Wednesday, November 30, 2005

NCAA, Florida to probe 'diploma mills'

Herald.com: "NCAA President Myles Brand on Tuesday denounced ''diploma mill'' high schools, two days after a published report singled out a South Florida correspondence academy, University High School, that catered to athletes needing a boost in their grades to qualify for college sports. Brand said he has initiated an investigation and will urge local and state authorities to take legal action. The Florida High School Athletic Association is conducting its own investigation, centering on University High in South Miami-Dade, Greater Miami Athletic Conference executive secretary Cheryl Golden said. University High, located in a South Dixie Highway office building, has no teachers, no textbooks and no classrooms, The New York Times reported Sunday. Nevertheless, it has helped numerous athletes quickly earn their high-school degrees. 'It's this type of school, not just for athletics, but overall, that must be shut down,'' Brand said in a telephone interview with The Miami Herald. 'This problem goes very deep. It's a much bigger issue than just our student-athletes.' The Times article detailed University High graduating 14 struggling Miami-Dade public school athletes in a matter of weeks. The students, the article said, consistently received high grades at University High. And because the school is private, the students did not have to take the state-mandated FCAT, which requires a minimum score to graduate."

Storefront High

St. Petersburg Times: "There is a diploma mill in Miami where for $399 and a few hours with mail-order study guides any floundering high school student can make the grades required to play college football. Its graduates include one youth who, despite intensive tutoring, could never score higher than 53 percent on any test at his university and had to be benched for academic ineligibility. 'Education at your convenience,' boasts University High School, whose founder and former owner served time for an Arizona diploma mill. 'Our speed learning program is the easiest, fastest way to become a high school graduate. ... No classes to attend. Study at home, at your own pace. Open book exams. No time limits.' The exposure of this racket, a public service performed Sunday by the New York Times, heaps disgrace on a host of willfully witless accomplices. These include the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which accepts University High School's transcripts despite its lack of any credible accreditation, and the 11 Division I universities, including Florida State, South Florida, Central Florida, Florida International and Florida, that awarded athletic scholarships to its graduates. The most shameful failure, however, is that of the state of Florida for providing private schools with not even a minimum degree of oversight. Although the neglect that fostered a scam like University High School predates Gov. Jeb Bush's administration, his bias toward private education is an obstacle to reform."

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Loophole helps top athletes get into college

The Gainesville Sun: "University High's literature claims it is accredited by the National Association for the Legal Support of Alternative Schools. The association's Web site says it is 'not meant to represent an evaluation and/or approval of the materials, teaching staff or educational philosophy employed by the applicant program.' It says 'only one standard is applied: consumer protection.' The Florida Department of Education's Web site lists accreditation for University High by the National Coalition of Alternative and Community Schools and by the Association of Christian Schools International. But the alternative schools coalition does not accredit high schools, and David Ray, the Florida regional director of the Christian schools association said, 'University was never accredited and has never sought accreditation with us.'"

Diploma mill stocking Division I rosters

Fanblogs College Football Blog: "According to a New York Times report, a Miami area diploma mill has helped at least fourteen players make the grade at big-time, Division I football programs, including Auburn, Tennessee, Florida, Colorado State, and FSU. The school, University High School, occupies two rooms between a Starbucks and an animal hospital, and boast three desks & diplomas for $399, no matter how many courses. Founded by a man who plead guilty to mail fraud (for fake diplomas), it is currently owned by a 27-year0old man wanted by the courts in Florida. Interestingly enough, the school is in good standing with the Better Business Bureau. The New York Times identified 14 who had signed with 11 Division I football programs: Auburn, Central Florida, Colorado State, Florida, Florida State, Florida International, Rutgers, South Carolina State, South Florida, Tennessee and Temple. University High, which has no classes and no educational accreditation, appears to have offered the players little more than a speedy academic makeover - and illustrates that even as the NCAA presses for academic reforms, its loopholes are quickly recognized and exploited."

