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US report pins down bogus degrees

The BBC is reporting that some US nuclear scientists may not be as qualified as they say they are.

Investigators have established that 28 top federal employees including nuclear monitors possess bogus college degrees and the phenomenon may be much bigger.

This all sounds familiar, where have I heard this before?

One told the GAO he had obtained a master’s degree for $5,000 though he had neither attended classes nor sat tests.

The certificate, drawn up on the basis of his “life experience” and past studies and described by the man himself as a “joke”, helped him to advance in his career.

Yes those life experience degrees are certainly worth the paper they are written on.

31 thoughts on “US report pins down bogus degrees”

  1. The Best of ACS – Lora Villarreal and Diploma Mills?

    Villarreal (Lora) holds a Bachelor of Science degree in human resource
    management from Bellevue University, a Master of Science degree in
    administration and management from Central Michigan University, and a
    Doctor of Philosophy degree in philosophy and management from
    California Coast University.”

    “But the Santa Ana school isn’t your standard institution of higher
    education. California Coast “does not require formal on-campus
    attendance or classroom attendance” and its degree programs “have not
    been designed to meet any particular local, state, or national
    licensing or credentialing laws,” according to a 2003-04 school
    catalog. In fact, the for-profit California Coast charges a flat fee
    for particular degrees (Ianni’s 1998 doctorate would have set her back
    about $4000). According to its web site, California Coast no longer
    confers Ph.D.s, though a master’s is priced at a reasonable $3975
    ($4525 for non-U.S. residents). Prospective students are often
    recruited via advertisements placed in in-flight magazines.

    In a May 11 report entitled “Diploma Mills,” the U.S. General
    Accounting Office disclosed how hundreds of federal
    employees–including some with senior-level posts–had obtained
    degrees from unaccredited outfits like California Coast. The GAO
    investigations, conducted at the request of the Senate Committee on
    Governmental Affairs, noted that, in some instances, advanced degrees
    were obtained in an effort to secure promotions. When TSG called
    California Coast to ask about the harsh GAO assessment, we were
    directed to Dr. Murl Tucker, vice president of academic affairs. Alas,
    Dr. Tucker did not return phone messages–perhaps he was tied up with
    commencement festivities.”

    ‘These mills are described by GAO as nontraditional, unaccredited,
    postsecondary schools that offer degrees for a relatively flat fee,
    promote the award of academic credits based on life experience, and do
    not require any classroom instruction. Kennedy-Western University,
    California Coast University, and Pacific Western University are
    examples cited by GAO.

    During a workshop this month, the Council for Higher Education
    Accreditation plans to discuss ways of identifying and discouraging
    degree mills and accreditation mills that are operating nationally and
    internationally. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and
    Technology, which accredits college engineering programs, is also
    keeping a watchful eye on the issue.

    “We are concerned about diploma mills in the sense that it’s the
    opposite of our business,” says Dan Hodge, director of accreditation
    at ABET. “Our business is to assure quality in the programs that we
    accredit so that the general public, employers, government agencies,
    state registration boards can be confident that a graduate of one of
    our accredited programs has a reasonable background. So we are
    concerned about those constituencies, employers, the public, and
    particularly students who don’t understand the difference and may be
    duped by such programs.”‘

    “Further, the GAO found more than 463 total government employees
    enrolled in courses at diploma mills. Most of those courses are at
    three universities: Kennedy-Western, California Coast and Pacific

  2. kennedy western is produly registered by the wyoming state where this state is same level as connecticut yale and masachussettes’s harvard. not only that stanford is not accredited either. hence kennedy western unoversity is a good school and the degrees are granted by honorable governor of the great state wyoming. any one challenge, we can settle at under the great wyoming state jurisdiction

  3. California Coast University has become Nationally Accredited and recognized by US DOE
    as of 1/10/05. The GAO report and Collins Senate Committee activities was a tarring
    that CCU should not have been a part of. Even though the report did not accuse CCU of any
    wrongdoing, the implications and innuendos were there. With CCU being successful in its
    accreditation bid, this should close the book on suspicions as to its quality.

