill for $100,000.
      Abdullah Dunbar, the deputy chief of the Liberian Embassy in Washington, D.C., demanded $5,000 and an expense-paid trip to his homeland to finalize accreditation for the online university, the court documents allege.
      Asked if any laws were being violated by making such a demand, Dunbar responded, "Nah, I'm a diplomat," according to the court documents. If he isn't charged, U.S. authorities are expected to seek Dunbar's deportation, according to a source familiar with the case.
      There have been no arrests, and no criminal charges have been filed.
      But a 141-page affidavit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court, makes it clear that the task force is on the verge of seeking federal charges for conspiracy, wire and mail fraud, money laundering, bankruptcy fraud, income tax evasion and engaging in "prohibited foreign trade practices.."..
      (The Spokesman-Review has given permission for the full text of the article to be posted here.)
    • Feds investigate diploma mills: Sites in West raided; records that name local man are sought, Steve Orr, Rochester, New York Democrat and Chronicle, August 17, 2005.
      Federal authorities are conducting a criminal probe of suspected "diploma mills" that could involve bogus accreditation supplied by a Liberian government official — and a Rochester-area man appears to be at least tangentially involved in the case. The U.S. Secret Service raided homes and businesses in the western United States late last week in connection with the probe, which is focused on St. Regis University and several related online colleges that claim accreditation from a Liberian government agency. An affidavit filed in court by a Secret Service agent said the colleges sell degrees to "students" and require little or no coursework.
      The affidavit said an agent obtained four bogus degrees from the online institutions while working undercover earlier this year.
      The operators of the colleges, which appear to be based in Spokane, Wash., have reaped at least several million dollars from the scheme, the affidavit said.
      Richard J. Hoyer, an Irondequoit resident with a history of involvement in online colleges, is identified in the affidavit as having been connected to St. Regis and the Liberian accreditation gambit in the past.
      Agents listed records or other documents bearing Hoyer's name as among the items they were seeking in their searches.
      In stories published in 2003, the Democrat and Chronicle reported that Hoyer had drawn scrutiny from education regulators in at least three states. New York ordered him to cease operating an online homeland-security college in October 2003 because it had no state authorization.
      The newspaper also reported that Hoyer was involved with an entity that was arranging accreditation in the name of the African nation of Liberia. Accreditation, if bestowed by a legitimate entity, serves as proof that a college or university program has met strict standards.
      The Secret Service affidavit said an agent posed as a would-be operator of an online university and was introduced to Abdulah K. Dunbar, a Liberian Embassy official, at a July 7 meeting that was secretly videotaped by other agents. The affidavit said Dunbar promised he could arrange for Liberian accreditation for the university in return for a $5,000 payment.
      Hoyer did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment Tuesday. In an e-mail he sent to a Democrat and Chronicle reporter in December on another matter, he disavowed any past or present connection with St. Regis...
    • Couple linked to larger burglary ring, Mike Prager, Spokane Spokesman Review, December 13, 1988.
      A Spokane mobile home salesman and his wife are believed to have purchased thousands of dollars worth of stolen property from a burglury ring operating in the Spokane area and northern Idaho, detectives said. Steven Karl randock, 49, and Dixie Ellen Randock, 38, both of W1222 Cliffwood Court, were arrested last week in an investigation that has netted 14 other arrests and more than $50,000 in recovered property, said Spokane police Sgt. Earl Ennis.
      About $6,500 in stolen property was recovered from their home, business, and vehicles, police said. Steven Randock was charged with first-degree possession of stolen property and his wife was charged with second-degree possession of stolen property, Ennis said. Both are free on their own recognizances pending trial.
      Ennis said detectives believe the Randocks were buying merchandise from a ring that was committing numerous burglaries in Spokane, Kootenai, and Stevens counties. The ring was selling items taken in the burglaries at cut-rate prices.
      Detectives did not accuse the Randocks of re-selling those items, Ennis said.

  • Netherlands Initiative Against Diploma Mills, The Netherlands Ministry of Education, 2005. Press release:

    The Netherlands Vice-Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Mark Rutte, on Wednesday, July 13 launched a new internet site at the IB-Groep. The IB-Groep is a governmental organization that is responsible for the execution of various educational laws and regulations, such as the distribution of student grants and loans. The new website,, aims to give information about fake diplomas fake degrees and the vendors of these, Diploma Mills, to the Dutch speaking community. The international trade in fake degrees is a growing problem to employers, institutions of education and the general public. The website took the focus of the site of the US Federal Trade Commission – which aims to inform employers and the general public – as its starting point.
    Together with Nuffic, the Netherlands organization for international cooperation in higher education, the IB-Groep is an expert centre that carries out public activities concerning the recognition and legalization of diplomas and degrees. At the request of the Netherlands Ministry of Education, both organizations work together in the process of information on diploma mills.
    Diploma mills or degree mills are fraudulous companies that offer, often on internet, non-authentic degrees from both existing and non-existing universities, colleges and schools, without the requirement of following courses or attending class. The activities of Diploma Mills result in misunderstanding, deception and fraud.
    At the request of the Netherlands Ministry of Education, the IB-Groep and Nuffic have established a Coordination Office for Information on Diploma Mills (CIDM). The website that has now been launched offers employers, institutions of education and people who want to take up an education abroad, the possibility to check whether or not they are dealing with a bonafide organization.
    More information: (in Dutch)

  • MOE Identifies Illegal Learning Institutions, Monrovia, Liberia The Analyst, May 30, 2005.
    The Ministry of Education has identified a number of higher learning institutions that are reportedly operating illegally in the country. The institutions include colleges, universities and other higher institutions of learning that the National Commission of Higher Education says have no operating authorization but are operating. The Ministry placed the institutions in categories.
    In a document signed by its Chairman D. Evelyn Kandakai, Minister of Education, under category one are the institutions chartered by the national legislature and fully recognized but accreditation is required, which include the University of Liberia, Cuttington University and William V.S. Tubman College of Science and Technology, which is presently closed...
    More information is available in the Educational Credential Evaluators newsletter (free registration required). Here is a synopsis.
    The Liberian Ministry of Education has defined eight categories in which it has placed degree-granting post-secondary organizations. They are as follows:
    1. Chartered and fully recognized but needing to complete the new accreditation process.
      • Cuttington University
      • University of Liberia
      • William V. S. Tubman College of Science and Technology (presently closed)
    2. Chartered, with a temporary operating permit, accreditation is pending.
      • Liberian Baptist Theological Seminary
    3. Chartered, with a temporary operating permit:
      • Don Bosco Polytechnic
      • New Life Bible College and Seminary (now closed) United Methodist Seminary
    4. Chartered, met some requirements for a temporary operating permit:
      • African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Zion University College
      • Liberian Christian College
      • Monrovia Bible College
    5. Chartered, no temporary operating permit, operating without recognition:
      • African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) University
    6. Chartered, met some requirements for a temporary operating permit:
      • Christian Theological Seminary
      • Christopolis University of Liberia
      • LICOSSES Mobile Teacher Training College
      • Smythe Institute of Management and Technology
    7. Not chartered, no temporary operating permit, operating without recognition:
      • Assemblies of God Bible College of Liberia
      • Leigh-Sherman Community College
      • Liberia Bible Institute
      • West Africa School of Mission and Technology
    8. So-called colleges and universities illegally established and operating without any consultation with the Liberian Government through the National Commission on Higher Education.
    The following institutions claim, or have claimed, to be officially recognized in Liberia. They are not mentioned at all in the Ministry's list of institutions.
    • Adam Smith University
    • Adam Smith University of America
    • American International University/Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons - USA
    • Concordia College and University
    • Episcopal Seminary of Higher Learning
    • International Free Protestant Episcopal University
    • James Monroe University Monroe University
    • Robertstown University
    • St. Luke Medical College
    • Saint Regis University
    • Southern Pacific University

  • Gov't Finally Closes St. Luke, Monrovia, Liberia The Inquirer, July 19, 2005.
    The Government of Liberia has ordered the immediate closure of the St. Luke School of Medicine for illegally operating in the country. According to an Information Ministry release issued over the weekend, the government's decision is based on the findings and recommendations of a five-member committee constituted last March to probe the existence of St. Luke.
    A full criminal investigation is to be conducted against the proprietor of the school and others who may have knowingly aided the process of opening the school.
    All medical degrees issued by St. Luke School of Medicine are nullified and the school pronounced non-existent in Liberia, in keeping with the committee's recommendations approved by the Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia, His Excellency Charles Gyude Bryant...

  • Pennsylvania Attorney General Corbett Seeks to Shut Down Erie-Based "Diploma Mill"; Civil Suit Accuses Former New Mexico State Trooper of Selling Thousands of Bogus Degrees to U.S. and Foreign Citizens, press release from Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, July 6, 2005.
    Attorney General Tom Corbett today filed a civil lawsuit against a former New Mexico State Trooper accused of operating an Erie-based online "diploma mill" and phony accreditation institution that sold thousands of bogus Associate, Bachelor's, Masters, Doctorate and Honorary degrees to individuals nationally and internationally. The complaint and separate motion for special injunction seeking to shut down the online business was filed in Erie County Court. The legal action investigated by Corbett's Bureau of Consumer Protection additionally seeks to permanently prohibit the defendant from engaging in business in the state and require the payment of fines and costs.
    During a news conference at his Erie Office today, Corbett identified the defendants as 50-year-old Dennis James Globosky, last known address 204 German St., Erie, and Globosky's businesses, "The University of Berkley," "The University of Berkley Online," UofB Inc., and "accreditation institution" New Millennium Accrediting Partnership for Educators Worldwide or "N.A.P.F.E.W." Globosky served on the New Mexico State Police force from 1978-1979.
    According to the lawsuit, Globosky is operating from offices located at 2700 West 21st St., Suite 24, Erie, despite representations in advertising materials that the University has numerous satellite offices throughout the U.S., including Berkley, Michigan and Chicago, Illinois. Various documents claim that "N.A.P.F.E.W." has a Washington, D.C. mailing address.
    Corbett's investigators said Globosky, who holds a high school diploma from Wattsburg Area High School in Erie County, refers to himself in promotional materials for the University as Dr. Globosky, Director of Academic Administration. He advertises, promotes and sells the academic degrees through the Internet on websites including plus 17 feeder sites.
    The online University catalog includes pictures of buildings and academic structures that appear to have been taken from legitimate colleges and universities, including Harvard. Another picture falsely depicts a large structure as part of the so-called campus when in reality the photograph is of an Erie industrial park where Globosky and his University occupy one small suite.
    The online advertisements claim that University of Berkley Online offers "the lowest tuition prices and HIGHEST QUALITY educational programs to be found in the world." The ads claim that degrees can be earned "completely from home" and require "no studies, no exams ... no attendance," a "flat fee" and "no waiting.."..

  • The Swedish government's "National Agency for Higher Education" (Högskoleverket) has issued the 48 page report Fake universities and bogus degrees– Sweden and the world. The document is in Swedish, but a summary in English is available. The report's authors are Erik Johansson and Henrik Hansson. The report shows screen shots from University of Northwest, Lexington University, Almeda University, Hamilton University, University of Asia, American World University, Barrington University, Trinity College & University, Washington International University, Pacific Western University, Frederick Taylor University, Adam Smith University, University of Dorchester, University of Dunham, Shaftesbury University, Knightsbridge University, and Nobel University.
    From the summary:

    ...Educational fraud affects higher education institutions, employees and employers. The National Agency for Higher Education is proposing a number of remedial measures, for instance that higher education institutions should pay greater consideration to the problem of fake universities and bogus certificates when enrolling students and appointing staff. The institutions should also consider printing certificates on secure paper types so that they are more difficult to forge. This report describes the current situation from Sweden's perspective and also the links to the international networks [of diploma mills] and how they operate.

  • Wyo. Board of Education takes up private-school licensing, Mead Gruver (Associated Press), Billings [Wyoming] Gazette, May 10, 2005.
    The state Board of Education approved more detailed rules Tuesday for revoking licenses for private schools, including universities that offer distance education and maintain a presence in Wyoming. Superintendent of Public Instruction Trent Blankenship praised the changes but reiterated the department's position that the state should require accreditation from a third party, rather than attempting the regulation itself.
    "It makes a lot of sense for the state to have a third party that's recognized for their expertise at being able to judge the quality of these sorts of degrees," he said.
    A legislative task force is working on a new private-school licensing law. Blankenship said he expects legislation requiring accreditation to be introduced next year.
    Accreditation would come from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, which also accredits Wyoming's public colleges and K-12 schools, or from the Distance Education and Training Council. Both are recognized by the federal government through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation...
    At least one private school welcomed the changes.
    "We're very concerned about the potential for illegitimate or degree mill-type schools being licensed in the state of Wyoming," said Jerry Haenisch, chancellor of Preston University...

