Thursday, August 2, 2012

Understanding Degree Mills and their use by Southern Baptist pastors

Kong Hee and Phil Pringle

City Harvest Church's (CHC) founding senior pastor "Dr" Kong Hee holds the following advanced degrees:

*Master of Divinity, New Covenant International Theological Seminary (NCITS), 1989-91

*Doctor of Theology, New Covenant International Theological Seminary (NCITS), 1993-95

CHC's advisor and senior pastor "Dr" Phil Pringle holds a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) in Biblical Philosophy from New Covenant International University (NCIU), awarded in 1999.

NCITS and NCIU are the same outfit, also called New Covenant International University and Theological Seminary (in Lake Worth, Florida). It is a degree mill (or diploma mill), which sells bogus degrees with no regard for any academic standard. (Details here)

The founder and President of NCIU/NCITS, "Dr" Kevin Dyson, is apparently on close terms with Pringle and Kong Hee, and serves alongside Pringle as CHC's advisor.

Kevin and Pamela Joy Dyson

Kevin Dyson holds the following degrees:

*BA (BTh) from Jubilee International Bible College (JIBC), Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
*Master of Religious Education and Doctor of Divinity (Restoration Church History) from Jubilee International Bible Institute, California 

*Doctor of Philosophy in Biblical Counseling from Evangelical Theological Seminary, Missouri, 1981-85

Evangelical Theological Seminary, Missouri and Jubilee International Bible Institute, California are diploma mills. Jubilee International Bible College (JIBC), Brisbane (defunct) was most probably a diploma mill too. (Details here)

Anyone can buy a bogus degree, secular or religious, online to deceive the trusting or the naive. The following article, Degree Mills, dated 2004, might usefully alert the reader to such deceit.

News reports on Singaporean and Malaysian degree mills can be found at the end of this post.



Database of accredited educational institutions, Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA):  here

List of unaccredited colleges and universities compiled by Maine Department of Education (2007): here

Higher education oversight and accreditation (by George Gollin, professor of physics at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign [UIUC]): here

Repository of news and information on diploma mills (by George Gollin): here

George Gollin and the toppling of a bogus diploma empire (Wired magazine article): here

Diploma mill news: here


Degree Mills

John Bear
Mariah Bear

This report was revised on November 14, 2004. (source)

Degree mills have been around for hundreds of years, and they are still flourishing all over the world. During the 1980s, the number of phony schools significantly diminished as a result of the "DipScam" diploma-mill task force of the FBI. Its work, described below, helped secure indictments and, in most cases, convictions of a great many people who operated scores of phony colleges and universities.

Unfortunately, the trend has reversed and things are getting worse. With the winding down of DipScam in the early 1990s, and the advent of inexpensive laser printers, color copiers, overnight delivery services, 800, 888, 877, and 500 telephone numbers, faxes, computer bulletin boards, and other accessible technology—most significantly the growth of the Internet—diploma mills have made a real comeback, both in the United States and in Europe.

There are now dozens of places where one can buy Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorates, even law and medical degrees, with no questions asked, on payment of fees of anywhere from one dollar to several thousand. To demonstrate this, John purchased (for $53) an extremely authentic-looking law degree (Doctor of Jurisprudence) of Harvard University, from an outfit in Florida that has been advertising nationally, complete with an 800 phone number. Their ads have run for at least four years, and they even have a little retail establishment where they print diplomas while you wait. Transcripts are available as well. And no, we will not provide the address, or those of any other illegal schools. We have no wish to give them business. And our lawyer has advised us that we could be considered "accessories before the fact" should someone buy a fake degree and use it to defraud others. (We will, of course, cooperate with law enforcement officers and bona fide investigative reporters.)

One of the main reasons that fake schools continue to exist is that it is difficult to legally define exactly what is meant by the term "diploma mill" or "degree mill." Surely any school that will send you a Ph.D. by return mail on payment of $100, no questions asked, is a fraud. But what about a school that requires a five-page dissertation before awarding the Doctorate? How about 20 pages? 50? 100? 200? Who is to say? One man's degree mill is another man's alternative university. And nobody seems to want the government stepping in to evaluate doctoral dissertations before permitting schools to grant degrees. Would you want [insert the name of your least-favorite politician] grading your thesis?

Another large gray area is the one dealing with religious schools. Because constitutional safeguards in the United States guarantee separation of church and state, most states have been reluctant to pass any laws restricting the activities of churches -- including their right to grant degrees to all who make an appropriately large donation. In many states, religious schools are not regulated but are restricted to granting religious degrees. But in some, like Louisiana and Hawaii, if you established your own one-person church yesterday, you could start your university today and award a Ph.D. in nuclear physics tomorrow.

Many states say that religious schools can only grant religious degrees. A diploma mill in Louisiana took that argument to new limits, when they announced that because God created everything, no matter what you studied, it was the study of the work of God, and therefore a religious degree. Twice, the Louisiana courts upheld this argument!

Why Are Degree Mills Allowed to Operate?

The answer is that, as just indicated, it is almost impossible to write a law that will discriminate clearly between legitimate schools and mills. Any law that tries to define something that is subjective -- obscenity, pornography, threatening behavior, or the quality of a school -- is bound to be controversial. There can never be a quantitative means for, in effect, holding a meter up to a school and saying, "This one scores 83; it's legitimate. That one scores 62; it's a degree mill."

Also, degree mills that do not muddy their own local waters, but sell their products only in other states or other countries, are more likely to get away with it longer. A goodly number of degree mills have operated from England, selling their product only to people in other countries (primarily the United States, Africa, and Asia). Many British authorities seem not to care as long as the only victims are foreigners, and authorities in the United States find it virtually impossible to take action against foreign businesses.

After decades of debating these matters (even Prince Charles made a speech about the diploma-mill problem), Britain has taken two tiny steps. Step one is to forbid unrecognized schools to call themselves a "University." However, this law had been in effect for about three minutes when one of England's leading diploma mills" the Sussex College of Technology, found the loophole. The law declares that it pertains to everyone enrolling after April 1, 1989. Sussex immediately began offering to backdate applications to March 31,1989, which appears not to be illegal. They are still getting away with this ploy. Step two is to require that unrecognized schools must say in their literature that they do not operate under a Royal Charter or an Act of Parliament (the two ways schools become legitimately recognized in Britain). This, however, is unlikely even to be noticed by degree-buyers in other lands.

Other states and jurisdictions have tried to craft laws that would permit legitimate nontraditional schools to operate while eliminating degree mills. For instance, for many years California had a law that stated that the main requirement for being authorized by the state to grant degrees was ownership of $50,000 worth of real property. That law was apparently passed to eliminate low-budget fly-by-night degree mills. But $50,000 ain't what it used to be, and from the 1960s through the early 1980s, dozens of shady operators declared that their home or their book collection was worth $50,000 and proceeded to sell degrees with wild abandon.

In 1978, John had the pleasure of advising the "60 Minutes" people from CBS on which California "universities" they might wish to send Mike Wallace in to expose. The proprietor of California Pacifica University was actually arrested while Wallace was interviewing him, and soon after pleaded guilty to multiple counts of mail fraud, and went off to federal prison. Two years later, California Pacifica was still listed in the state's official publication, the Directory of California Educational Institutions.