  4. I am a graduate of Kennedy Western and found this University to be equal to or better than your traditional Universities. The Faculty staff is outstanding and they are willing to help you acheive your educational goals.

  5. I firmly believe that the educational experience
    you gain from CCU is a very positive alternative to
    the classroom environments where teachers have no
    interest in teaching you anything. Congratulations to
    Lora Villarreal for achieving a very difficult goal. If it
    wasn’t for CCU, I would not have been able to attain my
    Master’s or my PhD while working full time, plus 2 part time
    jobs to support my family.

  6. As an alumni of The University of Michigan and Eckerd College, I can vouch for the excellence of California Coast University´s program in the field of education. Working towards a post-graduate degree in this area at CCU was an enriching and rewarding experience. The standards set by my professors, the quality of feedback and comments regarding work in progress was at times above that offered at prestigious universities where I pursued undergrduate work. The professors, many graduates of ivy-league universities with very impressive backgrounds in the teaching field, offered constant help and directed investigation and research at a high level, all of which has prepared me for further work at Harvard´s Graduate School of Eudcation this year. Bravo for CCU and its accreditation which was late in coming but not too late to clear the area about its standards and merit as an excellent alternative to mediocre and at times restricting academic environments.

  7. Kudos to California Coast University (a long time
    state-approved school) for attaining national

  8. To “Anonymous” (and understandably so) Harvard, Stanford,
    Yale are ALL duly accredited, but some of their professional
    specialties might lack specific professional accreditation.
    For instance, a school might be regionally accredited but its
    psychology department might lack professional (APA)

  9. I find the whole “accreditation” argument to be poorly considered. I attended the University of Nebraska, Omaha in the 1970s and early 1980s before moving to California where I received a degree from Cal State Long Beach. UNO is accreditated from most accreditating associations, but I’d rather take classes in a cave from cavemen. The profs were underskilled, barely-English-speaking, and their tests were so old and well-known to the local frat brats that the grade curve was cranked through the ceiling to accomodate test cheating.

    Harvard is clearly accreditated, but G.W. Bush bought his degree while partying his time away in the Ivy League. He didn’t even have “life experience” to justify his degree, but he has one anyway.

    Accreditated universities are catering to the rich and idle, both through their price structures and their avoidance of non-traditional students. Degrees are becoming the sole right of the ruling class and the middle class and poor are being squeezed from employment by “diploma mills” for the inbred children of the rich. Since state universities are no longer for state taxpayers, we’d better have schools like Kennedy-Western and California Coast University or we won’t have any options if we weren’t born rich.

  10. To TW Day (and others):
    I personally believe that accreditation should
    be the job of the states, not private accrediting
    agencies. But it is the only widespread (if flawed) system we have for assuring quality control of higher learning institutions. And there are several inexpensive, legitimately accredited universities.
    Frankly, Kennedy-Western University had to move
    operations out of California because it
    could not meet state approval standards.
    One really should not compare Kennedy-Western
    with any CA state approved school (much less
    a nationally accredited one like California Coast).

    Stephen Klarfeld

    PS The term is “accredited”, not “accreditated”.

  11. I have found that many Universities will award up to 45 credits based on life experience for undergraduate careers. I wonder if there is any fully regionally accredited University that would actually be willing to award a degree, based on previous life experience (no a mill diploma, but a real, verifiable diploma). If any one have this information I would appreciate if you can worward it to me.

    Carlos Borjas

  12. E.g, regionally accredited Thomas Edison State College does accept a significant number of life
    experience credits–with the submission of a
    well organized portfolio summarizing those credits– at the undergraduate level.
    (No legitimately accredited US school awards
    degrees entirely on the basis of of life experience).

    Stephen Klarfeld

  13. It is good to see that California Coast University has DETC (national) accreditation
    to supplement its California state-approval,
    while retaining its stronger offerings,
    namely the business BS and MBA, psychology
    BS and MS, and education masters degrees.