  • Law on inspections leads to overseas visits, Mead Gruver (Associated Press), Cheyenne, Wyoming. Billings [Wyoming] Gazette, May 9, 2005.
    Wyoming Department of Education officials say that state law requires them to inspect any campus of any Wyoming-licensed private university, anywhere in the world, with the school covering all expenses. So, last fall, two department officials visited campuses of Cheyenne-based Preston University in the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and Britain. Two state senators also went, and Preston also paid their way.
    Seven months later, the four have little to show from the 10-day trip.
    For example, each of three inspection reports by Deputy Superintendent Quinn Carroll and the department's finance director, Fred Hansen, was about 1-1/2-pages - about as long as the application form for opening a private fish farm in Wyoming.
    The reports conclude that the Preston campuses in Ajman, Islamabad and London were mostly in compliance with Wyoming law.
    And, while neither Sen. Jim Anderson, R-Glenrock, nor Sen. Kathryn Sessions, D-Cheyenne, has formally reported on their perspective of the trip, Sessions came back and, with the backing of Preston Chancellor Jerry Haenisch, submitted a bill that could have helped the school.
    The bill sought to remove several specific laws for private-school licensing from statute in favor of new rules overseen by the state Board of Education.
    "I can't see how anyone has any problem with a decently priced education with nontraditional students," she said...
    But the Pakistani government has reached a less-complimentary conclusion.
    In February, based on its own inspections and rules, Pakistan's Higher Education Commission classified all 15 Preston campuses in that country as "seriously deficient" or "illegally operating." The Islamabad campus was deemed "seriously deficient.."..

  • Weah May Have Been Duped Into Bogus Diploma Scam, Sidiki Trawally, Monrovia Liberian Observer, April 13, 2005.
    Liberian presidential aspirant George Oppong Weah may have fallen prey to a bogus diploma scam which offers doctors and masters degree to desperate consumers for a fee, the Daily Observer has learned. Weah may have allegedly benefited from the scam which has been widely reported in various news services in the United States. In his curriculum vitae posted recently on the Friends-of-George-Weah website, the candidate is said to have obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Sports Management from the Parkwood University in London, England.
    However, when contacted late Tuesday a representative of Weah's Press office told the Observer that he had no idea how the bogus information appeared on the candidate's website. The representative who begged anonymity suggested that someone may have put the information on the site without the candidate's knowledge.

  • School operates without license, Mead Gruver (Associated Press), Jackson Hole, Wyoming Star-Tribune, April 07, 2005.
    CHEYENNE -- An online college has continued to operate eight months after it was supposed to either seek licensing or shut down -- renewing its corporate license, maintaining its Web site, responding to e-mail and using the same address in a former Evanston motel. Hamilton University has not so much as inquired about getting an education license, according to Wyoming Department of Education officials.
    Hamilton attorney Tim Kingston of Cheyenne told The Associated Press he didn't know about the Web site or that Hamilton, according to the secretary of state's office, renewed as a state-licensed corporation last month. He then called back and said the school would shut down the site and dissolve in Wyoming...
    Jeffrey Brunton, a Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection attorney who settled a lawsuit with Marn and another school of his, American State University, said that by keeping its Web site active and renewing its corporate charter, Hamilton appeared to still be doing business in Wyoming...
    Hawaii accused American State University, which was based in Honolulu, of not disclosing in promotional materials that it wasn't accredited by a federally recognized organization, a violation of that state's law. Under the settlement, Marn paid $36,000...
    As of Wednesday, Hamilton's Web site still had pictures of the former motel it used as a campus, and still listed a mailing address in Evanston. An e-mail address and Wyoming phone number on the site were still active, with automated responses.
    "When you ultimately pull back the curtains on the Wizard of Oz," Brunton said, "it's usually one guy with a Web site."

  • Another Degree Granting Medical College in Liberia?, The Inquirer, Monovia, Liberia March 16, 2005.
    It has been gathered that an entity accredited by the Government of Liberia to run as Medical College has already issued degrees to individuals without running classes. According to investigation, the St. Luke School of Medicine said to be located in Gaye Town, Sinkor, was accredited by an Act of the National Legislature to run as a medical college. But report said the school has not officially begun classes, but has already gone go-ahead issuing diplomas to some so-called graduates.
    Investigation revealed that the existence of the school as a degree granting institution came to light recently when some students in Asia called the India Consul to verify the existence of the school, which has been issuing degrees.
    The sources said the school was targeting students in Asia because most of the people in that part of the world want to be doctors, but can not afford the cost of acquiring such education and degree there, and have therefore decided to use the on-line program to get their "documents" since they believed that the St. Luke School of Medicine was operating in Liberia.
    It was also said that the school has an affiliation with the University of Liberia, but this was denied by Dr. Al Hasan Conteh, president of the university when he was approached on the issue yesterday.
    At the same time, some medical doctors contacted over the issue, expressed concern about this latest development because they said it has the potential to further damage the image of the country.
    Assemblyman Dr. Mohammed Sheriff, chairman of the house standing committee on health, said the whole thing about the school is fake. He blamed some people in government for this situation.
    He said, he has received complaints from some graduates of the A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine of the University of Liberia, who said the issue of St. Like was an embarrassment to them.
    He said his committee is investigating the matter as this was serious and must be dealt with accordingly. He said this was a scam that some individuals are using to extort money from people desirous of getting in the medical profession. He said these individuals went to other countries and were thrown out, but some individuals in government are working with them to bring shame to this country.
    Also, a statement of attestation issued by the National Commission on Higher Education is said to be raising eyebrows. Investigation revealed that the commission had gone ahead to grant rights and a statement to operate to the institution without it meeting all the requirements, something the school is said to be using.
    Health Minister Dr. Peter Coleman who was contacted on the issue yesterday, confirmed that the school has been accredited by an act of the national legislature.
    He said the school was now preparing to operate as it has been also accredited by the Commission of Higher Education.
    Asked about the issuance of diplomas without classes, Dr. Coleman said the school also runs an "online program." But said he is not aware of the issuance of diplomas. He said the medical authorities in Liberia do not "recognize" such online program, which is said to be existing in Nigeria and Ghana.
    Efforts to get a word from Education Minister, Dr. Evelyn Kandakai, the president and chief executive officer of the school, Mr. Jerroll Dolphin, MD, and the Indian Consul proved futile as their cell phones were switched off...

  • Medical Board Threatens to Prosecute Founder of 'Fake' Medical School, Alloycious David, Monrovia, Liberia The News, March 31, 2005.
    Liberia Medical Board has threatened to turn over the founder of the "fake" St. Luke Medical School and his collaborators to the Justice Ministry for prosecution if they continue to "abuse and insult" the integrity and professionalism" of the country's Medical Board. The Board said it cannot and will not discuss application of any doctor from the Medical School because there is no school in Liberia known as the St.Luke Medical School.
    The Board noted that unless the "illegal school" can be accredited, it would not license any doctor that it has given diploma to.
    Prof. S. Benson Barh, Chief Medical Officer of Liberia, told reporters Tuesday that the 'counterfeit school' through Dr. Meimei Dukuly presented a list of 19 doctors who reportedly completed studies at St. Luke Medical School for the degree of Doctor of Medicine (MD).
    Annoyed over dubious existence of the institution, Dr. Barh said it was shameful to have learned that a list of reported trained doctors, who claimed to have passed through the walls of the school, was presented to the Medical Board.
    "We are not aware and have no knowledge of the medical school, but we will rather warn representatives of the bogus school to legally and properly apply to operate a medical institution in Liberia," he stressed...
    He, amongst many other things noted, that the Medical Broad visited the school's so- called campus and observed that what it saw does not even represent a status of an elementary school's campus, adding in reality, the building is a "run down" dwelling home under major renovation which lacks electricity, laboratory, class rooms, running water among others basic requirements for a representation of a medical institution...

  • Fake Medical College Boss Flees?, Mensiegar Karnga, Monrovia, Liberia The Analyst, April 5, 2005.
    Dr. Jeroll Dolphin, the proprietor and founder [of] the mysterious St. Luke Medical College, has reportedly left the country for fear of being prosecuted. Informed sources say Dr. Dolphin has "surreptitiously" abandoned his Metropolitan hotel on Broad Street to return home in the United States of America...
    There has been intense controversy over the whereabouts of the medical college.
    The A.M. Doglotti College of Medicine had denounced the existence of the alleged fake college in Liberia, even though the school was successful in granting medical degrees to Liberians and other foreign nationals most of whom were Nigerians and Indians.
    Defending the existence of St. Luke Medical College in Liberia, the country's Health Minister, Dr. Peter Coleman told reporter at a new conference that the school was not a fake one, added that it met the approval of the 57th national Legislative Assembly during the NPP regime.
    Dr. Coleman added that he was unaware whether the institution was registered with the committee on higher institution.
    It appeared that the Health Minister's statement further increases tension with his professional colleagues at A.M Dogliotti and the Chairman on Health at the NTLA, Dr. Mohammed Sheriff who decided to take legal action against Dr. Dolphin [on behalf of] the medical profession...

  • Health Minister Confesses: Says "My Advisers Misled Me", The Analyst, Monrovia, Liberia April 22, 2005.
    After fiercely defending the existence of a purported medical college which his professional colleagues had rowdily denounced, Health Minister Peter S. Coleman now appears to have realized that he was being "misled" by his "expert advisers." Leading members of the Liberia Medical Board had challenged Coleman's claim that the school exists and threatened to "prosecute those attempting to insult the integrity and professionalism of the board."
    Two of the board members, Dr. Benson Barh and Dr. Horatius Brown, told reporters at the Health Ministry that the board "has no knowledge of the existence of a medical school named "St. Luke Medical School" in Liberia.
    The fiasco about the existence of the college hit the news last January when the Dean of the A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine, University of Liberia, Dr. Robert Kpoto, who is also a proprietor of the Med-Link Clinic in Monrovia, investigated the entire episode.
    After a careful research, Kpoto discovered that the non-existing medical school was "clandestinely issuing diplomas and medical degrees to Liberians and other foreign nationals to form part of the medical labor force..."
    [Health Minister Coleman] declared his intention to "suspend all interactions with St. Luke Medical School effective immediately pending the results of the various inquiries currently underway."
    Coleman also said the ministry will conduct an independent inquiry "to ensure that the procedures and vetting mechanism by which expert advice is preferred for the Minister of Health is beyond reproach and that another St. Luke fiasco is never again allowed occurring.
    Observers say the Health Minister's latest concession that the St' Luke Medical College does not actually exist seems to have ended the intense controversy over doubts about the school's presence in Liberia.

  • NTLA Orders 'Bogus' St. Luke University Closed, James West, Liberian Observer, Monrovia, Liberia May 10, 2005.
    Lawmaking body of Liberia says it has established that the school of medicine is a fake medicine institute, has endangered the health of LIberians. Following several weeks of investigation into its operations in Liberia, the National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA) says the management of St. Luke School of Medicine has endangered the health of the public and should be turned over to the Justice Ministry for prosecution.
    The transitional assembly said it has been established that St. Luke School of Medicine is a fake medical institute and is not a legal establishment.
    The NTLA's Joint Committee on Health and Education which conducted the probe recommended to plenary that the purported medical school be closed down immediately and all banks be instructed to freeze their assets pending the conclusion of the Justice Ministry's inquiry...

  • Tie to illegal degrees doesn't block Wyo. school licensing, Mead Gruver (Associated Press), Casper, Wyoming Star-Tribune, March 11, 2005.
    Wyoming licensed a Laramie-based online school last year even as its owner helped direct a Hawaii online school that was offering illegal medical degrees and was later shut down by a judge. The owner of American Central University, Adalat Khan, was the Malaysian regional director for American University of Hawaii, a fact that Wyoming education officials concede they overlooked in the documents Khan provided on his background.
    As a result, nearly eight months into an ultimately successful lawsuit filed by Hawaii's Office of Consumer Protection to get American University of Hawaii shut down, the Wyoming officials offered no objection when the Wyoming Board of Education unanimously licensed American Central in April.
    And American Central has been an Education Department headache ever since.
    For not having even one qualified instructor in Wyoming, the agency prepared last fall to pull the school's license -- only to have the process bog down while state attorneys deliberate how to do that.
    "The whole thing is in legal turmoil," said Phil Kautz, the department's private school licensing manager, of American Central's status now.
    Khan and an employee of the school in Laramie, Marcia Edwards, declined to comment.
    Khan runs a school in Perak, Malaysia, called the Mina Management Institute. For a time, American Central and American University of Hawaii were listed next to each other on the Mina Management Institute Web site as "distinguished partners" of the institute.
    Hawaii's Office of Consumer Protection sued American University of Hawaii in August 2003, alleging it illegally offered medical degrees. A judge ordered the school shut down in January.
    Because Wyoming requires private schools to disclose whether any of their officials has ever had a license suspended, revoked or not renewed, Education Department officials say Khan may have been required to tell them he worked for American University of Hawaii.
    Khan was certainly required to open up about his work with American University of Hawaii after the judge closed the school in January, according to Fred Hansen, the department's finance director and another of its private school licensing officials.
    "He should have disclosed," he said.
    But while Khan didn't mention American University of Hawaii in the department's licensing forms, he did say he was the school's Malaysian regional director in the third sentence of a career summary he provided to the department.
    "I'm not sure we caught that sentence," Hansen said...