California, thankfully, has tightened things up considerably since then, by eliminating the "authorized" category, and adding requirements that there must be elements of instruction provided by state-approved schools. Once again, of course, we have a law trying to define subjective matters.

In 1990, John had the further pleasure of appearing on the nationally syndicated program "Inside Edition" to help expose yet another major degree mill, North American University. Its proprietor, Edward Reddeck, who had previously been to prison for running another fake school, was convicted on multiple counts of mail and wire (telephone) fraud, and sent to federal prison for a few years.

Another reason for the proliferation of degree mills in the past is that the wheels of justice ground very slowly, when they ground at all. Dallas State College was shut down by authorities in Texas in 1975. The same perpetrators almost immediately opened up as Jackson State University in California. When the post office shut off their mail there, they resurfaced with John Quincy Adams University in Oregon. It took 12 more years and a major effort by the FBI before the Dallas State perpetrators were finally brought to justice in a federal courtroom in North Carolina in late 1987, nearly two decades and millions of dollars in revenues after they sold their first Doctorate. And when the FBI, the IRS and the postal inspectors raided a diploma mill in Louisiana in 1995, where they recovered more than $10 million in cash, the page-one newspaper account at the time said that these agencies had spent more than five years preparing for their visitation.


The entry of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) into the diploma-mill arena changed the rules of the game. In the late 1970s, the agency launched an operation called DipScam (for Diploma Scam), which methodically investigated degree-granting institutions from coast to coast and abroad, with some cooperation from Scotland Yard and other foreign authorities as well.

John consulted with the FBI on matters of degree mills from 1979 until 1992, when arch diploma-mill exposer Special Agent Allen Ezell retired, and DipScam wound down.

The FBI looked into hundreds of nonaccredited schools. Some were found to be harmless, innocuous, even good, and no actions were taken. When there was evidence of chicanery, a search warrant was issued, and FBI vans hauled off tons of papers and records. In many cases, but not all, a federal grand jury handed down indictments. And when they did, in many cases, the indictees pleaded guilty to mail or wire (telephone) fraud, and received fines and sentences in federal prison.

The wording of the federal grand jury indictments is quite wonderful. Here is a sample, from one indictment. (This is just a small excerpt from a thick document.)

SCHEME AND ARTIFICE: Count One: That from some unknown time prior to, on, or about [date) and continuing through some unknown time after [date] within the Western District of North Carolina and elsewhere in the United States, [defendants] did knowingly, intentionally, and unlawfully combine, conspire, confederate and agree with each other and with others to the Grand jurors both known and unknown, to commit offenses against the United States, that is, having devised and intending to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud and for obtaining money by false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises, for the purpose of executing said scheme and artifice to defraud and attempting to do so knowingly and intentionally placing and causing to be placed in a post office and an authorized depository for mail matter, and causing to be delivered by United States mail according to the direction thereon, matters and things to be sent and delivered by the United States Postal Service, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341 and 2, and knowingly and intentionally transmitting and causing to be transmitted by means of wire communication in interstate commerce, certain signs, signals and sounds, to wit, interstate telephone conversations, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343.
In other words, they sent fake degrees by mail, and made interstate phone calls to their customers.

In its earlier days, DipScam went after the fake medical schools-the most dangerous degree-sellers of all. They were quickly able to shut down the two worst perpetrators, Johann Keppler School of Medicine and the United American Medical College, and send their respective founders to prison.

DipScam's largest case came to its grand finale in a federal courthouse in Charlotte, North Carolina, in October 1987, with John present as an expert witness and observer. On trial were the seven perpetrators of a long string of degree mills, most recently including Roosevelt University, Loyola University, Cromwell University, University of England at Oxford, Lafayette University, DePaul University, and Southern California University, as well as several fake accrediting agencies.

More than 100 witnesses were called over a two-and-a-half-week period, including many who established the substantial size and scope of bank deposits and investments made by the defendants. Witnesses from Europe testified to the mail-forwarding services the defendants used in England, France, Belgium, Germany, Holland, and elsewhere. The circus-like atmosphere was not helped by the fact that Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Jessica Hahn, and company, were appearing in the courtroom right next door, and so the grounds of the courthouse were covered by photographers and reporters, none of whom took much interest in the DipScam trial.

Two of the minor players were dismissed by the judge for lack of definitive evidence, but the five main defendants were found guilty by the jury on all 27 counts of mail fraud, aiding and abetting, and conspiracy. They were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to seven years.

Even though the DipScam project is no longer active, the FBI, the postal inspectors, and some crusading state agencies are still actively working to keep fake schools from operating and phony degrees from being sold.

Why Degree Mills Prosper

The main reason—really the only reason—for the success of degree mills (and drug dealers, and pornographers) is, of course, that people keep on buying their product. They crave the degrees and somehow, despite much evidence to the contrary, they really believe that they are going to get away with it.

Unfortunately, many newspapers and magazines continue to permit the perpetrators to advertise. At this writing, for instance, some of the biggest phony schools advertise in nearly every issue of The Economist USA Today, Forbes, Psychology Today, Inc., Discover, Investors Business Daily, the International Herald Tribune, regional editions of Time and Newsweek, and dozens of other publications that should know better.

Indeed they do know better. As a public service, we routinely write to such publications to suggest they are doing their readers a disservice by running these ads. With the exception of the Wall Street Journal, which promptly changed its policies, we have failed utterly. In 1997, USA Today told us they were going to change their policies, but they apparently changed their minds. The Economist even wrote to us to say that their readers were smart enough to make up their own minds. Then, when we tried to run a "Diploma Mill Alert" in The Economist it was rejected, because "We don't run ads critical of our advertisers."

There have been occasions in the past when a class-action suit filed on behalf of fraud victims also named the advertising medium where the fraud advertised. We can only hope that such a suit will attract the attention of the lawyers for other such publications.

Two Other Insidious Academic Frauds

In addition to those who sell fake degrees, two other "services" undermine the academic establishment.

One is the so-called "lost diploma replacement service. " If you tell them you had a legitimate degree but lost it, they will replace it for a modest fee. That's why John has a Harvard "Doctor of Neurosurgery" diploma hanging on his wall (next to his real Michigan State one).The Harvard phony sold for $49.95.When the FBI raided one such service, in Oregon (they had been advertising in national publications), they found thousands of blank diplomas from hundreds of schools-and records showing an alarmingly large number of clients. The Oregon service no longer advertises, but others crop up from time to time, such as the one from which John bought his Harvard law degree. Since the services require their clients to sign a disclaimer saying they really had the original degree, and since the diplomas come with a "Novelty Item" sticker (easy to peel off), the services may well be operating legally. On one occasion, at least, the justice Department was unable to get an indictment from a federal grand jury for these reasons.

The other is term-paper and dissertation-writing services. Several of them put out catalogs listing over a thousand already-written term papers they will sell; and if they don't already have what you want, they will write anything from a short paper to a major dissertation for you, for $7 to $10 a page.

An Emphatic Warning

We must warn you, as emphatically as we can, that it is very risky to buy a fake degree or to claim to have a degree that you have not earned. It is like putting a time bomb in your resumé. It could go off at any time, with dire consequences. The people who sell fake degrees will probably never suffer at all, but the people who buy them often suffer mightily. And -- particularly if their "degree" is health-related -- their clients may be seriously harmed.