Auburn connected to dipoma mill

Mobile Register: "Auburn is one of nearly a dozen Division I-A football programs that have accepted players from a private Miami high school that appears to be a diploma mill, the New York Times reported Saturday. The report examined University High School, a store-front operation used by struggling prospective student-athletes to quickly boost their grade-point averages and become eligible to play college athletics. Twenty-eight athletes have had their grades 'polished' at University in the last two years, and 14 signed with 11 Division 1-A institutions, the Times reported."

Former Gator Involved In Investigation

Tampa Bay Tribune: "University of Florida and Southeastern Conference officials investigated earlier this year a Miami correspondence school that had sent one of its graduates to Florida to play football. The school, University High School, is the subject of a New York Times investigation published Saturday. The newspaper found 14 players, who signed with 11 Division I-A programs, who used the school, which offers no actual classroom work, to boost their grade point averages to make themselves eligible to pass through the NCAA Clearinghouse. Tight end Dane Guthrie, who transferred during the summer from Florida to Arizona State, holds a diploma from University, not Killian High, which was the school listed in Guthrie's 2004 Florida media guide biography. No matter how many courses a student takes, a degree from University costs $399, the Times found. This University High is not to be confused with University High School in Orlando, which is an Orange County public school."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Poor Grades Aside, Athletes Get Into College on a $399 Diploma

New York Times: "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. University of Tennessee's Demetrice Morley graduated from University High with a grade point average of 2.75, precisely what he wound up needing to qualify for a scholarship. 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 guidelineIn 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. The New York Times identified 14 who had signed with 11 Division I football programs: Auburn, Central Florida, Colorado State, Florida, Florida State, Florida International, Rutgers, South Carolina State, South Florida, Tennessee and Temple. University High, which has no classes and no educational accreditation, appears to have offered the players little more than a speedy academic makeover. The school's program illustrates that even as the N.C.A.A. presses for academic reforms, its loopholes are quickly recognized and exploited. Athletes who graduated from University High acknowledged that they learned little there, but were grateful that it enabled them to qualify for college scholarships. Lorenzo Ferguson, a second-year defensive back at Auburn, said he left Miami Southridge High School for University High, where after one month he had raised his average to 2.6 from 2.0. 'You take each course you failed in ninth or 10th grade,' he said. 'If it was applied math, you do them on the packets they give you. It didn't take that long. The answers were basically in the book.' ... University High School consists of two small rooms on the third floor of an office building wedged between a Starbucks and an animal hospital on Route 1 in south Miami. Inside are three desks, three employees and two framed posters from art museums on the wall. Promotional brochures say diplomas can be earned in four to six weeks, with open-book exams, no classes and no timed tests. A diploma costs $399, no matter how many courses. In paperwork filed with the state of Florida, the school says it has six teachers. None of the school's graduates interviewed, however, mentioned dealing with anyone besides Kinney, the current owner, and none said they had received any personal instruction."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Degree controversy - Credibility of Irish colleges is at stake

Irish Examiner: "As further prominent Irish holders of dodgy degrees are outed, the time has come for Education Minister Mary Hanafin to launch an in-depth probe into the realm of questionable qualifications which offer the purchasers academic kudos overnight. Hot on the heels of the controversy surrounding reports that two senior figures in Ireland held such degrees, the Irish Examiner reveals today that two academics are now in the spotlight. They are Mary F McAteer, a senior lecturer in the school of physiotherapy in the Faculty of Medicine at UCD and Cedric Chau, a lecturer at the Institute of Public Administration, the prestigious government-funded think-tank and academic proving ground for top civil servants. More recently, the Government's most senior science adviser, Barry McSweeney, was shown to hold a PhD in bio chemistry from the Pacific Western University in California, which has been exposed as little more than a one-room degree mill offering academic qualifications for hard cash. ... According to an official US probe, almost 500 government employees there were found to have dodgy qualifications from three unaccredited universities, including Pacific Western. Academics in the US believe that many more such degree holders would be uncovered if an audit were carried here as suggested by the Green Party."