  14. I am just learning that there are unaccredited schools and fake accrediting agencies, unfortunately for me, I just started an Engineering degree program with Kennedy Western University; before I started somebody talked me to make sure that this school was accredited but then I saw a certificate issued by the State of Wyoming and didn’t bother any more; but talking to a friend about my new goals, he warned me again about this school; so I decided to investigate a little further and still can’t get all my answers; one thing for sure; this school is largely mention among the schools with bad reputation but there is nothing that can confirm that; neither that it is not accredited by any school association or board; now, I think it just got a license to do business within the state, but; if that is the case, it is not going to help me when I get a Degree. Can anyone tell me, Is this Degree going to say the same words than an Accredited Degree or is it going to state: Unaccredited Degree Grant to: John Doe or Am I going to be breaking the law if I show this degree to an employer or if I don’t tell them that I got this from an unaccredited school? Is my resume going to be ignored by a lot of employers because I put down that I got a degree from Kennedy Western University? I already started paying tuition for a degree that is going to cost me about $ 7000, a lot less than an accredited school, but Is it Worth?

  15. I would look into schools like Excelsior College
    (asssuming your are looking into a bachelors
    degree– their tuition is very reasonable–
    and they are professionally (ABET) accredited.
    If you do some research, you will see that you can get a qualification for around the $7000 you
    are paying for the KWU degree– from which you
    should really back out. I have heard of cases
    where people were able to back out of the tuition
    commitment upon issuing complaints with the BBB
    (Better Business Bureau) or (Wyoming) state authorities, since Kennedy-Western does not clearly state that there degrees are not accepted in many places due to their unaccredited status, especially for professional licensing purposes.
    At there
    are nationally accredited schools which you
    might find to be decent options, such as
    Grantham. DETC accreditation is recognized,
    but is not quite as good as regional or professional accreditation.

    Stephen Klarfeld

    PS You might want to check with your state/provincial authorities to see if an accredited degree (or any degree at all) is necessary to become a licensed professional engineer. The license, at least, should enhance your marketability.

  16. A “degree” from Kennedy Western is worse than no degree at all – it makes the “graduate” come across as either hopelessly naive or fraudulent.

    Yes, there are many legit alternatives for busy adults who have no time to attend classes.

  17. We are going through this in our school district right now. Our superintendent “earned” his PhD from Kennedy-Western. He’s been frantically searching for another job — no one will hire him. I’ll be surprised if he gets a look even in the desperation round of interviews (usually beginning August 15). His K-W “degree” can’t be helping him.

    I agree with many here — there are online degree programs that are worthwhile. I got my masters online from Univ. of Phoenix (which is accredited), and I can tell you that I have never worked harder for anything in my life. It was 19 months of grueling work – but I never had to get dressed and go to campus and sit for endless lectures and opening class activities like “if you were a car, what kind of….” Online ed. is the future – but like anything else available out there, we have to watch for the charlatans and shysters.

  18. The American World University is operating out of an answering service in Pascagoula. Legislators are trying to bring in bills in Mississippi to curb such degree mills.

    This University was driven out of Hawii and Iowa for defrauding students.

    PHD’s are awarded for a price of$1500.

    This is not approved by CHEA

  19. Hi:

    It is shameful to see that though the US leads the rest of the world in the field of education. it is none the less this same country that leads the rest of the world in the number of degree mills operating in the US.

    This is attributed to the flexible laws that govern universities. As a result some uncouthless peoplke are living luxurious lives at the expense of the poor souls located in some poor African and Asian countries.

    The American World University is one such big business as they are offering A PHD for $1000.

    Are there any stringet measures that will shut down such schools from the Ameriacn soil.

    This is rip off !rip off !rip off !

  20. Where are there legitimate online classes for engineering? The only truly “online” program to be found it the KW program. ABET will not accredit online institutions because they don’t validate the standard of “lab” time that ABET abides by. Currently, the Stevens Institute is studying the feasibility of online engineering, but to this day I have yet to find more than a physics or materials class (single class). If anyone knows of a great online engineering bachelor’s program, I’m ALL EARS.

  21. The University of Alabama has an online mechanical engineering undergraduate program. There are some classes (labs) that you have to take in person, but the rest is distance learning.