About the Authors

John B. Bear obtained his doctoral degree from the Michigan State University. Since 1974 he has devoted much of his time to investigating and writing about nontraditional higher education. In 1977, he established Degree Consulting Services to offer detailed advice to people seeking more personal advice than a book can provide.

John's daughter Mariah earned her Master's degree in Journalism at New York University and is executive editor of Books.

This article is adapted from the 13th edition of Bear's Guide to Earning Degrees Nontraditionally (Ten Speed Press, 1998). The book covers night and weekend colleges; foreign medical schools; degrees by Internet and other e-mail avenues; and other ways to acquire a bachelor's, master's, doctorate, law, or medical degree through some unconventional method. It also lists schools to be avoided, analyzes educational trends, and provides information on more than a thousand sources.

Other Articles by John Bear

Additional Information


The prevalence of fraudulent, substandard, and illegal diplomas and degrees is an ever-increasing problem in the United States.

The United States Congress has found that the safety of the American public is particularly endangered by the sale of fraudulent degrees, and that the preeminence of the United States in science and engineering, as well as the prestige and reputation of American universities, is threatened by the trafficking of fraudulent degrees, diplomas, and certifications. (109th Congress, 2006)

Religious and theological degrees and other degrees from religiously affiliated institutions are some of the most commonly issued fraudulent, substandard and illegal credentials. The reason for the prevalence of fraudulent religious and theological degrees is the fact that anyone can incorporate a “church” by registering as a non-profit organization within a state. This “church” can then claim that its bylaws grant it the authority to issue certifications and degrees. Unfortunately many innocent people seeking a religious education fall victim to these “churches” issuing “degrees” that aren’t worth the paper the phony diploma is printed on.

These organizations issuing fraudulent and substandard religious degrees often claim that their action is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and guarantees of religious freedom. Simply put this is not the case. Religiously affiliated institutions are not exempt from state oversight under the First Amendment, nor do they gain the privilege of issuing fraudulent, substandard, and illegal degrees under protection of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

As an example of this, the Texas Attorney General has issued an opinion (JC-0200) that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not exempt religiously-affiliated institutions from the requirements under the Texas Education Code (Chapter 61, Subchapter G). The statute does not regulate any religious practice. Institutions that have a religious affiliation are free to exercise their religious beliefs. The law is written to regulate very narrowly those activities that are academic only, such as representations that the instruction is college level or that the student can receive a degree, and not to impinge on any religious practice or belief. In addition, institutions that do not wish to meet the academic standards of a higher educational institution are free to teach and prepare students for ministry positions as long as they do not assert that the level of their education is collegiate, either by offering degrees or calling the institution a college, university, or seminary. (Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, 2007)

Unaccredited, religiously affiliated institutions are free to teach their religious doctrine as they see fit, but they may not legally represent themselves as colleges, universities, or seminaries; nor may they issues degrees or titles associated with degrees.


A commonly heard claim from institutions issuing fraudulent, substandard or illegal religious degrees is that there is a difference between a religious and an academic degree, and that the rules that govern academic degrees simply don’t apply to the issuance of a religious or theological degree.

We have already seen that in the opinion of the Texas Attorney General religiously-affiliated institutions are NOT exempt from meeting the requirements of the Texas Education Code, but what about legitimate religious schools and theological seminaries, how do they view their own degrees?

Of the 251 religiously based colleges, universities and theological seminaries currently recognized by the ‘Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada’ and by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) all maintain an academic curriculum and structure and (based on a study of their web-sites and publications) consider their degrees to be an “academic degrees.”

The on-line encyclopedia ‘Wikipedia’ is a continually reviewed updated and reference source which can be edited by anyone. Wikipedia articles offer insight into the general public perception of a topic. When we look at the Wikipedia entries for Doctor of Theology and Doctor of Divinity we see that they are both defined as “academic degrees:

• “Doctor of Theology (in Latin Theologiae Doctor, abbreviated Th.D.) is a terminal academic degree in theology.” – (

• “Doctor of Divinity (D.D., Divinitatis Doctor in Latin) is an advanced academic degree in divinity.” – (

Clearly every legitimate theological seminary and college or university offering a theological program considers an academic curriculum and structure essential to their degrees, and the public impression of religiously based degrees is that they are in fact academic degrees.

One should be extremely wary of any entity that issues degrees with no academic curriculum or structure, claiming that its religious nature somehow exempts it from any academic standard or requirements. Such an entity is almost certainly issuing fraudulent and illegal degrees, or at best is issuing a substandard degree that confers no qualification or legitimate credential whatsoever, and may in fact be illegal to use in many states.


One should be particularly aware of degree scams that offer you credit for your life experience and current spiritual work, giving you an immediate doctorate degree in divinity, theology, or ministry all for a few hundred dollars and perhaps requiring a short paper of no more than a couple thousand words.

Another warning sign that an institution is issuing fraudulent, substandard, or illegal degrees is if they make it a point to explain why their degrees are “bonafide legitimate doctorate degrees.” While a truly legitimate college or university will normally identify its accreditation it is highly unlikely that it will have to stress why its degrees are “bonafide and legitimate”. Only an institution issuing fraudulent degrees needs to attempt to convince you of their legitimacy.

It is important to confirm the physical address of any school before you enroll. A legitimate college, university, or seminary will have a physical business address, even if it is set up to provide only on-line study. Any institution using a mail drop address is almost certainly issuing fraudulent and illegal degrees. You should be able to visit the institution that will grant your degree. If the offices of the college, university, or seminary are a back room or basement in somebody’s home, the degree is almost guaranteed to be substandard, and is most likely being illegally issued.

As we continued to look into the issue of addresses, we discovered that it is a violation of Federal law to use the Postal Service in conjunction with a business and request to be addressed by, any fictitious, false, or assumed title.

“Whoever, for the purpose of conducting, promoting, or carrying on by means of the Postal Service, any scheme or device… or any other unlawful business, uses or assumes, or requests to be addressed by, any fictitious, false, or assumed title, name, or address or name other than his own proper name, or takes or receives from any post office or authorized depository of mail matter, any letter, postal card, package, or other mail matter addressed to any such fictitious, false, or assumed title, name, or address, or name other than his own proper name, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.” (18 U.S.C. 1342)

Beware of any institution that offers a ‘one-time only tuition cost to you:’ ‘each doctorate degree is only $$$, get a second degree at half-price, $$$’, or any similar come-on where you simply purchase your degree for a flat fee.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (2005) “Most diploma mills charge a flat fee, require little course work, if any, and award a degree based solely on work or life experience.”

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (2007) cautioned that one of the warning signs that an institution may be offering fraudulent or substandard degree is charging “tuition and fees by the degree and not by the course. Whether charging $299 or $29,000, this is a sign of fraud. Legitimate colleges charge tuition by the credit hour (semester, quarter, or trimester) or by the course. Not all fraudulent or substandard institutions charge by the degree; some charge by the credit hour in order to appear legitimate. However, legitimate institutions do not charge by the degree.”

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education advises: when considering a degree provider, an answer of “yes” to one or more of the following questions may be an indicator of a diploma mill.

• Can degrees be purchased?

• Is there a claim of accreditation when there is no evidence of this status?

• Is there a claim of accreditation from a questionable accrediting organization?

• Does the operation lack state or federal licensure or authority to operate?

• Is little if any attendance required of students, either online or in class?

• Are few assignments required for students to earn credits?

