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What the Howl? Dog Earns Online MBA

posted by Mark on October 1st, 2009

Dog Earns Online MBAAnd by “earns” we mean “pays for.” In an eye-opening experiment conducted by education watchdog, the site’s pug mascot Chester applied for a Masters degree in Business Administration from the online school Rochville University.

Basically, all Chester had to do was mail in his resume and, more importantly, a check for $499. Within a week, he received an MBA diploma — mailed from Dubai — along with college transcripts detailing the classes he took and the grades he earned (GPA 3.19), plus a certificate of distinction in finance and even a certificate of membership in the student council. (For an extra $100, he could’ve graduated with honors.)

The experiment highlights how frighteningly easy it is to get a bogus degree online. If it doesn’t sound frightening to you, try using that degree get a job, and you’ll see how scary it can be.

Looking at the Rochville University website, however, you wouldn’t immediately suspect that it’s a diploma mill. It looks professionally designed, it claims that the school is accredited and it states that degrees take 2 to 4 years to earn (unlike other more obvious sites). So, how can you spot a diploma mill? Here are a few signs from the Rochville site:

  • Its web address has an “.org” extension rather than an “.edu”.
  • There are multiple errors in grammar and spelling. (Many bogus schools operate from foreign addresses.)
  • There’s no phone number or address listed.
  • The school is accredited by the Board of Online Universities Accreditation (BOUA), the Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation (UCOEA) and the World Online Education Accrediting Commission (WOEAC), none of which are recognized as a college accreditor by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council of Higher Education Accreditation. (See “How to Tell If an Online School is Accredited”.)
  • It mentions “experience-based degrees.”
  • It has a refund policy stating, “We provide 100% refund if you do not qualify for the degree program to which you apply,” as well as a policy on “Change in Particulars,” meaning if you want to change what your transcript says you earned.
  • There is little specific information on the site, particularly regarding classes and faculty. Even the school president’s name is nowhere to be found; all we get is an illegible signature.
  • When you try to apply, you get a message stating, “Rochville University is not providing degrees at this time of the year.” Possibly this is just a dummy site trying to provide legitimacy for the school, while the real “order now” site is elsewhere (see next item).
  • If you do a little searching around the Web, you’ll find a more representative, shady site for the school: (Doctorate degrees for $599!), not to mention numerous news articles and a Wikipedia entry detailing its underhanded dealings.

Don’t end up like poor Chester. Avoid diploma mills, or this could happen to you:

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