  • Bill to verify teaching credentials dies in Senate: Degrees offered by diploma mills will be checked by districts, not state, Richard Roesler, Spokane Spokesman-Review, March 3, 2005.
    OLYMPIA - Despite testimony that several teachers and school administrators have used phony diplomas to collect tens of thousands of dollars in extra pay, a bill to require state officials to check such credentials died in a Senate committee last Wednesday. "There's a principle involved, and we need to be principled in our education," said Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, arguing for his bill Thursday morning.
    The state gives pay increases to teachers who get additional training or degrees. But checking the legitimacy of those degrees is left to the state's 296 school districts, some of them tiny. Schoesler's bill, SB 5634, would have required the state Superintendent of Public Instruction's office to verify that the credits or degrees came from an accredited college...
    His bill would have... ordered a $300 fine for anyone submitting unaccredited coursework to get a pay increase. They would also have to reimburse the school district for any salary overpayments.
    Other states are looking at the same problem. In 2002, according to a report last year by EFF, three Oregon teachers had their credentials revoked after claiming to hold degrees from La Salle University in Louisiana, a now-defunct diploma mill not related to the accredited La Salle in Pennsylvania.
    In an audit of 130,000 teachers in Georgia two years ago, 11 were found to have degrees from St. Regis University, a Spokane-based diploma mill that claimed, apparently erroneously, to be accredited by the African nation of Liberia. A Mead woman, her daughter and three business associates who run St. Regis University were named in a lawsuit in December by Regis University, a Jesuit school in Denver who said its reputation is being harmed by bogus St. Regis degrees. The 11 Georgia teachers have been barred from teaching in Georgia...
    Schoesler's bill was opposed by the state teachers' union, the Washington Education Association. Teachers are already required to get their bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from accredited institutions, said WEA lobbyist Lucinda Young. It is the responsibility of school districts to check those credentials...

  • Diplomas For Dollars: part 1, KXLY-TV (Spokane, Washington), February 28, 2005. (3.3 MB video file; 04:30)
    Imagine a plastic surgeon with a bogus degree. Definitely a bad idea, but diploma mills are passing out degrees like candy. No studying, tests or classrooms required. Find out how millions are being made right here in Spokane, and what News4 uncovered when we enrolled someone who doesn't even exist...

  • Diplomas For Dollars: part 2, KXLY-TV (Spokane, Washington), March 1, 2005. (4.4 MB video file; 06:00)
    In part one of this series, we told you about a group of Spokane residents being sued by a Denver university for allegedly operating an on-line diploma mill that sells phony college credentials for cash. You may be asking yourself... what employer would ever fall for this? In part two of "Diplomas for Dollars" we answer that question for you. And show you if they're as easily attainable as they seem...

  • Teachers Found With Bogus, Paid-For Diplomas, KXLY-TV (Spokane, Washington), March 2, 2005. (2.7 MB video file; 03:48)
    All week, News4 has shown you online diploma mills hand out degrees for cash, and people all over the country are trying to pass them off as real degrees. Now, News4 has learned several teachers in Washington are among them. Last year, the Olympia-based group Evergreen Freedom Foundation surveyed every school district in the state and found six teachers who were using illegitimate degrees.

  • House passes bill to combat academic forgery, LRC eNews, Louisville, Kentucky, February 17, 2005.
    Diploma mills' business in Kentucky would be cut down under a bill passed by the House Wednesday. House Bill 13, sponsored by Rep. Jon Draud, R-Edgewood, would make forgery of an academic degree a Class D felony, punishable by 1-5 years in prison. It targets companies that award degrees and furnish transcripts and other documents without requiring coursework...
    Only about 40 percent of employers do background checks on academic degrees, Westrom [Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington] said. The bill would hold the companies accountable and would not target those who purchase the diplomas.
    The bill now advances to the Senate for that chamber's consideration.

  • Wyoming New Haven For Online Diploma Mills, David Root, AACRAO Transcript, February 16, 2005.
    Wyoming is currently home to eleven online universities, none of which are accredited by any recognized authority. This high concentration of so-called diploma mills is due to the state's loose requirements for who can operate as a center of higher education and grant degrees. Many of these schools offer advanced degrees with little actual academic work. In one case, a government investigator was forty percent of the way to a master's degree in sixteen hours. In another, a student could get credit for a course in hazardous waste management by passing a 100 question, open-book, multiple choice exam... Legislation designed to impose stricter guidelines was shelved in December, after two of the state's senators returned from an all expenses paid trip to Dubai and Pakistan, where they were guests on campuses of Preston University, a distance learning school based in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

  • School official rejects plea deal, Gina Muscato, Finger Lakes (New York State) Times Online, February 8, 2005.
    [The] Palmyra-Macedon school assistant superintendent for business... recently rejected a plea deal, so his case will now head to a Wayne County grand jury. [He] is charged with two felonies — fourth-degree grand larceny and first-degree offering a false instrument. District Attorney Rick Healy had offered to reduce it to a misdemeanor charge of second-degree offering a false instrument if [he] resigned immediately and waived his contract.

  • Battles loom over right to grant degrees, Darren Barbee, Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram, February 6, 2005.
    From local school districts to the federal Homeland Security Department, graduates of unaccredited religious schools have used their degrees to apply for jobs, advance their careers and take home a little extra taxpayer money. Some of those schools are nothing more than degree mills. At others, students have reported being deceived, paying thousands of dollars and wasting years of their lives for worthless degrees.
    In Texas, a battle that pits consumer protection against the free exercise of religion is gathering momentum. A Texas Supreme Court case and a challenge in the Legislature could give the state's religious groups -- from Southern Baptists to Sikhs -- the power to grant degrees without any state oversight. Today, all schools, from Baylor University in Waco to Dallas Theological Seminary, must meet the state's higher education standards or have state-recognized accreditation to grant degrees and call themselves a college, university or seminary.
    An exemption would free religious schools alone to grant degrees without recognized accreditation or, for that matter, any standards whatsoever.
    That's the way it should be, say opponents of Texas' 30-year-old higher education law: Buyer beware...

  • News First Investigates: diploma mills, NBC News First 5/30 (Colorado), February 4, 2005.
    ...In the past year the General Accounting Office has found 463 federal government employees with bogus degrees from just three non-accredited schools, often called diploma mills. In those cases, taxpayers paid for the bogus degrees; at a cost of $170,000. To see how easy it is to get a degree we filled out an application for Brinkley Moore, a dog who was Pug of the month last October on It cost us $180, but Brinkley now has a Bachelor's degree in Business Management from Amstead University. Her transcripts show she had a 3.3 grade point average, even though she's less than two years old.
    Amstead University's website is registered overseas, but the phony transcript came from a U.P.S. story in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
    Several "universities" use the same New Mexico address, but no one's been able to track down who runs them. "These drop boxes are often rented out, they're paid for with cash and so there's not even really a way for law enforcement to track who's responsible for running these types of companies because of where they're located out of.," said Katie Mitzner of the Better Business Bureau...

  • U.S. Opens Campaign Against Fake 'Diploma Mills', Joanne Kenen, Reuters, February 1, 2005.
    U.S. officials gave employers new tools on Tuesday to try to determine whether a degree comes from a bogus "diploma mill" or a genuine school of higher education. The "mills" offer bogus college, graduate and even medical degrees for cash, enabling unscrupulous people to get jobs for which they lack proper qualifications or to qualify improperly for higher pay, several lawmakers said at a congressional news conference unveiling the new tools.
    "Diploma mills pose dangers to consumers and employers," said Delaware Republican Rep. Michael Castle. "They are destructive and unethical."
    Diploma mills are often fly-by-night on-line entities, which change names and locations frequently. Estimates of their yearly revenue range from $200 million to $500 million.
    On a Web site ( and through new publications made available to employers and consumers, the Department of Education, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Office of Personnel Management list genuinely accredited colleges, universities and trade schools and give warning signs about when a degree or school might not be aboveboard...

    A related announcement from the FTC: FTC Issues "Facts for Business" Guide on Avoiding Fake Degrees: Publication Specifically Aimed at Protecting Businesses from Hiring Employees With Fake Degrees

  • State mulls online learning, Associated Press (Mead Gruver), Billings [Wyoming] Gazette, January 30, 2005.
    CHEYENNE, Wyo. - The campus of American Capital University has no shady quadrangle, no stately old buildings nor libraries, neither classrooms nor fraternity houses - not even a coed curled up with a textbook in a quiet corner. There's just a middle-age man who sits at a computer in a tiny, undecorated, windowless office in the basement of a downtown building.
    But in a sense, this fellow - Bill Allen, American Capital University's chief academic officer - has lots of company: Wyoming licenses 10 other online schools that have no mainstream accreditation and maintain only a token physical presence in the state.

    Defenders of such schools say Wyoming is forward-thinking for accepting a relatively inexpensive way for working adults to get degrees in their spare time through mail and Internet courses. But others say the state has become a haven for diploma mills...
    Because of lax state requirements, more online schools are popping up in Wyoming than anywhere else, according to Steven Crow, executive director of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the regional school accreditation agency.
    "Most other states have enough rigor in how they determine who can operate as a college and grant degrees that it's not as easy for places to get started," he said...
    In December, state lawmakers abandoned a bill that would have required private schools to have proper accreditation by 2010. That was after Sen. Kathryn Sessions, D-Cheyenne, and another member of the Joint Interim Education Committee, Sen. Jim Anderson, R-Glenrock, were guests of Cheyenne-based Preston University on an expenses-paid trip to Preston campuses in Pakistan and Dubai.
    Sessions supports tougher Education Department rules for distance learning but doesn't think accreditation is necessarily the answer.
    "I just don't believe that the good should be thrown out with the bad," she said. "And I'm a little bit tired - I know how much money accrediting institutions charge universities and colleges - and I'm a little bit tired that they think they're the end-all."
    But Crow and state Superintendent Trent Blankenship, who supported the accreditation bill, said accreditation ensures that a credible third party has reviewed a school. "We don't have to reinvent the wheel on a lot of things," Blankenship said...

  • Bill could curtail unaccredited colleges, Karen Nelson, Mississippi Sun-Herald, January 24, 2005.
    PASCAGOULA - Mississippi legislators will soon take another shot at curbing online universities that aren't accredited by Mississippi but are operating in this state. There's one in Pascagoula, American World University, which operates through an answering service on Market Street and on the Internet. Many of its customers are overseas, and the school offers degrees in a shorter time than one might get a degree from an accredited state university.
    A Senate bill was filed earlier this month that, if passed, would give the state's Commission on College Accreditation a tool with which to confront this type of university.
    "Basically it just gives the power to the commission to step in and ask universities that aren't accredited to either apply for accreditation or leave," said Sarah Nicholas, spokeswoman for the state College Board. "That's what other states have done..."
    What the legislation does do is offer guidelines the commission could follow, said Nicholas. "We have no guidelines for what to do about universities setting up in the state that aren't accredited."
    What state higher education leaders don't want to do is discourage established and accredited universities and colleges from providing online courses. In a state as rural as Mississippi, that method of offering classes can be a big benefit.
    So the wording in the law is important, they said.
    AWU, for example, is unaccredited by Mississippi...

  • UAF approves policy to discredit 'diploma mills', Associated Press, Anchorage Daily News, January 16, 2005.
    The University of Alaska Fairbanks has approved a policy change to recognize degrees only from accredited universities when it comes to decisions of hiring, promotions, tenure or transferring credit. The change was prompted by controversy surrounding former UAF Faculty Senate president-elect Michael Hannigan, who resigned in October amid allegations that his doctorate degree came from a "diploma mill."
    The policy, passed by the faculty senate in December and signed by UAF Chancellor Steve Jones earlier this month, is a revision of an earlier policy statement that named a specific list of schools considered unacceptable. But Jones said that policy, passed by the senate in November, almost immediately presented legal problems.
    "The bottom line is that what they had come up with before just begged lawsuits, potentially, from institutions who view themselves as legitimate," Jones said...
    Jones said UAF soon received a "sharply-worded, threatening letter" warning about legal action from an individual representing one of the schools on the list...