• Is a very short period of time required to earn a degree?

• Are degrees available based solely on experiences or résumé review?

• Are there few requirements for graduation?

• Does the operation fail to provide any information about a campus or business location or physical address and rely only on a post office box?

• Does the operation fail to provide a list of its faculty and their qualifications?

• Does the operation have a name similar to other well-known colleges and universities?

• Does the operation make claims in its publications for which there is no evidence?

While it is not possible to list every institution engaged in a degree scam or issuing fraudulent, substandard, or illegal degrees; the state of Michigan maintains a list of schools that have been found to be most egregious in their issuance of fraudulent degrees.

The list (since removed) can be found on-line at
Degrees from any entity on this list will not be accepted by the Michigan Department of Civil Service as satisfying any educational requirements or job specifications. Even if you don’t live or work in Michigan, any institution on the Michigan list is highly questionable, and would most likely be found fraudulent, substandard, or illegal if investigated by any other state.

The state of Maine maintains a similar list on-line at: (dead link)

The state of Oregon is a leader in the fight against fraudulent, substandard and illegally issued degrees. Oregon maintains a list of entities issuing invalid degrees on-line at:

In addition to checking the Michigan, Maine and Oregon lists of unaccredited institutions, one should also check the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) – Database of Institutions and Programs Accredited by Recognized United States Accrediting Organizations, on-line at: and the U.S. Department of Education Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs (USDE) on-line at:

The CHEA and USDE databases list institutions that are recognized as having met certain standards in their education programs.

While being listed in the CHEA or USDE database doesn’t guarantee that a degree will be suited to any specific purpose, an institution that issues degrees and is not listed in either one these databases is at best highly questionable.


Next, contact the higher education board in the state where the “degree-granting institution” is located and get the board’s opinion of the institution in question. Every state has some type of governing body for higher education. When considering enrolling in any college, university, or seminary, where there may be a question about its legitimacy, it pays to contact the governing body for higher education in the state in which the institution is located and ask whether that institution is recognized by the state and whether the degrees they issue are legitimate.

At the time this article was written the U.S. Department of Education maintained a list of State Higher Education Agencies on-line at:


Several states are beginning to recognize the problem of fraudulent, substandard, and illegally issued degrees and are passing laws to combat this crime.

Currently it is illegal in North Dakota, New Jersey, Texas, Nevada, Washington and Maine to use unaccredited degrees. It is illegal in Indiana to use an unaccredited doctorate. Other states are considering laws to protect their citizens from diploma mills and substandard degrees.

In Washington State, issuing a false academic credential is a class C felony; and knowingly using a false academic credential is a gross misdemeanor. (RCW 9A.60.070)

Florida Statute 817.567 — Making False Claims of Academic Degree or Title.– provides that no person in the state may claim, either orally or in writing, to possess an academic degree, as defined in s. 1005.02, or the title associated with said degree, unless the person has, in fact, been awarded said degree from an institution that is: (a) Accredited by a regional or professional accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education or the Commission on Recognition of Postsecondary Accreditation… [or run by a state or by the Federal government, or for schools outside the U.S. has been validated by an accrediting agency approved by the United States Department of Education as equivalent to the baccalaureate or post-baccalaureate degree conferred by a regionally accredited college or university in the United States...]


(2) No person awarded a doctorate degree from an institution not listed in subsection (1) shall claim in the state, either orally or in writing, the title “Dr.” before the person’s name or any mark, appellation, or series of letters, numbers, or words, such as, but not limited to, “Ph.D.,” “Ed.D.,” “D.N.,” or “D.Th.,” which signifies, purports, or is generally taken to signify satisfactory completion of the requirements of a doctorate degree, after the person’s name.


According to Roger H. Schmedlen (2006), writing in the Michigan Lawyers Weekly, “Some unsophisticated would-be experts may truly believe it is possible for them to obtain a legitimate degree without attending classes or performing any study activity–simply by using credit from lifelong career experience. . . . It isn’t!”

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board warns that another of the warning signs of fraud is an institution that “offers to grant a degree or generous amounts of credit for life experience. Claims that one can receive a complete degree for one’s life experience are a sure sign of fraud. Calculating credit awarded by years of service in a particular job or function is also a sign of fraud. Legitimate colleges that award credit for life experience require extensive evidence that the experience is the equivalent of coursework taught at a college. The average legitimate award by that means will be approximately 12 to 18 semester credit hours (about one semester). Many students who are assessed receive no college credit.”

While one should understand that no legitimate accreditor enforces any particular theological understanding, doctrine, or theology; it is just as important to understand that states have a responsibility to ensure that the public is not put at risk by fraudulently issued degrees and credentials. Ask yourself whether you would trust a medical doctor who received an immediate medical degree based on life experience. Would you trust a psychiatrist whose degree was based on a 4 to 8 page paper? No? Well, if you will not trust your physical and mental health to a person with a fraudulent or substandard degree, why would you trust someone with this type of degree to guide you in your spiritual and religious well-being?

John Bear (2007) offers an emphatic warning concerning fraudulent degrees: “We must warn you, as emphatically as we can, that it is very risky to buy a fake degree or to claim to have a degree that you have not earned. It is like putting a time bomb in your resume. It could go off at any time, with dire consequences. The people who sell fake degrees will probably never suffer at all, but the people who buy them often suffer mightily. And — particularly if their “degree” is health-related — their clients may be seriously harmed.”

We consider a religious degree to be health-related in any case where the degree-holder is involved in offering counseling or spiritual guidance. One’s spiritual health is just as important as one’s physical, mental and emotional health.


Fraudulent, substandard, and illegal degrees endanger the safety of the American public. Persons who use a fraudulent, substandard, or illegal degree and provide health-related services, to include counseling, providing life-skills and religious guidance or therapy, put the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health of their clients at serious risk.

Using a fraudulent, substandard, or illegally issued degree is likely to have dire consequences for the person who uses it, both in employment and licensing issues and in matters of trust and integrity. It is in fact illegal in several states to use an unaccredited, fraudulent, substandard or illegally issued degree.

A serious question should arise in regard to any individual’s integrity and competence, who claims a fraudulent, substandard, or illegally issued degree regardless of any other credentials or experience that person may possess.



109th Congress – Diploma Integrity Protection Act of 2006 – H.R. 6006

Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada

Bear, John, Quackwatch, Degree Mills,on-line at: (May 2007)

Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)

Federal Trade Commission, “Facts for Business Guide on Avoiding Fake Degree”, February 1, 2005 on-line at:

Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education –

Religious Freedom Restoration Act (42 U.S.C. § 2000bb (1993)

Schmedlen, Roger H. CPP, CFE, CII, MIPI – Michigan Lawyers Weekly, “Doctor Who? Avoiding Fraudulent Opinion Experts”, April 24, 2006 Edition; on-line at:

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Frequently Asked Questions, May 2007


President of Southern Baptist Convention lies time and again about his "education"

June 12, 2008 (source)

"Dr" Johnny Hunt

The newly elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention has a
credibility problem.

Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga.,
identifies himself with the title "Dr." and lists two accredited
educational institutions on his personal Web site from which he did
not receive a doctorate. Yet he is often identified publicly as having
degrees—degrees that come from two diploma mills.

