Three University Professors Accused of Holding Phony Ph.D Degrees

Three professors employed by the University of the District of Columbia are accused of holding Ph.D degrees obtained by a non-accredited online program. The three UDC professors were awarded raises after obtaining the degrees from Commonwealth Open University. According to an investigation conducted by D.C. news station Fox 5, COU will accept almost anyone into its online program without conducting a background check, and grants advanced degrees without the same academic requirements of a proper accredited program. Charged by the station as being a “diploma mill,” a school that accepts money for a phony degree, they report COU is part of an industry that gives out fake degrees at an estimated rate of 200,000 annually. According to the Online Education Database, the diploma mill industry is worth about $200 to $500 million.

It only costs $3,500 to obtain a Ph.D from COU; in stark contrast to the tens of thousands the average Ph.D candidate spends earning their degree. Reporter Sherri Ly from Fox 5 was able to demonstrate the ease with which someone could enter the Ph.D program from COU by attempting it herself. She filled out an online form, lying that she had 15 years of experience as a history teacher. No background check or transcripts were required, and she was accepted into the program. She said although she did not enroll, she was told she only “needed to complete…a 50-page report, and of course, pay” in order to receive her degree.

Fake degrees can be used by professionals in sometimes dangerous ways. In 2003, USA Today reported on a doctor who was in jail for medical malpractice that led to a death. The doctor was accused of possessing several degrees from degree mills. University relations and public affairs vice president Alan Etter said the professors involved “have good track records,” and when they hire, they “look to the totality of the individual.” Dr. Ken Bain, Vice President for Academic Affairs and UDC Provost, said he was concerned about the degrees the professors received from COU, and the university will be investigating the issue. Students are encouraged to check out the World Education Services website, which offers an extensive list of articles to assist students in identifying diploma mills.

Don’t risk your business’ reputation by hiring somone who is not who they appear to be. You can’t take a potential candidate’s word that their credentials are in order. By conducting background checks, including verifying credentials, you are more likely to hire someone you can trust. By using a reputable company like, you know you are getting the best and most thorough background check screening techniques available. With access to countless criminal databases nationwide and investigators ready to verify education and employment history, they have many options available, several with instant results. Their US AliasSEARCH is a multi-faceted search that combines US OneSEARCH with the known aliases provided from a SSN trace. All information derived from this search is run through the US OneSEARCH instant criminal database, assuring all possible aliases are found. Or try their Ongoing Criminal Monitoring tool, which allows you to automatically run a continuous background check against a name and date of birth. You will be notified via email of any new information that may appear on their record.

About - - a founding member of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) and cofounder of the Expungement Clearinghouse - serves thousands of customers nationwide, from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies by providing comprehensive screening services. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, with an Eastern Operations Center in Chapin, S.C., is home to one of the largest online criminal conviction databases in the industry. For more information about backgroundchecks’ offerings, please visit



Get monthly updates on  background check news, industry trends, and changes in laws and regulations.

Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

Michael's recent publications

More Like This Post

State Criminal Search

Virginia Criminal Search

Order a criminal record search for Virginia and get your report in 1-3 days for 10$.

Order a Search for Virginia