  • Cut-Rate Diplomas: How doubts about the government's own "Dr. Laura" exposed a résumé fraud scandal, Paul Sperry, Reason Online, January, 2005.
    Laura L. Callahan was very proud of her Ph.D. When she received it a few years ago, she promptly rewrote her official biography to highlight the academic accomplishment, referring to it not once or twice but nine times in a single-page summary of her career... One employee was skeptical of Callahan's qualifications, however, and began quietly asking questions. The answers worried him, especially after Callahan was hired in 2003 as the Department of Homeland Security's deputy chief information officer...
    It turns out Callahan got her precious sheepskin from Hamilton University. Not Hamilton College, the highly competitive school in Clinton, New York, but Hamilton University, the unaccredited fee-for-degree "distance learning" center in Evanston, Wyoming, right on the Utah border. Such diploma mills frequently use names similar to those of accredited schools...
    To get her Ph.D., Callahan merely had to thumb through a workbook and take an open-book exam. The whole correspondence course--which includes instruction on business ethics--takes about five hours to complete. A 2,000-word paper (shorter than this article) counts as a dissertation.
    In short, Callahan's diploma isn't worth the paper it's written on. Though there is that nice leather-bound holder.
    It gets worse. Callahan owes her entire academic pedigree to Ham U. The bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science she lists on her résumé were also bought at the diploma mill...
    It turns out that Callahan's phony diplomas from Hamilton were backdated. Hamilton boasts on its Web site that it can "custom tailor" degree programs "to meet the needs" of busy professionals. Callahan's advanced degrees were required for her Labor promotions as well as her Homeland Security transfer. Her bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees officially were conferred in 1993, 1995, and 2000, respectively.
    Yet in March 2000, Callahan made no mention of the 1993 and 1995 diplomas while describing her educational background under oath in testimony before the House Government Reform Committee. They are also missing from her sworn prepared statement submitted to the panel.
    At no time in the long hearing did Callahan bring up the Hamilton degrees--just a two-year associate's degree in liberal arts from Thomas Edison State that she got in 1992. That degree is no longer on her bio sheet, replaced by the three Hamilton diplomas...
    But investigators with the General Accounting Office (GAO) were able to solve the mystery after several lawmakers asked the watchdog agency to probe Callahan and other diploma mill graduates employed by the federal government. In a May 11 report, the GAO said Callahan received her bachelor's and master's degrees in rapid succession between March 2000 and June 2000. Since her Ph.D. arrived in March 2001, that means she got all three degrees within a year.
    What the report doesn't say is that Callahan [obtained] her phony bachelor's and master's degrees right after her ...House testimony in March 2000 and as she was bucking for another Labor Department promotion that required such degrees. The degrees were backdated to make it appear as if she got them in 1993 and 1995, which would look more plausible on her résumé. The Ph.D.--also backdated, to 2000--closed out the academic package...

  • JUCOs [Junior Colleges] want more money, Riva Brown, Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), January 11, 2005.
    ...The College Board [State Board for Community and Junior Colleges] also wants legislators to amend state law to give the Mississippi Commission on College Accreditation authority over "diploma mills." They are schools that award degrees without requiring students to meet educational standards set by accrediting agencies. Mississippi residents can be impacted by diploma mills because credits earned cannot be transferred to accredited institutions, and employers may not recognize the degrees as valid.
    "Our concern is about the ability of the commission on accreditation to protect Mississippi citizens from organizations that may offer things that they can't produce," Crofts [Richard Crofts, interim higher education commissioner] said.

  • Panel rejects 'diploma mills' bill, Joan Barron, Casper Star-Tribune, January 1, 2005.
    If the Wyoming Department of Education wants to remove the state's image as a haven for diploma mills, it apparently will have to take action on its own. Earlier this month the Joint Interim Education Committee voted against introducing an accreditation bill supported by the Department of Education to require private degree-granting, post-secondary universities to become accredited in the state.
    It's doubtful that any individual legislator will carry the bill, given the committee's position.
    And the sponsor of a second bill dealing with standards for the private schools, Sen. Kathryn Sessions, D-Cheyenne, withdrew it in favor of working through Department of Education rules.
    The bill backed by the department would have required the private schools to be accredited after July 1, 2020, in order to be licensed in Wyoming.
    Currently 12 post-secondary institutions are licensed through the state. Only one, WyoTech in Laramie, is accredited, although Kennedy-Western University is working to attain accreditation.
    Sessions said this week the accreditation bill would have imposed a hardship on a couple of universities licensed in the state, primarily Preston University, headquartered in Cheyenne.
    Jerry Haenish, chancellor of Preston University, told the education committee during an earlier meeting in Casper that accreditation would increase costs from $10,000 up to $100,000, which would be passed on to Preston's foreign students.
    Preston University, he said, now has the flexibility to offer master of business administration degrees globally to working adults in foreign countries who can't afford to come to the United States for education.
    Sessions and Sen. Jim Anderson, R-Glenrock, another education committee member, went to Pakistan and Dubai last fall as members of an evaluation team for Preston University. Both are retired educators...

  • Oregon Settles Federal Lawsuit Filed by Kennedy-Western University; State Officials Will Seek Changes to State Law Regulating the Use of Degrees from Unaccredited Universities, December 21, 2004, Business Wire.
    Attorney General Hardy Myers and Kennedy-Western University (KWU) President Paul Saltman today announced that they have reached an out-of-court settlement of the University's Federal District Court lawsuit against Myers and Alan Contreras, Administrator of the Oregon Student Assistance Commission's Office of Degree Authorization (ODA). KWU filed suit in July 2004 on behalf of three Oregon graduates to challenge a state law that makes it unlawful for a person to represent that he or she has a degree if that degree was granted by an unaccredited university. The lawsuit claimed that the Oregon law violated KWU graduates' constitutional rights by unreasonably restricting their ability to use a lawfully obtained academic credential. Under the settlement agreement, Myers and Contreras agreed that the State will not enforce this statute as long as KWU degree holders disclose their school's non-accredited status when representing their academic achievement.
    The settlement does not require any Oregon employer to accept unaccredited degrees as valid credentials or change the requirements for state employment, professional licensure, college admission or other areas for which a degree from an accredited school is required. Degree holders who fail to disclose that their degrees are from unaccredited schools are still subject to civil and criminal penalties...

  • School sues 'diploma mill' participants: Jesuit university claims its reputation being damaged, Bill Morlin, Spokane Spokesman-Review, December 10, 2004. (A paid subscription is required to read the story at the newspaper's site. The Spokesman-Review has given permission for the full text of the article to be posted here.)
    A Mead woman and her associates, who are accused of operating Internet-based "diploma mills," are being sued in U.S. District Court by Regis University, a Jesuit school in Denver that claims its reputation is being damaged. Dixie Randock, her daughter, Heidi K. Lorhan, and three of their business associates who jointly operate "St. Regis University" are accused in the suit of trademark infringement, unfair competition, unfair business practices and trademark dilution.
    The federal suit was filed Monday in Spokane, just a few weeks after the Republic of Liberia issued a formal statement that claims Randock's operation is perpetuating a fraud by claiming it has Liberian government accreditation.
    Randock's operation also has made similar Liberian "Board of Education" accreditation available for sale to other diploma mills, usually online sites that sell "college degrees" for a few thousand dollars, sometimes giving credit for life experiences.
    People throughout the United States, including teachers and other government employees, have used the bogus degrees to become eligible for jobs or promotions. The use or sale of such degrees is illegal in Oregon, North Dakota, New Jersey and Illinois, but not in Washington or Idaho.
    Regis University is represented in its suit by the law firm of Merchant & Gould, which specializes in trademark infringement and intellectual properties cases. Attorneys for the firm and Regis University officials declined comment Thursday.
    It is the first formal action taken against the Spokane-based diploma mill, alleging Randock and her associates are violating the federal Lanham Act and the Washington Consumer Protection Act.
    Six months ago, Indiana state education commissioner Jeff Weber urged Washington state Attorney General Christine Gregoire to initiate legal action against Randock and her St. Regis operation, which sells college degrees online...
    In the new suit, Richard J. Hoyer, of Rochester, N.Y., also is named as a defendant, along with Steven K. Randock and Kenneth Pearson, both of Spokane.
    Like Randock, Hoyer has long been affiliated with so-called "distance-learning programs" and was president of the International College of Homeland Security until legal action was initiated by the state of New York.

    The lawsuit, case no. CV-04-462-RHW, was publicly filed in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Washington State, on December 6, 2004. A copy of it can be found here. (2.8 MB pdf)
    The "stipulation and order for permanent injunction" that concludes the lawsuit was filed June 22, 2005. It is a public document and can be found on a State of Washington site. (It is also mirrored here.) In it the defendants "deny doing business in the State of Washington in the manner alleged in the Complaint or committing tortuous acts in the State of Washington." There are six additional points on the second page of the settlement document in which the defendants deny other allegations. The court ordered that
    "Individual Defendants," and all directors, agents, servants, employees, and all other persons in active concert or participation with any of them, are hereby permanently enjoined and restrained from using the name, mark, or designation SAINT REGIS UNIVERSITY, ST. REGIS UNIVERSITY, the acronym SRU, ST REGIS ACCOUNTING, REGIS UNIVERSITY, REGIS, or any name or mark confusingly similar to REGIS, including but not limited to, in connection with identifying any business or entity in the United States of America or in any other country..."
    No money flowed between the defendants and the plaintiffs under the terms of the settlement. Signing for the defendants are Michael A. Roozekrans (attorney for Dixie Randock and Steven Randock; the Randocks did not actually sign the document themselves), Heidi K. Lorhan, Kenneth Pearson, and Richard J. Hoyer. A related story: School suit names local man, Steve Orr, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, December 12, 2004.

    An Irondequoit man who has been linked to unaccredited online colleges has been named as a defendant in a trademark infringement lawsuit filed by a Colorado university against an alleged "diploma mill" with a similar name... Irondequoit resident Richard J. Hoyer also is named because he has been listed as St. Regis' provost and is listed on a Web site in association with a St. Regis official, the court papers alleged...
    In e-mails to the Democrat and Chronicle Friday, Hoyer indicated he has not been provost of St. Regis University since October 2002, and he disavowed any connection to the other St. Regis link cited in the suit.
    He called the suit "frivolous" and said he was asking Regis to remove his name as a defendant.

  • Online university that gave cat diploma sued for fraud, Mark Scolford, Associated Press, December 7, 2004.
    A Plano, Texas-based online university that supposedly granted a graduate degree in business to a pet cat was sued Monday for consumer fraud by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office. Trinity Southern University, a cellular company and the two brothers who ran them are accused of misappropriating Internet addresses of the state Senate and more than 60 Pennsylvania businesses to sell bogus academic degrees and prescription drugs by spam e-mail, according to the lawsuit.
    Investigators paid $299 for a bachelor's degree for a Colby Nolan - actually a deputy attorney general's 6-year-old black cat - claiming he had experience that included baby-sitting and retail management.
    On Trinity Southern's Web site, where the price for a doctorate is $499, the school said it awards degrees "to individuals with the same working knowledge as a recent college graduate from a traditional university."
    The school allegedly determined that Colby Nolan's resume entitled him to a master of business administration degree, which came embossed with Trinity Southern's gold seal. A transcript listed the cat's course work and 3.5 grade-point average...

  • Increase your earning power with some cash and a click of the mouse. It may be that easy. KVOA News (Tucson, Arizona NBC affiliate), November 16, 2004.
    Pacific Western is one of seven schools labeled as a diploma mill by federal investigators at the U.S. General Accounting Office. Their report was used in a senate investigation this year...
    "The internet is the fondest, wildest dream of the diploma mills operators come true. Most importantly, they can maintain the fiction that they are a real place," says [John] Bear.
    So the investigators set out to find Pacific Western University. We pay a visit to its "campus" located in Los Angeles. We don't find students, classrooms or professors. Only a small office with two receptionists and a man who introduces himself as the dean.
    We're handed a small registration packet that boasts successful graduates and high standing faculty. And we're told all course work takes place online.
    So we ask how fast we can get a degree to teach in Arizona.
    "Often our courses don't meet what the state requires in Arizona."
    It won't meet the credentialing requirements for Arizona, this program. But wait a minute.
    The Investigators found educators who are teaching right here in Tucson and some of them made more money because of degrees from Pacific Western University...

  • Trinity trademark lawsuit is settled, Guillermo Contreras, Express-News, San Antonio, Texas, October 27, 2004.
    There is now only one Trinity University -- and there's the entity formerly known as Trinity College & University. The San Antonio institution has reached a settlement with Trinity College & University in which the alleged diploma mill is to drop "Trinity" from its name.
    The deal ends a lawsuit in which the university said Trinity College & University -- registered in the British Virgin Islands, but with purported offices in Louisiana -- infringed on the Trinity University trademark...
    Among other things, Trinity University alleged that the use of "Trinity" by Trinity College & University caused confusion in the higher education community, and that the confusion "diminished" the value of a degree from Trinity University.
    As part of the deal, Trinity College & University President Thomas P. Williams agreed to a permanent injunction requiring his business to destroy all materials -- mugs, pens, pencils, sweatshirts, book bags, bumper stickers, and other items -- bearing "Trinity" in the logo...
    Trinity College and University appears to have selected the new name Bronte International University: the BIU home page shows the announcement "FORMERLY TRINITY COLLEGE & UNIVERSITY."