Labour seeks investigation of 'degree mill' universities

Ireland Online: "The Labour Party has called for an investigation into so-called 'degree mill' universities following revelations that a number of Irish officials and academics have questionable qualifications. The Government's chief science advisor, Barry McSweeney, was moved to a new civil service job earlier this month when it emerged that he had received his PhD from the Pacific Western University. The US institution is known for selling such qualifications online. The controversy surrounding the McSweeney issue prompted another official, Dr Con Power, to admit that his doctorate was also obtained from PWU."

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Ireland: Second Government advisor received PhD from US degree mill

Online IE News: "Another senior Government advisor has reportedly obtained his doctorate from a US university known for selling qualifications. Reports this morning said Dr Con Power, the chair of the Financial Services Ombudsman Council, had obtained a PhD from Pacific Western University, which is regarded as a so-called 'degree mill'. Dr Power is a former economic adviser in the Taoiseach's department and was the first chairman of the National Roads Authority. This morning's reports said he was insisting that his PhD was legally awarded on the basis of many years of research and publications. The latest revelation follows the recent removal of Barry McSweeney as the Government's chief science adviser following the news that his PhD was also obtained from Pacific Western University."

Friday, November 18, 2005

Government gets tough on colleges

Nairobi Kenya Standard: "Middle level colleges have been ordered to stop partnering with foreign universities without Government clearance. Education PS Prof Karega Mutahi yesterday said hundreds of students have spent huge amounts of money on bogus degree courses. He said any diploma college planning to enter into partnership and co-operation with universities to offer degree courses should get clearance from the Commission of Higher Education. 'The Commission is mandated to safeguard the quality of higher education in the country,' he said. He asked students wishing to pursue degree courses in the colleges to first check with the commission. He said this when he presided over the 21st graduation ceremony at Kagumo College where 294 secondary school teachers were awarded diploma certificates."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Teachers are being deported

Taipei Times: "There is currently a great injustice going on in this country. The government has decided to begin a crackdown and deportation of foreign English teachers. Recently a number of deportation letters have gone out to teachers. These letters give people 14 days in which to pack their bags and permanently leave the country. These people are not criminals and have never broken the law in Taiwan or their home country. They are good, honest people who are here in Taiwan because they love this country and its people. The majority of these teachers are being deported for alleged substitute teaching at a school not listed on their work permit (ARC). There is no trial, no jury -- just immediate deportation. Furthermore, the method by which the government has been collecting evidence to deport these teachers is abhorrent and violates their human rights. Government inspectors enter a school to see if there are any foreign teachers. When they find a teacher, they interview them and ask them to sign documents in Chinese. The inspectors are extremely friendly and kind. They tell the teachers, 'Don't worry, everything is fine. Just sign these Chinese documents as a formality.' They never explain what the teachers are signing. No translation of these documents is given. Months later, the teachers receive a deportation notice telling them they must leave the country within 14 days."

Friday, November 11, 2005

Adviser's qualifications - McSweeney must provide explanation

Examiner: "He was appointed to the post, which has an annual remuneration of 120,000, by Tanaiste Mary Harney while she was Enterprise Minister in June 2004. He has been embroiled in controversy since it was suggested his degree from Pacific Western University is from an unaccredited institution in the US. There are a number of institutions there calling themselves universities that do not function in the educational sense; they just sell so-called degrees. Pacific Western University has been branded a 'degree mill' that distributes qualifications for a fee, but Dr McSweeney argues it was 'a very different body' when he received his PhD. Current Enterprise Minister Micheal Martin told the Dail yesterday that the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI), which is responsible for accreditation in this country, informed him that Pacific Western University 'did not have accrediting powers within the US'. "

SC upholds PHC decision for deseating MPA for possessing fake degree

PakTribune: "The SC full bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Ahmad Chaudhry, justice M Javed Buttar and Justice Tassadaq Hussain Jillani heard the case. The apex court dismissed the appeal filed by Malik Imran against PHC verdict on his disqualification from the seat. On absence of Malik Qayyum, counsel of Malik Imran from the court the chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry remarked this is plight of leaders that they don't even appear in the court. The apex court rejected the appeal on non presence of counsel and declared Malik Imran disqualified for possessing fake degree."