On his personal Web site, It's A New Day Ministries, the "internet
home of the preaching ministry of Dr. Johnny Hunt," his educational
credentials are Gardner-Webb College and the Southeastern Baptist
Theological Seminary. No reference is made to the terminal or honorary
degree which affords him the prestigious title of "Dr. Johnny Hunt."

When Hunt is named in conference programs, he is listed as having
degrees from schools other than those on his Web site.

For example, the February 2007 evangelism conference program of the
Southern Baptists of Texas Convention said, "Hunt is a graduate of
Gardner-Webb College, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and
Immanuel Baptist Theological Seminary."

The October 2007 Southwide Annual Conference program said Hunt "holds
Honorary Doctorate degrees from Immanuel Baptist Theological Seminary,
Covington Theological Seminary, and Tennessee Temple University."

The February 2008 annual pastors' conference of the First Baptist
Church of Jacksonville program said Hunt "has received a Doctorate of
Divinity from Immanual [sic] Baptist Theological Seminary and a
Doctorate of Sacred Laws and Letters from Covington Theological

When Georgia Baptist Convention editor Gerald Harris wrote about
Hunt's nomination, he included a paragraph about Hunt's education:
"Immanuel Baptist Theological Seminary in Sharpsburg, south of
Atlanta, awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree and
Covington Theological Seminary in Rossville honored him with a Doctor
of Sacred Laws and Letters degree."

Clearly, Hunt's colleagues know about his degrees from two dubious,
Georgia-based entities that lack credible academic standing and
legitimate accreditation.

Located outside of Atlanta, Immanuel Baptist Theological Seminary
offers an "external degree program" that allows students "to earn
college and/ or seminary credit at home."

Three of Immanuel's faculty members, including its president and
executive vice president, are family members. Many faculty members
appear to have residences in Ghana, India, Indonesia, Korea and
Nigeria. An Internet search of a number of faculty members turned up
only links to Immanuel.

"If the student cannot come to college or seminary, IT can come to the
student through Regional Campus classes, the External Degree Program,
or through the Immanuel-Judson Bible Institute," explains the
seminary's Web site.

Covington Theological Seminary offers night classes, "allowing the
students an opportunity to have daytime jobs while earning a Bible

Three of Covington's staff members—its president, executive secretary
and director of administrative services—are family members. The
school's president holds "the B.R.E., Th.B, M.Div., D.Min, D.R.E., and
Th.D. degrees from Covington Theological Seminary."

The school's vice president for academic affairs has a Ph.D. from the
Southern Baptist School for Biblical Studies, a degree that the school
does not appear to offer.

Addressing the issue of accreditation, Covington states, "We have not
nor will we seek governmental acceptance, accreditation, or funding
for the effectiveness of our programs."

Covington's accreditation comes from the Accrediting Commission
International, the "world's largest non-government school accrediting
association," which has only a handful of Web pages with little

Covington identifies itself as affiliated with the Association of
Christian Schools International (ACSI), an organization with its own
questionable standards of accreditation.

Neither Covington nor Immanuel is accredited by the Association of
Theological Schools, as are all six Southern Baptist Convention

Covington and Immanuel fit into a category known as "diploma mills,"
entities that demand little, if any, real academic training, enable
students to bypass rigorous education, have no legitimate
accreditation and award impressive sounding degrees.

One of Hunt's own "sons in the ministry" was forced to resign from the
prominent First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach, Fla., in part
because of his diploma mill degrees.

Highly recommended to the church by Hunt, Steven Flockhart was forced
out "over a controversy involving fabricated education credentials,"
reported Baptist Press, which noted that the Palm Beach Post had
discovered that Flockhart had obtained correspondence degrees from
Covington Theological Seminary, "a Georgia school not accredited by
any recognized accrediting agency."

"Covington, based in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., claims its accreditation
through an agency that is not recognized by the U.S. Department of
Education and is an outgrowth of a company that was once charged with
fraud," reported Baptist Press in October 2006. "As of mid-October,
Covington's website said the school is accredited by Accrediting
Commission International (ACI) of Beebe, Ark. ACI once was known as
the International Accrediting Commission based in Missouri but changed
its name and moved to Arkansas after it was charged with fraud and
barred from doing business in Missouri."

Two dubious institutions gave the new SBC president a title that he
proudly bears. By identifying himself with the "Dr." title, Hunt
legitimizes these diploma mills and encourages by example other
ministers to take educational shortcuts—shortcuts which deceive
churches about the real quality of the academic training of their

That places the question mark of integrity over the SBC.


Steven Flockhart, First Baptist pastor in West Palm Beach, quits abruptly over bogus credentials