  • MOE Issues Disclaimer of [Saint] Regis University, The Analyst, Monrovia, Liberia, October 11, 2004.
    The Ministry of Education [of the Republic of Liberia] has issued a disclaimer of the [Saint] Regis University based in the United States of America that for any higher education institution to be established in Liberia there are requirements that must be fulfilled... The St. Regis University, the release noted, has publicly made known to the World that it has a legal status to operate in Liberia through the permission of the Commission on High Education.
    The Ministry said that was not true, and indicated that evidence suggests that whatever documents the University claims to have obtained from the Commission were never approved by the Commission and do not bear the signature of the Chairperson...

  • URGENT DISCLAIMER ON THE ILLEGAL ESTABLISHMENT AND RECOGNITION OF HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS IN THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA, Republic of Liberia National Commission of High Education, Ministry of Education, Monrovia, Liberia, October 4, 2004. (Emphasis is shown as present in the original Embassy statement.)


    Fourth Floor, Room 407
    P. O. Box 9014
    Monrovia , Liberia , West Africa

    URGENT DISCLAIMER ON THE ILLEGAL ESTABLISHMENT AND RECOGNITION OF HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS IN THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA In order to establish a Higher Education Institution in Liberia, there are two sets of requirements: One set of requirements relates to obtaining a charter to operate from the National Legislature. The other set of requirements has to do with conformity to policies as set by the National Commission on High Education. One stipulation in these policies is that institutions seeking to be established in Liberia must meet the requirements as set out in the policy, prior to obtaining charters from the National Legislature. The policy clearly provides guidelines regarding the establishment and operation of high education institutions in the Republic of Liberia . These policy guidelines are currently available at the Commission's Secretariat.
    On the contrary, the National Commission on High Education has observed with dismay that some colleges or universities have been established without going through the proper channels. For one thing charters have been granted institutions without prior clearance from the National Commission on High Education. In other cases, several institutions appear to have obtained operational permits or statements of recognition to establish and operate in the country. However, some of these documents were exclusively signed by the former Executive Director of the past administration without the approval of the Commission. Hence, the Permit signed without the approval of the Chairperson is considered invalid, and any institution in possession of such permit is not recognized by the appropriate authorities of the Commission.
    Particular references are made to the St. Regis University and St. Luke Medical College that fall in this category. The St. Regis University has publicly made known to the World that it has a legal status to operate in Liberia through the permission of the Commission on High Education. This is not true. Evidence suggests that whatever documents the University claims to have obtained from the Commission were never approved by the Commission and do not bear the signature of the Chairperson. Further, these two institutions are considered Distance Education Institutions and according to the Commission's policy:

    Institutions that are distance education-related and that have approached the National Commission on Higher Education for the operation in Liberia are being processed. Since this is a new area of exploration for the Commission, the public is advised that any decisions already reached reference these Institutions are tentative and that the Commission is continuing its deliberations on these Institutions to final conclusions vis-à-vis their place in the Liberian Higher Education System.

    Accordingly, the National Commission on Higher Education, Republic of Liberia , hereby declares null and void whatever documents St. Regis University may claim to possess emanating from the Commission until at such time when authorities of the Institution can go through the proper procedures for accreditation.
    As regards the St. Luke Medical College, evidence also shows that no such college exists in Liberia; therefore, it cannot claim to have obtained accreditation from the Commission. The Commission also nullifies the existence of such an institution in Liberia , until such time as all pertinent requirements as noted above are met. It therefore goes without saying that similar notice is being sent our to all institutions which are making claims similar to St. Regis and St. Luke that have not met the requirements as herein noted.
    Signed: Isaac Roland, Ed,D. (DIRECTOR GANERAL)
    Approved: D. Evelyn S. Kandakai, Ed,D. (CHAIRPERSON)

  • 'Diploma mill' under attack: Workers paid for worthless degrees, official says, Bill Morlin, Spokane, Washington Spokesman-Review, August 14, 2004.
    Workers soon to be laid off at an auto plant in Indiana have spent at least $42,000 in educational retraining money by buying worthless advanced degrees from a "diploma mill" based in Spokane, an Indiana official says. The details are contained in a letter from the state of Indiana's Commission on Proprietary Education to Washington Attorney General Christine Gregoire.
    "I ask you to take any and all appropriate action to prosecute and close any Washington-based operations of Saint Regis University," Indiana education commissioner Jeff Weber wrote in his June 21 letter to Gregoire...
    "Not until after these Chrysler employees had committed payments to Saint Regis was it learned that they sell diplomas with no instruction and no validation for what they called 'credit for life experiences,' " the letter said.
    Weber said if a diploma-mill sales operation existed in Indiana, state officials would have acted by now to shut it down...
    In Spokane, Dixie Randock, a former Realtor who is affiliated with Saint Regis University and Branford Academy, did not respond Friday to a request for comment...

  • University defends its diplomas as legitimate: Kennedy-Western sues the state of Oregon, saying a law against listing an unaccredited degree on a resume is unconstitutional, Ashbel S. Green, The Oregonian, August 3, 2004. (A pdf document apparently containing the complaint has been posted to the web by a private citizen here.)
    Kennedy-Western University, which offers various degrees but has no campus, claims in its federal lawsuit that Oregon's law violates graduates' free speech rights and interferes with interstate commerce. "We clearly believe that we are not a diploma mill and have an academically rigorous program," said David Gering, director of corporate communications. "And if you ask our students and alumni, they would agree."
    Kevin Neely, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Justice, said his office would vigorously defend the Oregon law, one of the toughest in the nation.
    Kennedy-Western was the subject of withering testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, which held hearings on the problems of diploma mills in May.
    Andrew Coulombe, who was hired by Kennedy-Western as an admissions counselor in 2002, described a rude awakening after arriving for work.
    "I soon discovered this was like no school I had ever seen. I saw immediately that I had been misled by Kennedy-Western's recruiter. I was not going to be counseling anyone. I had been hired to be a telemarketer, using a script to sell Kennedy-Western just like any other product," Coulombe testified.
    Lt. Commander Claudia Gelzer of the U.S. Coast Guard investigated Kennedy-Western as part of her assignment to the Committee on Governmental Affairs.
    "Kennedy-Western courses are not what most of us have experienced at the university level," Gelzer testified. "Instead of structured interaction between professors and fellow students in a classroom, including homework, papers and a series of exams, Kennedy-Western requires students to pass one open-book, multiple-choice test for each class."

  • Mailbox U, James Varney, New Orleans Times-Picayune, August 1, 2004.
    After Louisiana cracked down on diploma mills , several distance-learning institutions moved to Mississippi, where they continue to churn out degrees. BAY ST. LOUIS, MISS -- As institutions of higher learning go, the campus of Lacrosse University, a storefront at a suburban strip mall, is notably lacking in ivy-covered halls, stadiums and the other accouterments typical of academic life. It doesn't even have labs or classrooms.
    Nevertheless, the institution crops up on the résumés of thousands of people, though not always to the enhancement of their careers. Lacrosse made headlines last month when it was determined that Glynn Cyprien, hired as the basketball coach at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, lied about graduating from a Texas university and also pointed to his two Lacrosse sheepskins.
    Lacrosse, however, does not have the imprimatur of any accrediting agency recognized by the state Department of Education, and Cyprien was sacked. Similarly, Tulane University has separated itself from further association with a part-time instructor at its A.B. Freeman School of Business after The Chronicle of Higher Education, academia's chief trade publication, revealed in June that the instructor's doctorate, then listed on a Tulane Web site, came from Lacrosse.
    But this is not the first time Lacrosse and some similar schools have gained a measure of notoriety in Louisiana. Since 2001, when the state cracked down on unaccredited mail-order diploma mills, several distance-learning institutions jumped the border and set up shop with a Mississippi address. In addition, some of the universities now dotting the Gulf Coast are managed or owned by men and women who were players in the industry during its Louisiana glory days and, indeed, continue to live in the New Orleans area.
    Among the best known is Colleen Boyer, the president of Lacrosse. Boyer was an undergraduate at Delgado Community College in the 1980s when she met the college's then-president, Harry Boyer. The two were married in 1990...
    Another player on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Natalie Handy, first surfaced during a 1996 Justice Department crackdown on the now-defunct LaSalle University, a Mandeville distance-learning scam run by her husband, Thomas Kirk. Handy was not charged in that case, but Kirk pleaded guilty to wire fraud, credit card fraud and tax evasion...
    A few places that meet all or most of [the CHEA's list oif traits typical of a diploma mill]-- Lacrosse, Columbus and American World universities among them, all of which were once based in Louisiana -- now have their headquarters between Picayune and Pascagoula. All of them are currently or were at one time accredited by the World Association of Universities and Colleges, an organization based in Nevada and operated by Maxine Asher, the doyenne of distance learning schools and American World's president. The association is not among the six accreditation services recognized by the U.S. Department of Education...
    However shaky the credentials of the distance-learning schools operating in and around Louisiana, no Louisiana laws appear to have been broken. There is no law dictating where university administrators and owners must live, and it's almost impossible to prove that the work associated with running such a school and mailing diplomas is handled in one spot rather than another...
    Also unclear is how serious Mississippi is about overseeing the operations in the shadowy but lucrative niche of the education market...

  • New law targets diploma mills, Joan Barron, Casper, Wyoming Star-Tribune, July 28, 2004.
    CHEYENNE -- The e-mail ad makes it sound so easy. "Obtain diploma, degree, masters. No tests, study, course work or interviews required. Discrete and affordable. Everyone eligible."
    So reads a bona fide e-mail ad from a bona fide diploma mill.
    These operations will have a harder time escaping regulation in Wyoming as the result of a new law that went into effect July 1.
    It limits the post-secondary degree-granting authority of non-accredited institutions that have a religious exemption from the state Department of Education.
    To keep that exemption, the schools must offer only degrees in their religious or theological subject area and can no longer grant secular degrees, like in history or computer science.
    The schools also must submit each year to the Department of Education proof they are a nonprofit religious organization for the purpose of federal taxes.
    Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, who cosponsored the bill in last winter's legislative session, said at the time that it was prompted by questions raised over Hamilton University, headquartered in Evanston and affiliated with the Faith in the Order of Nature Fellowship Church, also in Evanston.
    Hamilton has been operating under a religious exemption from the state Department of Education.
    The Hamilton University officials have suspended the degree granting operations until they decide how to proceed under the new state law, the school's attorney, Tim Kingston of Cheyenne, said Tuesday.
    Last year the General Accounting Office (GAO) investigated the educational credentials of a Hamilton University graduate and senior career employee in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
    The employee, Paula L. Callahan, who was placed on administrative leave pending the agency probe, received her bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in computer information systems from Hamilton...
    Hamilton was one of eight schools with religious exemptions on the original list forwarded to Attorney General Pat Crank, who will enforce the new law.
    Two of the eight were off the list as of Tuesday, said Deborah Hinckley, director of communications for the state Department of Education.
    The Kingdom College of Natural Health moved elsewhere. St. Katharine's Institute is no longer active, she said.
    The remaining religious exempt schools on the department's list include Albin Baptist Church; Arizona A&M; Bridgefield University, headquartered in Las Vegas, Nev.; Global Church of God, headquartered in Derby, United Kingdom; Hamilton University in Evanston; and Healing Light Ministries...