  22. I was considering enrolling in California Coast until I discovered that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has listed Calcoast as a substandard or fraudulent institution(class B misdemeanor if degree is used for state employment purposes) . Even after I e-mailed them and informed them of the institutions accreditation they still stood by their
    ruling. My question is would I be shooting myself in the foot by obtaining a degree from Calcoast and using the degree as part of my for employment in the future? The institution has no intentions of seeking regional accreditation.

  23. I saw Thomas Edison College mentioned above and want to set the record straight. Let me assure you, it’s a wonderful institution. I worked very hard to earn my Masters Degree there, it’s regionally accredited, and I am extremely fortunate to have attended. Additionally, I am very successful in my field, CTO, and thank Thomas Edison State College for helping me get there.

  24. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board now recognizes CCU degrees earned since 2005, when the school became DETC-accredited.
    (CCU degrees issued from 1974-2004 are California state-approved but not recognized by the Texas Coordinating Board).


  25. I was absolutely fascinated to read these entries on diploma mills, accreditation, experiential learning, etc. After receiving two bachelors degrees (Trinity, Regents–to fulfill teaching license credits), two masters (NYU and Harvard), I had to admit the enormous waste of effort and money that went into a great deal of my education. Although it propelled me into the field of education–as teacher, principal, high school founder–trying to bring some balance to a very lopsided area–education. I’ve been researching PhD by publication programs in the UK–looking for some way to bring closure to my own schooling, with the long-sought-after terminal degree. The result was my decision to create my own program which, based upon a unified body of original writing and research, may fill the gap between the elite money pits and the pathetic mills that actually sell diplomas that you can backdate, if you wish!

    The advantage of Emerson will be the publishing, online, of the body of work that
    represents the in-depth investigation that merited the degree, for all—prospective employers, peers and colleagues–to see, and hopefully to use.

    Please take a look at the site;
    and I’d love to get your feedback:


    Bill O’Reilly, founder

  26. A “degree” from Kennedy Western is worse than no degree at all – it makes the “graduate” come across as either hopelessly naive or fraudulent.

    Couldn’t agree more. Still unaccredited, they’ve recently changed the name to Warren National University to avoid the stigma of being investigated by the Senate and moved yet again.

    Claim to be seeking accreditation (again), but have blatantly stated that they will accept the old KW”U” credits, which were 55%+ life experience (by their own admission) and graduate courses consisted of 1 open book exam (from Senate Investigation)

  27. Kindly disregard my previous “comment”, as it had nothing to do with the previous postings of this blog, but it was a bit more understandable in its proper context. (It is a phrase common among Italian-Americans, as many are aware).

    Anyway, the current webpage of the Texas Higher Education Board’s list of institutions whose degrees are *illegal* to use in Texas is at

    Not surprisingly, Kennedy Western University and California Miramar/Pacific Western are on this list.


  28. Having two RA degrees and a DETC degree, it seems clear to me that there is truly only two things that really matter in the realm of education in the United States. The first is the matter of legality. The United States Department of Education does not treat a regionally accredited degree any differently than a DETC degree. So, why should the instuitions? There is a lot of stupidity, ignorance, and cynicism in educational circles. It’s true that there are RA schools that will not admit DETC graduates. Yet, it is also true that your RA credits may not transfer to an another RA school. Every school has set their criteria. For intance, Criminal Juctice in America may be CRJ 204 at one school. At another, it may be listed as CRJ 460. It may not transfer even though it was taught out of the same authored text. Second, who gives a damn except the money monger schools and old farts that profess nonsense. You and you alone must decide what is best for you. It is you, the student, that knows the true worth of your degree. Kudos to you for getting an education and the hell with everyone else. Some of the brightest minds in America are self taught while some of our set in there way professors and educators need to explore outside the box.

  29. Wow, I’ve always know people used to Lie on their Cvs but not to have dodgy qualifications at this level of professionalism. Do they not run background checks on nuclear scientists ? Employers have to say a lot about online degrees etc but they pale in comparison to this !

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