Palm Beach Post, USA
Aug. 27, 2006 (source)
Steven Flockhart

Steven Flockhart

WEST PALM BEACH � Newly appointed Pastor Steven Flockhart abruptly abandoned the pulpit at First Baptist Church West Palm Beach late Friday after The Palm Beach Post questioned the fabricated education credentials he used to land the post.
Flockhart, 40, submitted a one-line resignation to church leaders, said the Rev. Kevin Mahoney, executive pastor of the venerable church along the Intracoastal Waterway. It was effective immediately.
“He admitted he lied. He has apologized for that and he’s asked for forgiveness,” Mahoney said.
A top Baptist minister, the Rev. John Sullivan, president of the Florida Baptist Convention, was traveling from Jacksonville to lead today’s services at the church. Flockhart was not expected to attend, Mahoney said, but told church leaders he would write an apology letter to be read to the congregation.
If a written apology isn’t received, Ben Bassett, chairman of the church’s personnel committee, will read a statement announcing Flockhart’s resignation, Mahoney said.
Although church leaders had welcomed Flockhart with much fanfare last month, Mahoney said, it was clear he couldn’t continue to lead the church.
His integrity was compromised, and, frankly, integrity is paramount for the character of a pastor,” Mahoney said.
Flockhart declined comment, referring questions to Mahoney.
The résuméPDF file Flockhart provided to the church made it appear he held bachelor’s and master’s degrees from two respected institutions. But a background check by The Post found he actually obtained bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees through correspondence courses offered by a Georgia theological school that isn’t accredited by a recognized agency.
Flockhart’s re’sume’ also said he is “currently obtaining a second master’s from Southeastern Theological Seminary.” But officials there said he never obtained a master’s degree from the school in Wake Forest, N.C., and is not now enrolled.
Jay Todd, an assistant registrar at the 56-year-old school, said Flockhart did take two online classes in the spring as a non-degree-seeking student.
“Your facts are correct,” Mahoney said when asked about Flockhart’s resume’. “There is absolutely a problem with the résumé.”
The discovery of Flockhart’s phony credentials followed an Aug. 13 report in The Post that he had run up large debts while leading a church in Georgia eight years ago, leaving it in near financial ruin.
Mahoney said First Baptist began its own investigation of Flockhart’s educational background even before The Post contacted it. Flockhart, Mahoney said, told him he had a bachelor’s degree from Columbia International University, an accredited institution in Columbia, S.C. School officials said he attended to two years but never obtained a degree.
“He admitted he lied,” the executive pastor repeated.
‘Significant endorsement’ impressed church
Mahoney downplayed the significance of the résumé, describing it as just a brief biography that Flockhart had provided the search committee through his mentor, the Rev. Johnny Hunt.
The endorsement from Hunt, the pastor of a 14,000-member church in Woodstock, Ga., was a key reason Flockhart was tapped to lead First Baptist after a three-year search, Mahoney said. Southern Baptist’s fundamentalist wing reveres Hunt, who was expected to be elected the convention’s president this year before he unexpectedly withdrew from consideration.
“That is a significant endorsement because Johnny Hunt is a leading pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Mahoney said. “He’s respected in both religious and secular circles.”
The only part of Flockhart’s résumé that checked out was his assertion that he had been accepted at Liberty Theological Seminary “to begin working on a second doctorate.”
Officials there initially told The Post he was not enrolled. Later, they said they discovered he paid his registration fees directly to seminary President Ergun Caner.
“The pastor is enrolled and has paid in advance,” said Ron Godwin, executive vice president and CEO of Liberty University. “I love those kind of students.”
He said Flockhart did not turn up in university records because Caner apparently recruited him. A Turkish-born Muslim, Caner converted to evangelical Christianity, then set off a firestorm in 2002 by describing the prophet Mohammed as a pedophile possessed by demons.
“Dr. Caner has a wide outreach to church leaders all over the United States and, as president of the seminary, enrolls a number of pastors individually,” Godwin said.
Besides, Godwin said of Flockhart: “He’s a good friend of our chancellor, Dr. Jerry Falwell.”
Better known as the founder of the once politically powerful Moral Majority, Falwell also helped found the university in Lynchburg, Va.
Poor quality of résumé a shock
Shortly after Flockhart’s appointment in West Palm Beach, The Palm Beach Post reported his financial troubles at a church near Dalton, Ga. Macedonia Baptist Church in Dawnville sued to force him to repay a debt that had ballooned to $162,799. The lawsuit was filed after he left in 1989 to head up Crosspointe Baptist Church outside Memphis, Tenn. It alleged that he used church credit cards for his personal use and wrote checks to himself without permission from church leaders.
He repaid the debt last year, church leaders said.
While in Dawnville, he was slapped with a $36,150 judgment by American Express Travel-Related Services Co. and a $8,617 lien from the Internal Revenue Service. He ultimately paid both.
When asked through Mahoney about the judgments, he initially denied they existed. When shown Georgia court papers, Mahoney reported that Flockhart then recalled the financial problems and said they had been taken care of.
Mahoney, who served as executive pastor of First Baptist during the three-year search, said he was not a member of the pastor search committee and did not know why the panel did not more fully investigate Flockhart’s background.
David Gille, chairman of the pastor search committee, has said members were taken by Flockhart’s skills as a preacher and his ability to draw people to the church. During the eight years he spent at Crosspointe, membership grew from about 300 to 2,300, Flockhart said in media interviews.
“The main reason the pastor was chosen was his outstanding evangelical skills,” Gille said last month. “We felt at this stage in our church’s life, that’s what we need.”
Others who reviewed Flockhart’s re’sume’ at The Post’s request said they were appalled by its lack of substance and specificity.
“I’ve never seen as poor a quality of résumé for a pastor of a significant church as this résumé,” said Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics in Nashville, Tenn.
Titled Salvation/Calling, the résumé takes up less than one page. At the top, Flockhart described his conversion at a 1985 revival and how he became a pastor, emphasizing his close friendship with Johnny Hunt.
Flockhart’s résumé doesn’t mention any of the churches where he served. He lists the names of three schools he attended but doesn’t include any dates or specific degrees he obtained.
Under the list of three schools, he wrote “Bachelor’s Degree, Masters and Doctorate of Ministry,” without specifying which degree came from which school.
Mahoney said he assumed that, because both the schools and degrees were listed in order, that Flockhart had gotten a bachelor’s degree from Columbia International University, an accredited university in Columbia, S.C., and a master’s from Southeastern Seminary, which is also accredited.
Parham, who is head of the 15-year-old organization that provides ethical information and resources to Baptist congregations, said he interpreted the re’sume’ the same way. He voiced surprise when told that Columbia and Southeastern reported Flockhart did not hold degrees from those institutions.
“It advances the perception that he is a graduate of those schools,” he said of Flockhart’s résumé. “That is intentionally misleading a congregation.”
Covington Theological School in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., was the only one on Flockhart’s résumé to confirm he received a degree.
“Covington Theological School: That’s a red flag,” Parham said.
It touts its accreditation from an agency that is not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and is an outgrowth of a now-defunct company that was once charged with fraud.
“This is one of those schools I wouldn’t recommend anyone go to,” said Rick Walston, author of Walston’s Guide to Christian Distance Learning: Earning Degrees Non-Traditionally.
Covington’s Web site says it is accredited by Accrediting Commission International. Once known as the International Accrediting Commission, it changed its name and moved to Beebee, Ark., after it was charged with fraud and barred from doing business in Missouri, according to an article by John Bear, who has collaborated with Walston and has served as an expert witness on diploma mills and fake degrees.
The school’s downfall proved to be a sting operation in which it accredited a school set up by a Missouri assistant attorney general. To make his fake school as outrageous as possible, the state lawyer listed the Three Stooges and other TV characters as faculty members. The school motto, when translated from Latin, was: “Education is only for the birds.”
When the head of the International Accrediting Commission agreed to accredit the school, he was charged with fraud.
Lack of résumé’s review criticized
Ray Warren, records director at Covington, remembered that Flockhart first registered for the school’s correspondence course in 1999 and then took some time off. Records show Flockhart got his bachelor’s in ministry in 2003, his master’s of ministry in 2004 and his doctorate of ministry in 2005, Warren said.
That means Flockhart didn’t have a college degree when he was pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Georgia, or until five years after he arrived in Millington, Tenn., where he persuaded the congregation to build an $11 million sanctuary.
In sermons, he has told members of First Baptist Church West Palm Beach that he never graduated from high school and instead got a GED. He has said that he has an “earned doctorate,” emphasizing that his journey from school dropout to the top of academia shows what the Lord can do once people accept him into their lives.
Flockhart didn’t need a degree to become pastor of any Southern Baptist church, said John Revell, an associate in convention relations at the Southern Baptist Convention.
“If I was going to wager a guess, most pastors have formal theological training,” he said. However, he said, it is up to local churches to decide whether to require it of the pastors they choose to lead them.
Flockhart said he was “licensed to preach” in 1986 by Rev. Hunt and ordained by Hunt in 1990.
Hunt appeared via videotape at Flockhart’s first service at First Baptist last month and gave a ringing endorsement of his prote’ge’. Like Flockhart, he also lists a degree from Covington on his re’sume’. It says he holds an honorary doctorate from the school.
Parham said Flockhart’s re’sume’ should have been examined more closely.
“If Southern Baptist laity ever take Jesus seriously, they will protect themselves from false shepherds,” Parham said. “Jesus told his followers in Matthew 10:16, be wise as serpents. That means Baptist laity and leaders have to practice discernment.”
Mahoney described Flockhart as “remorseful” in meetings with church leaders.
“I think it’s tragic,” he said of the events that led to Flockhart’s resignation. “But I believe it’s in the best interests of our church.”
He said he didn’t know what Flockhart’s future holds. But he said he wishes him the best.
“Steven Flockhart is one of the most gifted communicators of the gospel that I have ever heard,” Mahoney said. “Do I think Steven Flockhart will again have an opportunity to preach the gospel? Yes. Do I think it will be at First Baptist? No.”