  • Chronicle of Higher Education "Inside the World of Diploma Mills: A Special Report," June 25, 2004. (The following articles require a Chronicle subscription.)
    1. Inside the Multimillion-Dollar World of Diploma Mills: The business is booming like never before, and some of its customers are college professors, Thomas Bartlett and Scott Smallwood.
      The college degrees sold by diploma mills require no learning, but they turn out to be worth millions to the people who relentlessly promote them... By some estimates, diploma mills, as the purveyors of such degrees are often called, generate a half-billion dollars in revenue each year. Pinning down precise numbers is next to impossible, but selling degrees is clearly big business. In the late 1990s, one diploma mill, Columbia State University, raked in a million dollars a month before its owner was caught and jailed for fraud. An international diploma-mill ring that was the target of an investigation last year by the Federal Trade Commission is thought to have earned more than $100-million over several years...
    2. Psst. Wanna Buy a Ph.D.? Some professors have dubious doctorates, other professors sell them, and colleges often look the other way, Thomas Bartlett and Scott Smallwood.
      For enough money but little or no work, you can buy a Ph.D. to add to your name. Plenty of academics have done so, and some have even set up their own offshore universities... It was a revelation rich in irony: A member of a college accreditation board holds a Ph.D. from a "university" that sells doctorates to anyone with $1,500. This year The Chronicle reported that Michael Davis, a member of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, received his doctorate from Saint Regis University, which claims recognition from the government of war-torn Liberia and requires little, if any, academic work. He has since been booted from the board...
      It turns out there are plenty of others like Mr. Davis, at all levels of higher education: A wrestling coach in Wisconsin. A librarian in Texas. An assistant dean at a Baptist university. Not to mention dozens of professors who hold degrees from unaccredited colleges, some of which require nothing more than a credit-card number and a mailing address.
      And those are just the ones who can be found in the nooks and crannies of the Internet. Their true numbers are anybody's guess, although considering that unaccredited institutions rake in hundreds of millions of dollars each year, it's safe to say the problem isn't small.
    3. A Small World, Thomas Bartlett and Scott Smallwood.
      Rarely is running an unaccredited college a game of solitaire. Most owners of such institutions operate within at least a small cluster of colleagues... The "family tree" in this graphic provides a look at another cluster of operators, suggesting that the world of unuaccredited higher education is indeed a cozy one.
    4. Maxine Asher Has a Degree for You: Of course her university is accredited. She did it herself, Scott Smallwood.
      Maxine Asher wanted her American World University to carry the imprimatur of an accrediting agency. So she started an association of like-minded entrepreneurs to offer recognition to themselves... In a posh apartment building in the Westwood neighborhood here, a fax machine hums behind the front desk, spitting out pages on distinctive green paper.
      No one would guess that it's the hub of American World University, an unaccredited institution with more than 7,000 students around the globe...
      If American World were all that Ms. Asher ran, she would be an interesting bit player in her industry. But in 1993 she founded the World Association of Universities and Colleges, an accrediting service unrecognized by the U.S. Department of Education, that gives its imprimatur to a host of alternative institutions. Almost every day Columbus University and Lacrosse University, both of which are considered diploma mills by some government regulators, advertise in the back pages of USA Today. In bold type, they tout their accreditation from the association. That makes Ms. Asher a central figure in the shadowy world of unaccredited higher education...
    5. The Hypnotist Who Married Lana Turner, Thomas Bartlett.
      The man who operated what may well have been the most profitable diploma mill in the United States is in jail for fraud... In its heyday, Columbia State was the boldest and perhaps most profitable diploma mill in the United States. By one estimate it earned more than $70-million during the 1990s. A former employee says the university often made a million dollars per month selling degrees by placing advertisements in USA Today and other newspapers. With only a handful of employees working in rented office space, its costs were low and profits high.
      The catalog says the university's founder is Austen Henry Layard. That's not true: Austen Henry Layard, a British archaeologist, died a century before Columbia State opened. In fact, nearly everything about Columbia State is a lie. The bogus testimonials from students, the nonexistent curriculum -- even the photograph on the cover of the catalog is deceptive. The lovely Gothic building pictured is the Lyndhurst mansion, in Tarrytown, N.Y., and has nothing to do with Columbia State...
      At the moment, [Columbia State founder] Mr. Pellar is in a prison cell in Los Angeles, serving an eight-month sentence for mail fraud related to Columbia State. He is among the very few diploma-mill operators who have spent time in jail for running fraudulent institutions. And it was another scheme, not his multimillion-dollar degree business, that first attracted the attention of federal authorities. If not for that, Columbia State might still be in business, and Mr. Pellar might still be living on his $1.5-million yacht off the coast of Mexico.
    6. The University of Spam: In the latest generation of diploma mills, nothing is real except for the money, Thomas Bartlett.
      Using barrages of e-mail messages, an American couple sold fake degrees to people all over the world -- and, despite government action, the e-mailings just keep coming... The granddaddy of such operations is the University Degree Program, which began operating in the mid-1990s. It offered diplomas from bogus institutions with names like the University of Wexford, Shelbourne University, and the University of Palmers Green. Last year, after an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, its owners turned over $100,000 in profits and promised to stay out of the degree-selling business.
      But the e-mailing hasn't stopped. The call centers haven't closed. And the money hasn't stopped flowing. If anything, the business has grown.
      This is a look at an international diploma-mill company that has customers and offices around the world. The story comes from interviews with insiders and investigators, who described how the University Degree Program, owned by an American couple, sold tens of thousands of fake degrees from its call centers in Israel and Romania. It also comes from court records, previously unreleased documents from the FTC, and interviews with those who have followed the rise of the company and those it spawned.
      The Chronicle also tracked down one of its reclusive owners, a mother of four who has a Ph.D. in mathematics and lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. She is among those who, according to insiders and investigators, helped transform the diploma-mill business from an old-fashioned scam into a well-oiled industry...
      The University Degree Program was owned by Jason and Caroline Abraham, an American couple who usually go by the Hebrew names Yaakov and Chaya Rochel. Ms. Abraham, who earned a doctorate in mathematics from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1979, ran the Jerusalem office. She was the one who decided who got fired, although she didn't usually do the firing herself. Aaron describes her as quiet with a good sense of humor. The employees liked her, he says.
      They didn't feel the same way about her husband. Mr. Abraham, described as short and pudgy, with a long, white beard, "looked like Santa," Aaron says, "until he opened his mouth. Then everyone was afraid of him." Mr. Abraham was loud and volatile. "He is a scary man," says Aaron, who remains frightened of his former boss, which is why he asked that his real name be withheld...
    7. Tilting at Diploma Mills, Scott Smallwood.
      A small but diverse group of people -- including a former FBI agent, a state-government official, a physics professor, and the former president of an unaccredited university -- has chosen to do battle with diploma mills... They're not quite the X-Men, but the small group of people doing battle with diploma mills might have come out of central casting. One is a former FBI agent. Another is a government bureaucrat. There's the former president of an unaccredited university. And there's the physics professor who is devoted to stamping out fake degrees.
      They've even given themselves a name and a logo right out of the comic books: the Carpmasters. (Get it? They're fishing for bottom-feeding pests.)
      Because no coordinated government effort exists to combat diploma mills, these compatriots have become the go-to experts on the subject. They meet occasionally, but generally they coordinate their investigations through phone calls and e-mail messages...
    8. What's a Diploma Mill? Thomas Bartlett and Scott Smallwood.
      While there is no single definition for a diploma mill, warning signs abound... The Council for Higher Education Accreditation, a private group that represents more than 60 accrediting agencies, says that while there is no single, agreed-upon definition, several indicators suggest that an operation may be a diploma mill: for instance, giving degrees for life experience, listing no faculty members, and claiming accreditation from a questionable accreditor...
    9. 'Let Me Be Honest With You ... ' Thomas Bartlett and Scott Smallwood.
      Excerpts from a telemarketing script used by the University Degree Program, which sold diplomas under phony university names, display both the soft and the hard sell...

  • Fee for Certificate, Christopher Byron, New York Post (online edition), June 7, 2004.
    A plague of fishy sheepskins is spreading through Corporate America. That's the startling finding from a Post investigation that has uncovered more than 80 public companies in which members of the brass have dressed up their resumes with degrees from so-called diploma mill universities...
    The Post investigation, based on a computerized search of filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, uncovered 15 different chairmen and CEOs, 29 corporate board members and 40 other top officials of public companies who have burnished their resumes with diplomas and degrees from Barrington U. and 17 similar operations.
    Though they bear tweedy names like Columbia State University and Kensington University, none are recognized as authentic institutions of higher learning by any legitimate U.S. accrediting body.
    Yet business is booming anyway, because actually providing an education is not the point of these outfits. Their real purpose is merely to provide the sort of convincing-looking credentials that help someone pretend to be a graduate of a prestigious institution of higher learning...
    The father/son team that founded Barrington, Robert and Steven Bettinger, have had run-ins with regulators for nearly a decade. Depending upon which SEC filing one relies on, Barrington itself was founded either in 1991 or 1993. In either case, the two Bettingers were fined by the State of Vermont in 1995 for deceptively advertising that Barrington was an "internationally accredited" institution whose degrees could boost a graduate's lifetime earnings by more than $1 million...

  • No place for bogus degrees, Kay Coles James (director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management), FCW.COM, June 7, 2004.
    ...Students complete little or no course work to receive diploma mill degrees or certificates. Often these institutions award degrees completely based on a so-called assessment of students' life experiences, translating those events into fraudulent transcripts and giving a false impression of a structured curriculum. Some organizations simply sell counterfeit degrees for cash. OPM's position is clear: There is no place in federal employment for degrees or credentials from diploma mills. Individuals may not use bogus degrees to qualify for federal jobs or promotions; agencies may not send employees to diploma mills for degree training or other forms of education; and agencies may not reimburse employees for tuition or repay their student loans if the training came from a diploma mill...

  • Degree still being studied, Tom Willard, The Daily Tribune (Michigan), May 24, 2004.
    MADISON HEIGHTS - An attorney's probe is proceeding into the validity of Madison Schools Superintendent Steve Johnson's doctorate degree and whether it was a factor in any pay raises... Questions concerning Johnson's education have swirled since Trustee DiAnne Cagle Leitermann announced at a May 3 board meeting that she could not verify the Ph.D Johnson claimed he received from LaSalle University in 1996, shortly after he was hired as district chief.
    Johnson refused to say where the school was located but revealed at a special board meeting one week later that his Doctor of Philosophy in Education degree was from the now-defunct LaSalle University in Mandeville, La.
    A mail-order correspondence school that was shut down following a joint Federal task force investigation in 1996, LaSalle was identified as a "diploma mill" - an unaccredited school that offers degrees in exchange for little or no work.

  • 'Diploma mill' grads slip into schools: State fails to crack down on teachers with flimsy degrees, Katherine Morales, The Dallas Morning News, May 20, 2004. (Requires free login.)
    At least three districts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have teachers on their payrolls with master's degrees from places never accredited in Texas. "Sometimes people look for an easy way out," said Marshall Hill, assistant commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
    And they're not isolated incidents.
    According to the State Board for Educator Certification, a handful of cases involving substandard degrees and altered transcripts trickle in each year.
    "Allegations like this fall under fraudulent reimbursement, expenses or pay," said Lisa Patterson, director of the professional discipline unit at the certification board...
    "Anyone with a lick of sense can tell pretty soon whether or not they're in an educationally sound program or in one that is not," Dr. Hill said.
    Coppell, Lewisville and the Hurst-Euless Bedford districts have teachers on staff with degrees from Crescent City Christian College – a house in Metairie, La.
    Tommy Thomas, head boys basketball coach at The Colony High School in the Lewisville district, presented a master's degree from the now-defunct college.
    The college was never accredited in Texas or by any regional or national accrediting board. The Louisiana Board of Regents didn't recognize the school either.
    Peggy Nabors, a field representative for the Arkansas Education Association, said she remembered the name of one of the men who founded Crescent City Christian, Dwaine Roark. She said he was involved in at least one other diploma mill operating out of Louisiana in the late 1980s.

  • OPM ends diploma mill acceptance, Judi Hasson, FCS.COM, May 14, 2004.
    The Office of Personnel Management pulled the plug Thursday on using credentials from so-called diploma mills to qualify for a federal job and cut off tuition reimbursements to federal workers who take courses from those unaccredited institutions. In a strongly worded memo to federal managers, OPM Director Kay Coles James established a clear policy against using credentials from unaccredited institutions to get a job, a raise or reimbursement from the federal government for taking courses...

  • Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs hearings, Senator Susan Collins, chair (May 11-12, 2004).

  • Senators Call for a Crackdown on Diploma Mills, Dan Carnevale, The Chronicle of Higher Education (requires subscription), May 12, 2004.
    A federal investigation has found that at least 64 government employees have spent at least $170,000 in taxpayer money for degrees from questionable institutions, prompting members of Congress to call for a crackdown on online diploma mills... At a hearing on Tuesday of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, Sen. Susan M. Collins said she was working to step up coordination with states to shut down shady institutions. Ms. Collins, a Maine Republican who is chairwoman of the committee, also wants Congress to close the loophole though which some government employees have used federal tax dollars to pay for courses at unaccredited institutions...

  • US report pins down bogus degrees, BBC News UK Edition, May 11, 2004.
    It may not be quite Homer Simpson in the hot chair but some key US nuclear staff could be less qualified than they seem, a congressional report has found. Investigators have established that 28 top federal employees including nuclear monitors possess bogus college degrees and the phenomenon may be much bigger...

  • Degrees of Deception, Sandra Chapman, WTHR TV, Indianapolis, May 10, 2004.
    Eight hundred workers at the Indianapolis Chrysler Foundry are on notice: come 2007, work here will cease. The foundry is phasing out operations and shutting down... But the Chrysler Corporation is giving its employees reason to reconsider school. The company offers workers up to $4,600 a year in tuition assistance. The only requirement: that the courses are from an accredited institution.
    And workers are taking advantage of the benefit by the dozen. More than 70 signed up for a school called St. Regis University, an online program based in Liberia, West Africa. Unlike traditional college students, these workers have gotten their degrees on the Internet and without taking classes.
    Chrysler, with the help of the local UAW, promoted and paid for the St. Regis program. With 76 employees enrolled, that's a minimum of $42-thousand dollars. But when Eyewitness News checked into St. Regis, we found some troubling practices that raise questions about the validity of the school...
    We decided to put the school to the test. A WTHR administrative assistant with a high school diploma and two years of general studies courses clicked onto the St. Regis University fast track for a $99 evaluation. On her application, she provided general job descriptions but no employment dates or other specifics.
    No problem – the fast track is just that. Within 30 minutes, she received an e-mail response with authorization for two bachelor's degrees and four certificates. All St. Regis wanted was a payment of $895.
    That's right. At St. Regis, you can get a bachelor's degree for $895, a masters degree for nearly $1,000 – even a doctorate for $1,500.
    In this case, once our payment was processed, we received proofs of official documents, including a bogus transcript that gave her high grades for classes she never took. Her grade point average – 3.35...