Miami-Dade man to agree to 2 years in prison for setting up phony diploma mill

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "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. But prosecutors asked for several more days to allow authorities from Ohio and Oklahoma and two colleges McCoggle employed in the scheme to sign off on the deal. 'The colleges are technically considered victims in this case,' said Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney Richard Scruggs. 'We want get a full global agreement that they are okay with this.' 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. According to prosecutors, teachers received college credits from Otterbein College in Ohio and Eastern Oklahoma State College after attending weekend courses taught by McCoggle from his south Miami-Dade classroom."

Martin dealing with McSweeney issue: Ahern

RTE News: "The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has said the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Micheal Martin, is trying to deal with difficulties around the controversy on the academic credentials of the Government's chief science advisor. Some weeks ago it emerged that Dr Barry McSweeney had received his PhD from an online institution called Pacific Western University, which US authorities have described as a diploma mill. This morning, Dr Ed Walsh, former director of the University of Limerick, described the controversy as 'a setback for the nation'."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Canadians imprisoned and deported

Excalibur Online: "Most people are familiar with the e-mail spam which advertises low-cost degrees from accredited colleges and universities. When the South Korean government recently cracked down on employees holding fake credentials and fake diplomas from Acadia University in Nova Scotia, they were turning up in droves. At least 50 Canadian citizens were arrested in South Korea in October on charges of illegal employment when the country began a crackdown on foreign teachers holding fake degrees. Fake diplomas from Acadia University were among the most common fakes discovered, along with fake diplomas from the University of South Dakota. Acadia University has since been in touch with Korean officials to inform them on how to reach the office of the registrar to verify suspicious diplomas. To the university's knowledge, all students with bona fide degrees have been able to prove so to the satisfaction of their employers. But according to Dave Dinesen, president of BackCheck, a company which specializes in employee background checks out of Vancouver, B.C., the problem is not restricted to Asia. Dinesen's clients are mostly from North America, and education fraud is a broad-based problem that extends beyond fake diplomas in Korea. In Canada, 'one can purchase a fake degree for as little at $15,' said Dinesen. 'We see everything, from poorly made fake diplomas, to out and out lies on resumes claiming educational achievements where none exist at all,' said Dinesen, noting that, 'The most common fake is to say you have a degree when you only have a few credits.'"

Monday, November 07, 2005

US academics dismiss Dublin chief adviser's PhD

Times Online: "THE Irish government's chief science adviser has refused to release his doctoral thesis, despite allegations that his PhD was awarded by an American-based 'fee for degree' institution. Dr Barry McSweeney, who earns (euro) 120,000-a-year in his government role, has claimed that Pacific Western University (PWU), a so-called diploma mill, was 'vastly different' in 1992 when he achieved his doctorate through distance learning. However, a number of American academics and degree experts have dismissed this claim. McSweeney has refused to give permission for his PhD to be made available and PWU said that it will not release it unless he does. Other academics have said this is a highly unusual stance for a university as PhD theses are usually filed in college libraries. McSweeney's refusal was issued through a spokeswoman, who said that the PhD involved 'substantial research'. Mc-Sweeney has yet to comment since questions were first raised over his qualifications three weeks ago. He was first invited to meet Micheal Martin, the enterprise minister, after questions were raised by opposition TDs. The minister has continued to support McSweeney's appointment, arguing that his vast experience made him suitable for the job, but has asked him to clarify 'issues'. This request followed an assessment by the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland, which found that PWU did not have accrediting powers in America. Experts on diploma mills in America, where many such universities are based, expressed disbelief that no action has been taken by the Irish government. Margaret Soltan, a professor of English at George Washington University in Washington DC and an opponent of diploma mills, said: 'In the United States, the revelation that a high-level appointee in any government agency had received a PhD from a diploma mill would inevitably result in that person’s withdrawal from their appointment. Despite McSweeney’s claims, Pacific Western is, and always has been, a diploma mill.' She argued that McSweeney’s other qualifications and impressive track record were not enough to justify his appointment. 'It doesn’t make any difference that, as some in your government have said, the particular job to which Mc-Sweeney has been appointed does not require a PhD.' John Bear, the author of a guidebook on non-traditional learning institutions, said: 'If PWU was vastly different back then, it was even worse than it is now. Holders of degrees from Pacific Western in the early 1990s would be committing a criminal offence if they used those degrees in the US states that regulate degree use.'"