Steven (Steve) Flockhart started his own church, New Season Church, in Hiram (suburb of Atlanta), Georgia in Feb 2008 (source).



* Steven Flockhart in July 2004 (here)

* Steven Flockhart on his mentor Johnny Hunt, Dec 2011 (here)


Malaysian degree mills

New Straits Times, July 27, 2012 (source)

VIPs are among 525 individuals who were believed to have spent thousands of ringgit to purchase fake academic scrolls from foreign universities.
Police revealed this yesterday after they raided two premises in Cheras and Subang Jaya on Wednesday and seized computers and paraphernalia believed to have been used in producing the false documents.
Selangor police chief Datuk Tun Hisan Tun Hamzah declined to reveal the names of the VIPs as the investigations were still going on.
He, however, said two individuals, a 37-year-old company director and a 36-year-old woman, have been detained to facilitate investigations.
Tun Hisan said the two suspects, who operated from an office in USJ 10, were believed to have raked in about RM5 million by selling fake academic scrolls since 2003.

"The company used agents and online advertising to sell the fake documents.
"Degrees were sold at RM6,500, Masters for RM8,500 and RM10,500 for PhD," he said, adding that the academic scrolls were offered to locals and foreigners.
Tun Hisan said the customers were offered fake academic qualifications in various fields including human resource and engineering from five universities.
The universities were the University of Rockhampton (United States), Harvey International University (United States), Cannington Brook University (United Kingdom), Glastonbury University (United Kingdom) and Charles Molnar University (Hungary).
Tun Hisan said once a significant number of fake graduates were registered, the company would then organise a grand convocation ceremony at prestigious hotels in the Klang Valley.
"The astonishing part of the scheme was that family members of the 'graduates' were invited as well.
"The 'graduates' would pose in their graduation robe, complete with mortar board while while the scroll was given to each of them by a man posing as a dean or chancellor of an university," Tun Hisan said, adding that customers were charged separately for the convocation ceremony.
Tun Hisan said the case is being investigated for cheating and the suspects have been remanded to facilitate investigations. He urged parents as well as companies who have hired these fake graduates to come forward and assist in the investigations.
"Since the company has been operating for the past nine years, we believe there are significant number of fake graduates who had used their qualifications to get jobs and we will track them down."


Singapore degree mills 

The Straits Times, Nov 28, 2009 (source)

DEGREE mills that churn out 'graduates' at the drop of a hat are the sort of dodgy outfits we link with shadier parts of the world, but the problem is a lot closer to home and threatens to harm Singapore's name as an education centre.

Small as it is, the country appears six times on a list compiled by Oregon's Office of Degree Authorisation (ODA).

The American state has strict laws regarding the use of qualifications from unaccredited institutions and those dubbed 'degree mills' or 'degree suppliers'. It requires that a person's business cards, CV and letterhead declare if his degree is from an unaccredited university.

The term - degree or diploma mill - has been used in the United States and around the world to refer to 'substandard or fraudulent colleges that offer potential students degrees with little or no serious work'. They range from those which are simple frauds - an address to which people send money in exchange for a degree - to those that require some nominal work from the student but do not require the college-level study normally required for a degree.

Oregon's laws make its list one of the most comprehensive compiled by a state government body in the United States.

It names six institutions here as offering unaccredited qualifications: Cranston University, Templeton University, Trident University of Technology, Vancouver University Worldwide, Westmore University (Westmore College) and Lee Community College.

[ed. Buxton University, possibly from Singapore, is also on the list.]

Names of institutions go on the list if there are queries made by members of the public. Checks are carried out on the status of the university both in the US and with foreign governments before they are put on the list.

Checks by The Straits Times found that Westmore University's website is hosted by a company operating out of Science Park.

Vancouver University Worldwide, which was ordered to be shut by the Canadian government two years ago, had offered its courses here for a few years.

Several insurance industry professionals have MBAs, while some even have doctorates, from the university.

A few Singaporeans were also found to have degrees from Cranston University and Templeton University. Both are listed as online universities, based in Singapore and possibly Nevada.

The Palin School of Arts and Design in Bras Basah lists Trident University of Technology degrees, but Palin officials say that currently they are not offering the degree programme in advertising and design.

ODA's list says Trident was denied approval by the state of Wisconsin and it was never legal in New Jersey as claimed.

But what was surprising was the presence on the list of Lee Community College. The private school has a CaseTrust for Education quality mark and is popular for its diploma courses in counselling and psychology.

The Straits Times found that the school, in Maxwell Road, also offers a degree from the American University for Humanities (AUH), which a staff member said is accredited by the American Academy for Liberal Education.

ODA's website has this to say about the American university: 'New name for American University of Hawaii, which was closed by court order. Operations claiming accreditation from The American Academy for Liberal Education in Lebanon do not meet Oregon legal requirements and degrees are not valid here. Degrees issued from Delaware are not valid in Oregon.'

Although the school has been offering degree courses for years, a check with the Ministry of Education (MOE) revealed that Lee Community College is not approved to offer any external degree programmes.

An MOE spokesman said the matter would be investigated.

It warned that new regulations require all private schools to seek permission from the new statutory board, the Council for Private Education (CPE) before offering external degree programmes, including online programmes.

Non-compliance may lead to deregistration of the private school and prosecution of its officials.

Lee Community College's chief executive, Dr Frederick Toke, said the school spent over $100,000 to seek accreditation for the degree programme, which was from the American University for Humanities in Tbilisi, Georgia.

It was accredited by the American Academy for Liberal Education, a recognised accrediting agency in the US for liberal arts institutions, but was rejected by the MOE.

Dr Toke did not explain why the school continued to offer the degree despite the MOE rejection. He would only say that the school is now seeking MOE approval to run other degree programmes from the US.

Mr Alan Contreras, the administrator for Oregon's ODA, said Singapore never used to feature on the ODA's list.

'The problem Singapore has is that it opened the door to private post-secondary education without establishing a serious governmental oversight process to make those providers prove that they are legitimate,' he said.

'In effect, your government has allowed its name to be used inappropriately because only government authorised colleges can issue genuine degrees.'

Mr Contreras also warned: 'Without enforcement of standards by the government, anything goes. This is why the reputation of degrees issued in Singapore is falling.'

The MOE said that under the new laws that will come into effect by the end of the year, the Council for Private Education will run checks on these claimed partnerships.

'These measures will help ensure that dubious programmes offered by degree mills will not be permitted by CPE to be offered in Singapore,' said the spokesman.

But the new laws have come too late for a 26-year-old who attended evening classes and did course work for over three years for an AUH degree from Lee Community College.

The administrative manager hopes the new laws for private schools will ensure that only valid degrees are offered here.

'I took up the degree because I was interested in a counselling career. I spent more than $20,000 of my hard-earned money to study for the degree. Now I find out that it is worthless.'