  • Follow-up stories on WTHR:
    • Degrees of Deception, part II, Sandra Chapman, WTHR TV, Indianapolis, May 11, 2004. (Scroll down the page to "Part Two.")
      Seventy-six Chrysler employees enrolled in an Internet college degree program offered by St. Regis University back in February. In June they graduate. But they didn't attend classes or complete course work. Instead, the credentials are based on work experience and the amount Chrysler was willing to pay. In this instance, 76 employees would cost a minimum of $42,000 for associates, bachelor's and even doctorate degrees... "Everyone I've spoken with told me that they were getting a degree in such and such," he [an unnamed Chrysler "insider"] said. "And I said, why did you get that degree and they said, well they told me I was qualified for a couple – pick whichever one I wanted."
      But what does a St. Regis University degree really represent?
      We went to a conference of college credential experts in Las Vegas, where exposing fraudulent diploma operations was on the agenda. At the top of the list: St. Regis University.
      "St. Regis University is not a recognized institution," said Dale Gough of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers – one organization St. Regis claims approval from.
      Gough, who trains educators how to spot fraudulent credentials, said St. Regis is a farce that has no credibility in the United States...
    • Chrysler workers face St. Regis administrators, Sandra Chapman, WTHR TV, Indianapolis, June 2, 2004.
      The St. Regis operation is the same school the Indianapolis Chrysler foundry payed more than $50,000 to for various employee degrees. But after an Eyewitness News investigation into St. Regis last month, Chrysler said, no more, and St. Regis is feeling the heat.
      Eyewitness News caught up with two faces behind the program called to town to face questioning from employees at the Local Autoworkers 550 Union Hall.
      Robert Stefaniak of St. Regis watched the Eyewitness News report and said the Chrysler employees should not have been awared St. Regis degrees...
      If it's for future employment, a word of warning from St. Regis itself, "We caution them to look into it if that's the reason," says Ishaq Shafiq of St. Regis...

  • Dubious Degrees: A CBS 2 Special Assignment Report with David Goldstein, David Goldstein, KCBS TV, Los Angeles, May 5, 2004.
    In our four-month investigation, we found people from all walks of life using these degrees. Attorneys, nurses, enlisted personnel with top-secret clearances. And even doctors. This is Dr. Maxwell Cotter. He runs a hearing clinic in Burbank and is a licensed hearing aid dispenser.
    "Are you a medical doctor?"
    "Yeah, MD."
    "Where did you go to school?"
    "Pacific Basin University."
    When we asked Candis Cohen of the California Medical Board if Pacific Basin University is recognized as a medical school in California, she said no.
    "No, it is not."
    She said they don't accept degrees from Pacific Basin. And Cotter isn't a licensed MD in California, and can't call himself one. But he disagrees.
    "To call yourself an MD is freedom of speech because I am an MD. I have completed all the medical training. I am a fully licensed MD in Micronesia, of course."
    That's right. Micronesia -- not California. But Cotter claims he doesn't practice medicine.
    He also has a second degree -- PhD from Pacific Western University in Los Angeles -- an unaccredited school.

  • Dr. Susan Collins, John McCaslin,, May 6, 2004.
    Not long ago, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) asked the General Accounting Office to investigate how easy it is to purchase a bogus college degree from a so-called "diploma mill." Not a problem.
    In no time, the GAO purchased not one, but two phony degrees in Collins' name - a bachelor of science degree in biology and a master of science degree in medical technology.
    The concerned chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee next week will hold two days of hearings to examine whether senior bureaucrats, many here in Washington, not only purchased bogus degrees, but used taxpayer dollars to do so...

  • US teachers buying fake degrees in order to qualify for a pay rise, David Usborne, The Independent (, May 6, 2004.
    Concern is mounting about an apparently growing group of teachers who are essentially buying degrees, usually over the internet, from institutions which pose as bona fide universities but often are anything but. They do it because the higher their qualifications, the higher the salaries they can expect... Part of what is driving the fraud is a new initiative from the Bush White House. Called "Leave no Child Behind", it will require teachers to demonstrate advanced educational credentials in the subjects they specialise in. It comes into effect in 2006, leaving some teachers scrambling to comply.

  • Educators' Degrees Earned On Internet Raise Fraud Issues , Andrew Trotter, Education Week, May 5, 2004.
    Small firms known as "credential evaluators" help states and school districts detect educators who present phony or flimsy academic credentials from overseas institutions--a safeguard that is becoming more important with the growth of online education. But experts say the little-known credential-evaluation industry may itself be vulnerable to unethical operators, judging from a recent credentials scandal in Georgia...
    ...last year, the Georgia officials accepted those credentials [from Saint Regis University] because of letters they received from a credential evaluator, Career Consultants International, of Sunrise, Fla. CCI said the credentials were equal to those from a regionally accredited U.S. university.
    The officials now suspect that CCI was not giving independent evaluations, according to the commission's executive secretary, F.D. Toth...
    Sheila Danzig said in an interview last month that she runs CCI under the business name of Elizabeth or Liz Ross.
    Ms. Danzig described a relationship with Saint Regis that throws into question the company's objectivity as an evaluator of credentials.
    She said her company receives a fee, paid by Saint Regis, every time CCI evaluates the academic credentials of one of its students. She also said she was a paid consultant to Saint Regis as recently as two years ago...

  • Follow-up articles in Education Week:
    • Evaluator Reverses Position On Degrees From Saint Regis (Andrew Trotter, May 19, 2004)
      Ms. Danzig has acknowledged having financial ties to Saint Regis, which is said to be based in Liberia but appears to be run from the U.S. ("Educators' Degrees Earned on Internet Raise Fraud Issues," May 5, 2004.) Others in the credential-evaluation field say those ties constituted a breach of professionalism and a conflict of interest. In a May 6 e-mail sent to Education Week, Ms. Danzig said she would no longer rate Saint Regis degrees as equivalent to degrees from accredited U.S. institutions...
      Lawrence S. Bestman, the executive director of the Liberian Higher Education Commission, located in Monrovia, the nation's capital, said in a telephone interview that "after thorough investigation," Saint Regis had been accredited last fall.
      Yet some diploma mill experts in the United States have suggested that the political turmoil that persists in Liberia following a civil war has allowed corruption in many areas of government. They advise great caution in weighing a Liberian seal of approval.
      Another reaction came from Saint Regis University itself, which announced last week that, because of criticism in the news media, it would begin "outsourcing" its admissions process for U.S.-based students and its online test for course credit to unspecified organizations in the United States.

  • Some Using Fake Degrees to Get Pay Raises, Louise Chu, Associated Press (, May 4, 2004.
    A middle-school math teacher in Georgia's Gwinnett County received a $16,000 pay raise last fall when she submitted papers showing she had earned a doctorate from Saint Regis University. While it sounds prestigious, Saint Regis is considered a diploma mill, an institution that sells college degrees for little or no coursework. In one of the nation's biggest scandals of its kind, 11 Georgia educators were caught holding advanced degrees from Liberia-based Saint Regis after the state checked the records of its 130,000 teachers this spring...
    Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is heading a congressional investigation into the problem among federal employees. The General Accounting Office later this month is expected to issue a report showing the extent of the problem. Meanwhile, federal education officials are compiling a list of accredited institutions that can be used to weed out diploma mills.
    Using a bogus degree to get a job or promotion is illegal only in Oregon, New Jersey, Indiana, Illinois, North Dakota and Nevada, where it is a misdemeanor mainly punishable by fines ranging from $350 to $2,500. But violators rarely face prosecution.
    "Our goal is not really to punish people; our goal is to get bogus degrees out of circulation," said Alan Contreras, an administrator at the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization, which maintains on its Web site one of the few lists of suspected diploma mills...

  • OPM wants to blow the whistle on diploma mills, Judi Hasson, Federal Computer Week (, May 3, 2004.
    The Office of Personnel Management is toughening background checks of potential government employees and their educations following a scandal involving a high-level federal employee and phony degrees from diploma mills... The agency's move comes when the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee is investigating the ease of getting fake credentials. The panel has scheduled hearings May 11 and 12 to look into the issue and to receive a General Accounting Office report on how extensively federal employees use diploma mills...
    "It's clear we need some form of national standard; it's just not yet clear what that standard would look like," said David Marin, spokesman for the House Government Reform Committee, which is also working on the problem.

  • Diploma mills lure troops with promise of credits for 'life skills', Seth Robson, Stars and Stripes, April 25, 2004.
    Military education officials are warning servicemembers to avoid bogus education Web sites that already have cheated soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan out of thousands of dollars... Many education Web sites are "degree mills" -- bogus universities that, for a few hundred dollars, will grant a person a degree, he said. Usually, the qualification is based on work experience or "life skills" and doesn't require the applicant to study or pass tests...
    [Area I education services officer James] Campbell said one academic institution that has been exploiting servicemembers is Trinity College & University in Metairie, La. "Although there are legitimate Trinity academic institutions, this is not one of them."

  • Callahan resigns from Homeland Security Department, Wilson P. Dizard III, Government Computer News (, March 26, 2004.
    Laura Callahan, former senior director in the Homeland Security Department's CIO office, resigned from the department today. Callahan had been on administrative leave with pay since last June, after a GCN investigation revealed that she had three questionable degrees from a diploma mill in Wyoming... Callahan's degrees were from Hamilton University in Evanston, Wyo., which operates out of a refurbished motel...

  • Member of Accrediting Group Claims Degree From Institution Known as a Diploma Mill, Thomas Bartlett, The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 24, 2004 (requires subscription).
    A member of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, which accredits approximately 600 private career-training institutions, claims a doctorate from a distance-learning institution based in Liberia that one state official called "a notorious diploma mill..".. Alan Contreras, administrator of the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization, said there was no doubt that Saint Regis is bogus. In fact, Mr. Contreras refused to use the word "university" to describe it. "The entity called Saint Regis University is a notorious diploma mill that pretends to have approval from the government of Liberia but appears to be operated by people in the United States," said Mr. Contreras...
    An official at the Liberian Embassy in Washington said that, indeed, Saint Regis was accredited in that country. Paul Smith, who identified himself as an "officer" with the embassy, said he could offer no further details about what such accreditation would entail...
    A telephone call to Saint Regis's headquarters in Monrovia was answered by Jallah Faciann, who said he was the institution's dean of studies. He said Saint Regis was fully accredited and was not a diploma mill. Mr. Faciann... said that Saint Regis has been unfairly maligned and does not sell degrees.
    But an investigation by a reporter for the Gwinnett Daily Post, in Georgia, seems to contradict Mr. Faciann's assertion. The reporter, Jaime Sarrio, was looking into claims made by the six public-school teachers with Saint Regis degrees, and was able to purchase a master's degree from Saint Regis for $995 after completing a multiple-choice test online...

  • Bogus degrees land teachers in woodshed, D. Aileen Dodd, Atlanta, Georgia Journal-Constitution, March 20, 2004.
    A state investigation found Friday that 10 Georgia educators -- six from Gwinnett and four from other counties -- have bought bogus advanced degrees from an online university based in Liberia... Georgia recognized degrees from St. Regis, because it was affiliated with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers [AACRAO], a nonprofit voluntary organization that includes a foreign education credential service.
    But officials with the American Association of College Registrars and Admission Officers, said they offer membership to anyone who pays...
    The organization's evaluation of the group, "says it's a diploma mill," said Dale Gough, director of international education services with the association. Gough said if Georgia officials had called his association about St. Regis, he would have told them, as he has told other states, that St. Regis was a diploma mill...
    Saint Regis set up its own "phony" operations to do the [credential equivalency] verifications, Gough said.
    The PSC [Georgia Professional Standards Commission] has informed the teachers their upgraded certification has been recalled, and they also face sanctions if a PSC ethics board finds they bought a degree they knew they didn't earn. Individual school systems, including Gwinnett Schools, may also investigate their teachers...

  • Follow-up articles in the Atlanta, Georgia Journal-Constitution:

  • Teachers buy degrees, hike pay, Jaime Sarrio, Gwinnett, Georgia Daily Post, March 19, 2004.
    A Gwinnett Daily Post investigation found several educators in Georgia are earning extra pay thanks to master's and doctorate degrees purchased from Internet "diploma mills..".. After reviewing St. Regis University, the school which issued the diplomas, the commission decided to recall the certification granted to these five Gwinnett County teachers, Toth said...
    "To me, it is an ethical issue," he said. "Our 18-member committee will have to decide. My guess is it will be determined unprofessional conduct and sanctions (would be taken)." For those in Gwinnett, criminal charges are possible as well. District Attorney Danny Porter said depending on state law, the teachers could be prosecuted for theft by deception.