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Pressure mounts on science adviser over dubious PhD

Irish Examiner: "WITH his (Euro) 120,000-a-year job on the line, pressure is mounting on the Government?s chief scientific adviser to publicly explain a dubious PhD he received in America. As controversy continues over a US doctorate received by Dr Barry McSweeney, EU Commissioner Janez Potocnik has been formally asked by Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa whether the scientist used the PhD to apply for two senior EU jobs as the director general of the EU's Joint Research Centre and head of the EU unit responsible for the Marie Curie research fellowships. The doctorate in question was awarded by the Pacific Western University, an institution accused of being no more than a 'degree mill' and described by the Irish accrediting authorities as not having 'accrediting powers within the US.'"

Council candidate Sunga eyes legitimate MBA

Vallejo Times Herald: "Facing scrutiny over his educational background, Vallejo City Council candidate Hermie Sunga said Thursday he may start his studies anew for a master's in business administration, after learning the degree he said he earned in 2001 is worthless. With just days left before Tuesday's election, critics have been looking more deeply at Sunga's campaign. He leads the field of 11 candidates in campaign contributions. On Thursday, an attorney who sued to shut down the University of Advanced Research in Hawaii last year said the operation - and any degrees it awarded - was a scam. Sunga said he took online courses from UAR and received a diploma by mail. UAR was a degree mill, said Jeffrey E. Brunton, an attorney with the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs' Office of Consumer Protection. 'It was a sort of an online school where people could go and (get a diploma) by successfully passing a test,' Brunton said by phone from Honolulu. 'If you paid your money and took your online test you got a master's degree.' UAR had no campus or faculty in Hawaii, Brunton said. 'There never was any school here,' the attorney said."

'PhD' Prisoner Accused Of Running Bogus Business

local6.com: "A Problem Solvers investigation found a work release prisoner posing as a doctor and running a Central Florida business that some call a scam. Orange County Jail surveillance video showed Gerald Vantone Stiggons, a 27-year-old inmate, signing out of the county's work release system for months posing as a teaching professor for an alleged diploma mill, according to the Local 6 News report. Jail documents showed Stiggons was signing out as a teacher and consultant for GVS Global, part of the Windsor Preparatory High School. The private school promised customers a high school diploma in 8 weeks. A Local 6 News investigation into the school's Web site revealed that the courses and even the coat of arms were stolen from another school, according to the report. Also, Problem Solver Mike Holfeld traced Stiggons' business degree to Northfield University, which is a suspected Internet diploma mill closed months ago."

Diploma mill bill advances

Billings Gazette: "A bill that has cleared a legislative committee would give colleges and universities five years to get accredited or be on their way to accreditation - or get out of the state. The measure is opposed by Preston University in Cheyenne, which has just a few students in Wyoming and thousands at affiliated campuses around the world. 'Accreditation is not the be-all and end-all in quality education,' Preston President Jerry Haenisch told Joint Education Committee on Wednesday. He said there are no agencies to accredit an operation that has multiple campuses worldwide. Wyoming doesn't require federally recognized accreditation for a school to be state-licensed, and the state has at least 10 nonaccredited, mainly online schools that cater mainly to overseas students. The proliferation of schools has caused Wyoming to be known as a haven for diploma mills, which provide degrees for little or no academic achievement. The bill is supported by State Superintendent Jim McBride, who asked rhetorically why Wyoming is home to so many schools. 'Because the law allows it,' he said. 'Why the United States? Because they want to issue a diploma that says from the U.S. That's what it's about. Let's cut to it.'"