More on Singapore degree mills


Cranston University, Templeton University – these two printers seem to specialize in account management courses. It’s worthwhile noting that Templeton U is registered under a Las Vegas PO box number (IR here I come!), and offers discount coupons for its courses on Merchant Circle.
Trident University of Technology – From a writeup in Palin U: “A long standing tradition of academic excellence in the field of Business and Technology education. This year the university was re-named Trident University of Technology to signify its continual growth and improvement as it looks ever forward to fulfilling its mission of becoming an internationally recognised, world-class university of technology.” And to try to escape the banned list, no doubt. The website is, of course, down.
Vancouver University Worldwide – From a cached webpage (the actual VUW website was listed by my security software as a malware site, so please don’t go there) “Vancouver University Worldwide is (1) a consortium of globally-dispersed constituent and affiliate member colleges and programs, and (2) conducts a collateral ‘external’ aggregate-learning degrees process.” Translated: (1) you can’t really track us down if you’re looking for a refund, and (2) we print degrees.
Westmore University – The official website looks a free blog site, with nothing very much on it. Domain is for sale, if you’re interested. The cost of a degree ranges from $400 for a high school degree to $1500 for a PhD. Imagine: for the cost of paying a few years of (new) HDB taxes, you get to be called “Doctor”.
Lee Community College – The crowning glory. This is the shop that you pass by everytime you want to take a coffee break at Telok Ayer Food Market. Specializing in “psychology” and “counselling”, it offers external degree courses despite the small problem of MOE not allowing them to do so. MOE said they will “investigate”. You gotta feel sorry for the China students who plonked down US$20K for these soon-to-be-shut-down course programs.

"Dr" (bogus?) Frederick Toke, boss of Lee Community College, 
a Singapore diploma mill 

"Dr" (bogus?) Frederick Toke, boss of Lee Community College,
a Singapore diploma mill (source)


Dr Frederick Toke, PsyD, is the Founder and President of Lee Community College and an Adjunct Clinical Supervisor at National Institute of Education (NTU) Psychological Academic Studies Group. He holds a Doctor of Psychology degree with the American University,

(ed. The American University in Washington, DC does not appear to offer a PsyD program [see here and here]. Toke's doctorate is therefore suspect.)

and is a member of the American Counselling Association and serves as the Secretary of Psychotherapy Association of Singapore. Author of several life skills books, he also lectures in counselling programmes and holds public talks/seminars and counsels the community. 

Dr Toke is a Certified Trainer of Critical Incident Stress Management as well as a Licensed Marriage Solemnizer with ROM. He is also regularly featured on 938LIVE, CNBC, Channel NewsAsia, The Straits Times and local periodicals. 

Make dodgy degrees illegal in Singapore

Straits Times, Dec 7, 2009 (source)

SINGAPORE should make it illegal to buy fake degrees and use them to seek jobs or business.

At the very least, it should follow the example of Oregon in the United States, which has laws requiring graduates from all unaccredited institutions to declare the status of their qualifications on their CVs and business cards.

I bring this up in light of recent articles in this newspaper highlighting the proliferation of degree mills and unaccredited, even bogus, institutions here.

For a little red dot, Singapore appears six times on a list of unaccredited institutions and degree mills compiled by Oregon's Office of Degree Authorisation (ODA). The six Singaporean institutions named are Cranston University, Templeton University, Trident University of Technology, Vancouver University Worldwide, Westmore University and Lee Community College.

ODA's office administrator, Mr Alan Contreras, said Singapore never used to make the dubious list. It does so now because the authorities opened the door to private post-secondary education without first establishing a strict oversight system.

'Your government has allowed its name to be used inappropriately,' said Mr Contreras, a plain-speaking man.

'Without enforcement of standards by the government, anything goes. This is why the reputation of degrees issued in Singapore is falling.'

His remarks may chafe but the authorities here should pay heed if we are to retain Singapore's position as a thriving educational hub that attracts the best global talent.

There is another reason why new regulations need to be instituted: more and more Singaporeans and foreigners are using these unaccredited or bogus degrees to land jobs and market their businesses.

In an expose last year, The Straits Times revealed that many Singaporean professionals - including prominent businessmen, insurance executives, investment advisers and even teachers - try to hoodwink employers and the public by touting qualifications from degree mills or substandard institutions.

Not surprisingly, some prominent people quietly dropped the 'Dr' titles from their business cards soon after the ST articles appeared. But some were only persuaded to do so after the much publicised case of Clemen Chiang, who used to make a lucrative living running weekend seminars on options trading.

When they discovered that his PhD was an unaccredited one from Preston University, a group of 48 of his course participants sued him for a refund of their fees in October last year. The court found him guilty of misrepresentation and ordered him to refund the fees - totalling $176,583. Another 400 of his students have since filed claims with the Small Claims Tribunal.

His appeal against the ruling for the first group of students was dismissed last week by the High Court.

Mr Chiang maintained that he should be allowed to use his PhD qualifications as he had done academic work - a thesis on options trading.

That is also the argument of several counselling psychology graduates from the American University for Humanities (AUH) who studied for their degrees at a private school here, Lee Community College.

The school had sought approval from the Ministry of Education (MOE) for the course which was offered by the university - located, surprisingly, not in the US but in Tbilisi, Georgia. Although MOE did not approve the application, the college continued to run the course.

In a letter published on the school's website, 27 graduates from Lee Community College complained that The Straits Times in its article last week had not taken into account the many hours of hard work they put in to attain their degrees.

That may be so. But the fact still remains: the course was not approved by the authorities here.

While MOE did not give reasons for its rejection, it is worth noting that AUH's two campuses in the US are both currently not accredited in the country.

Accreditation exists for a reason. It is a formal recognition, or guarantee, that a university meets certain standards. And it has become even more important today, when bogus and substandard institutions are flourishing. The ease with which degree mills can be set up and market themselves on the Internet does not help.

In the US, accreditation is a rigorous process. To pass muster, universities must be able to demonstrate a clear sense of purpose, and show that they have the resources and ability to achieve their aims. Their facilities should be excellent, and their staff must be well qualified.

It is important that standards are maintained in academia. If not, how will we be able to tell the quack from the expert, the ones with the requisite skills and knowledge from those without?

One Lee Community College student argued that it was not that important for counsellors to have accredited degrees. After all, they are not psychiatrists.

But we would not see a doctor without a proper degree, or engage an architect without the proper qualifications, so why should we make an exception with counsellors?

To bolster her case, the student trotted out that old urban myth about Harvard University being unaccredited.

'I was told by one of my lecturers that even Harvard University is not accredited. The university is so confident of its standards that it refuses to subject itself to US accreditation. Perhaps it is the same for AUH,' she said.

She should have verified her statement, just as she should have checked on the approval status of the degree course offered through Lee Community College. Not only is Harvard University accredited, it has been accredited since 1929 by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Its last review was in 1997.

This year it is due for another reaccreditation. Even Harvard is not above wanting to subject itself to accreditation.


Anonymous said...

I am rather surprised that this Ang Moh knows PAP government better than at least 60% of its citizens.
"The problem Singapore has is that it opened the door to private post-secondary education without establishing a serious governmental oversight process to make those providers prove that they are legitimate," he said.

Anonymous said...

George Gollin has been found in violation of the Illinois State Employees and Officials Ethics Act and fined $5,000. George Gollin "knowingly and intentionally used his state-provided email account to engage in prohibited political activity...." George Gollin admitted he knew he was misappropriating state resources when he sent "dozens" of campaign emails with his university email. The Executive Ethics Commission levied a $5,000 fine against George Gollin, the maximum allowed under the statute.

This comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with George Gollin's well-documented legal history of alleged extortion, stalking, civil rights violations, defamation, computer hacking, and a myriad of other contemptible and bizarre behavior. George Gollin seems to think that the taxpayer supported university is his personal playground, and its resources are to be exploited for his personal amusement.