  • Follow-up articles in the Gwinnett, Georgia Daily Post:
    • How I earned my master's degree (Jaime Sarrio, March 21, 2004)
    • Those with fake degrees should be taught a lesson (editorial, March 21, 2004)
    • Diploma mills a problem nationwide (Jaime Sarrio, March 21, 2004)
    • More named in Internet degree scam (Jaime Sarrio, March 20, 2004)
    • GAE offers legal aid to teachers (Jaime Sarrio, March 27, 2004)
    • Genuine online degrees popular (Jaime Sarrio, March 28, 2004)
    • Georgia to set rules for degrees (Jaime Sarrio, March 31, 2004)
      F.D. Toth, executive secretary for the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, Tuesday said the state would require teachers to use predesignated "foreign credential review agencies" to determine if college credit from offshore universities is equivalent to U.S. course work. Until about two weeks ago, the commission allowed teachers to select from any agency under the umbrella of four state-recognized credential evaluation services. But that method caused the state to overlook and accept at least 11 degrees from Saint Regis, a school that grants degrees for "life experience" and with little course work, Toth said...
      Last weekend in Atlanta, Toth shared Georgia's Saint Regis story with certification officials from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina and Florida. Toth said most states use a similar method for evaluating foreign credentials.
      "They essentially said that they were using the same people, and that they would have to go in Monday and start checking files," he said. "I can't believe this happened just in Georgia, since all of these states were using the same criteria we were using."
    • Six teachers resign over degrees (Jaime Sarrio, April 1, 2004)
    • PSC opts to query teachers (Jaime Sarrio, April 17, 2004)
    • Ethics panel: Pull teacher licenses (Jaime Sarrio, July 8, 2004)
      A state ethics committee wants to yank the teaching certificates of 11 educators who bought bogus degrees over the Internet. The degrees came from Saint Regis University, a Liberian-based school that grants degrees for little course work and offers class credit for "life experiences." State officials believe the school is a diploma mill -- a Web scam that poses as a college -- and no longer honors the degrees. Wednesday, members of the Professional Standards Commission Educator Ethics Recommendation Commission went one step further, saying the teachers knew the degrees were fake when they accepted a boost in pay.
      "In my heart, I know every single one of them knew what they were doing," said committee member Terri DeLoach. "They took money (in the form of higher salaries) ... and they did it by misrepresenting the facts, and knowing of it the entire time."
      With a 7-to-1 vote, the committee recommended the licenses of all 11 teachers be revoked. The suggestion will not be finalized unless it is approved today by the 15-member Professional Standards Commission...

  • Operator of Orange County 'Diploma Mill' to Plead Guilty to Mail Fraud Charges, U.S. Department of Justice, Los Angeles, January 12, 2004.
    The former owner and operator of an Orange County-based correspondence school called Columbia State University has agreed to plead guilty to all nine counts of mail fraud that were alleged against him by a federal grand jury last year. Ronald Pellar, 75, is scheduled to plead guilty to the nine felony counts at 2:30 this afternoon in United States District Court in Santa Ana. Pellar is expected to plead guilty pursuant to a plea agreement, which was filed Friday afternoon and which outlines a scheme in which Pellar ran a "diploma mill" that offered academic degrees from the non-existent Columbia State University (CSU).

  • Online college controversy features a link to Liberia, Steve Orr and Gary Craig, Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle, December 21, 2003.
    The controversy over whether some online learning institutions are disreputable "diploma mills" has even stretched to Liberia -- and has connections with an Irondequoit man...

  • Online college checked further, Steve Orr and Gary Craig, Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle, December 21, 2003.
    New York state officials say they are continuing to investigate the online International College of Homeland Security, which was based in Rochester until ordered to cease operations by the state...

  • N.Y. third state to question Irondequoit man's online diplomas, Steve Orr and Gary Craig, Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle, December 6, 2003.
    Until a few days ago, the International College of Homeland Security was Rochester's newest institution of higher learning...

  • Diploma mills cast a shadow over valid distance learning, Steve Orr and Gary Craig, Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle, December 6, 2003.
    Distance-learning programs are offered by many legitimate institutions and are growing fast as more colleges offer Internet-based studies. It is when a distance-learning institution is not properly accredited that would-be scholars should be suspicious, said Gregory Ashe, a senior staff attorney with the Federal Trade Commission in Washington...

  • Hoyer's Internet Enterprises , Steve Orr and Gary Craig, Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle, December 5, 2003.
    Irondequoit resident Richard J. Hoyer, a veteran of Internet-based distance-learning programs, is president of the International College of Homeland Security. The college, which used a local address, has been ordered to cease operations in New York by the state Department of Education...

  • Spokane a 'hot spot' for dubious degrees, Bill Morlin, Spokane, WA Spokesman-Review, November 30, 2003. (requires free login)
    Liberty Prep doesn't look much like a high school. The online school uses an address south of Hillyard -- a pinkish house that recently had an overflowing garbage can and a broken-down speedboat in the front yard.
    Its Web site looks almost identical to that of Branford Academy, another Spokane-based operation. Until recently, Branford's address was a building in Mead where mobile homes are sold.
    Liberty Prep and Branford Academy offer high school degrees for $286 -- even promising to throw in a tassel. They also both sell a two-year community college degree for $661.
    The two "high schools" operate on the Internet with links to either St. Regis University and Robertstown University. For a price, those cyberspace operations sell bachelor's, master's or doctorate degrees...
    Dixie Randock, a former Spokane real estage agent, was listed as the registrant of Branford Academy and a related school, James Monroe University, until last week...

  • Online school founder got his degrees on Web, Bill Morlin, Spokane, WA Spokesman-Review, December 5, 2003. (requires free login)
    The founder and principal of an online school in Yakima, named after a late astronaut, got his two advanced degrees from what experts describe as a "diploma mill..."

  • Illinois Professor Shuts Down His Web Site on 'Diploma Mills' , Andrea Foster, Chronicle of Higher Education, october 24, 2003. (may require a login)
    Under pressure from administrators at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a tenured physics professor has shut down a Web site he created to make information available about the unaccredited distance-learning institutions often referred to as "diploma mills." The professor, George Gollin, said administrators ordered him to remove the material from the university server last month because proprietors of some of the online institutions mentioned on his site had threatened to sue the university. The administrators told him that his research into the controversial institutions did not meet the "public service" obligation for faculty members of land-grant universities, he said.
    Visitors to Mr. Gollin's former site are now redirected to the State of Oregon's Office of Degree Authorization site ( The Oregon agency and the North Dakota Department of Career and Technical Education are planning to put the material that he gathered on their own Web sites.
    Mr. Gollin said he agreed to shut down his Web site after meeting with the administrators, including David L. Swanson, associate provost, and Mark Henss, university counsel. Both men declined to comment.
    But Robin Kaler, a spokeswoman for the university, denied that Illinois had ordered the professor to remove the material. "We were trying to help him find a more appropriate place for his Web site," she said, adding that a Web site about diploma mills should be "housed in a place that deals with accreditation."
    Not Community Service
    The university did not view Mr. Gollin's research into diploma mills as meeting the institution's public-service requirement, Ms. Kaler said, because the work is not related to physics, his area of expertise. "He has a lot to offer the community and the world outside of his discipline," she said. "But for the university support he receives, it's for his work in his discipline."
    Mr. Gollin said his research into the unaccredited institutions "is a perfect example of the kind of stuff that is public service." It's for the general good and, he said, he's using his knowledge in information technology to investigate the institutions.
    Among the institutions that had complained to the university about material on Mr. Gollin's Web site were James Monroe, Robertstown, and St. Regis Universities, all of which operate from Liberia, and American Coastline University, which is based in Metairie, La. American Coastline threatened to sue Mr. Gollin. The institutions accused him of making inaccurate statements about them that were harmful to their businesses, saying misleading things about Liberia and its ministry of education, and of violating the institutions' copyrights by pasting material from their sites to Mr. Gollin's site on the university server.
    American Coastline declined to comment, saying the issue is in litigation. Representatives of the other institutions could not be reached. None of the institutions has been accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
    Mr. Gollin said he has done exhaustive research on these and other online institutions. His findings were detailed on his Web site, which totaled 109 pages of printed material. Alan Contreras, administrator for the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization, called the professor's work "superb."
    "We think it's a very helpful consumer-protection tool," he said.
    Mr. Gollin has spoken on CNN about St. Regis, and gave a talk this year at Urbana-Champaign titled "Sources of Unconventional University Diplomas from Online Vendors."
    Note: the operators of St. Regis, James Monroe, and Robertstown pled guilty to U.S. federal criminal charges relating to these activities in 2006, 2007, and 2008. The American Coastline web site ceased to exist in 2007.

  • Schoolhouse crock: Injunction-junction, what's compunction? Illegal in many states, diploma mills provide all the degrees with none of the work., Jim Di Paola, Palm Beach, FL City Link, October 15, 2003.
    ...Some diploma mills offer students a degree in the field of their choice in exchange for a few hundred dollars and a letter explaining their so-called "life experience." For an additional fee, a student can receive the honorary distinction of magna cum laude, and use a "transcript verification service" that will confirm he or she attended the school, complete with phony class schedules and grades. At some schools, even the graduation date is negotiable, allowing students the option to backdate their degrees... "No Books. No Courses. No Studying. Degrees Based on What You Already Know," Almeda's Web site beckons degree seekers. "When they see those letters behind your name, they'll know you earned them."
    It is unclear how long Almeda was operating in Broward County, but investigators for the Florida Department of Education learned about the institution in February 2002. "We sent them a letter that it had come to our attention that they were operating without the necessary approval," says Sandra Knight, who works for the department's Commission for Independent Education, which monitors online universities.
    Virtual schools operating in Florida don't have to get federally sanctioned accreditation, but they must pass minimal standards set by the state of Florida to become licensed. One requirement is that no more than 25 percent of college credit be awarded for life experience.
    Last December, Almeda entered into a settlement agreement with the Florida Commission for Independent Education to cease operating in the state. But apparently, the school still has ties to South Florida. Ezell and other experts have received complaints that a Delray Beach-based company named Blue Pearl Services Inc. is connected to the college. About two months after Almeda was ordered out of Florida, Blue Pearl opened its Delray office.
    Emily Gardner (not her real name), who worked for the company during two weeks in February as an office temp, says the operation astonished her. During her first day on the job, office managers explained that Blue Pearl was an Internet fulfillment company that processed work for other companies.
    "They said they had other customers, but the only orders I ever saw were from Almeda College and University," Gardner recalls. She and another temp worker were asked to come up with aliases to use whenever they walked into or phoned the office. (Gardner asked for anonymity because she is looking for work and fears legitimate employers won't hire her.) She also received a brief orientation in which company managers explained that Almeda conferred degrees for life experience.
    "They were trying to make it seem as legitimate as possible, like, if you work hard your whole life, why shouldn't you be able to get a college degree?" says Gardner, who, before moving to Florida, had worked in human resources. "I thought it was hysterical," she says. "I have an HR background, and I wouldn't have dared to put something like that for college experience on my résumé."
    Gardner says it didn't take her long to learn that Almeda was a very popular virtual school. One day, she was paid to send hundreds of e-mails to Almeda graduates. "We were looking for testimonials," she remembers, "so we wanted to know if their lives had changed after getting their degrees."
    She was also paid to fill out hundreds of requests for college transcripts. She was taught to read the request, pull up a template for the transcript that met the qualifications for the degree and plug in the information. "They had templates for hundreds of bachelor of science degrees in everything and bachelor of arts degrees in anything — I'm telling you, anything," she says. "All I had to do is plug in all the information in the right space — I only had to do that much — and I couldn't even keep up."
    Gardner was fired in February, but Blue Pearl Services is still in operation. Its owners, Brett Loebel and Gerald Enowitch, did not respond to requests for an interview.
    Florida law requires any educational institution or any business that does work for one to register for a license with the state Department of Education. Blue Pearl Services has not done so, and if it is indeed taking orders for Almeda College and University, then it is in violation of state regulations.
    Bear says Brett Loebel has been connected to questionable online schools for years, the most recent being Trinity College and University, with a known office in Sioux Falls, S.D. "There was a teacher in the Michigan school system for 30 years," Bear recalls. "If she had her master's degree, she could have become principal. So she bought herself a $900 master's degree from Mr. Loebel and got the job and the promotion..."

  • Controversy Over Online Education, Next@CNN, August 30, 2003. (Scroll down to the second story.)
    ...We'll look at online universities that give degrees for life experience rather than course work. Is it a new approach to education? Or are these just diploma mills, as some call it?

  • Cracking Down on Diploma Mills, CBS Evening News, July 25, 2003.
    ...His research uncovered hundreds of sham universities – diploma mills – offering fake degrees in everything from oncology to emergency surgery...

  • Degree duplicity: Fake diplomas are easy to buy online, but colleges are becoming more wary, Christian Science Monitor, June 4, 2003.
    The state of the art in academic fakery includes not only diplomas, but fake transcripts and recommendation letters, bogus "verification services," even fake accrediting organizations - all apparently designed to make the degree look real to ... whom? An employer, an admissions officer?