Three University Professors Accused of Holding Phony Ph.D Degrees

By Michael Klazema on 8/13/2012

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.

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