George Lucas Educational Foundation

Pandemic Non-Accredited Degree Fraud - Tom Vanderbeck

Pandemic Non-Accredited Degree Fraud - Tom Vanderbeck

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I recently ‘dropped out of school’ at age 62. I could no longer associate myself with the university at which I had been teaching. Here’s why.

Several of my M.B.A. students informed me that they had been denied acceptance into doctoral programs and teaching positions because their recent alma mater was not regionally accredited. Their investments of two years of work and $25,000 had been for naught; and their credits were not transferable toward future educational endeavors.

They had been deceived by false advertising on the ‘university’ website, mercenary sales pitches, and premeditated lies. My own inquiries concerning accreditation before I began teaching at this ‘university’, later proved to have been addressed with similar falsehoods, verbally, in print, and on line.

Shocked and angry, some of my ‘graduated’ students had individually confronted their admissions counselors about the deceptive promises of a having a degree with which they could “apply to any graduate school in the world.” After complaining to these ‘sales counselors’ about their promised regionally accredited and world-respected degree, each advising ‘commissioned rep’ became righteous and defensive about not being accountable for any student’s unique circumstances and unforeseeable problems.

One ‘academic advisor’ actually stated to me, “We promised that students could ‘apply’ anywhere with our degrees, not that their degrees would be recognized, respected, or accepted.”

Legitimate regional accreditation certifies that an institution achieves its stated educational objectives, meets or exceeds established national academic standards, and all degree programs have been rigorously and scrupulously evaluated and validated before diplomas may be awarded. This lengthy and meticulous process begins with a comprehensive self-study and is followed by an on-site evaluation of the administration, faculty, programs, and services of the entire institution. This scrutiny is performed by one of the six U.S. Regional Accreditation agencies for colleges and universities. [See contact information below.]

Regionally accredited schools include those in the Ivy League, state college, and university systems; and hundreds of respected private and public institutions.

Currently, in the United States there are more than one thousand non-accredited colleges and universities that offer classes, certificate programs, and bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees. Each year, they enroll several millions of students. Gross sales in the United States exceed 30 billion dollars per year. More than half of their spurious fees are funded by student loans, federal grants, and military subsidies.

The owners of these for-profit institutions prey upon gullible high school graduates, international students, young business professionals, and returning members of the military eager to better themselves educationally by learning desirable job skills, earn a meritorious degree, and ensure employment and prosperity for their families.

After graduation, these students sadly discover that their credits are not transferable. Legitimate, honorable, and regionally accredited institutions of higher education, as well as most corporations, do not recognize or accept what these students soon realize are bogus degrees. So, these students, professionals, and veterans will not be accepted into advanced degree programs. They will not be hired for teaching positions. They may not be hired for any career in their area of study.

The perpetrators of these college and university scams often claim accreditation by defunct and/or self-invented agencies of certification, or misrepresent themselves as “about to be” accredited, after which previously awarded degrees will be retroactively blessed with official approval. The unconscionable purveyors of these junk degrees are racketeers that deliberately practice blatant deceit. These avaricious and unethical business owners know that they can act openly, with impunity, and without risk of being held accountable by state or federal authorities for their carefully scripted malfeasance.

It is a national disgrace that pandemic degree fraud has become big-business-as-usual without having been long ago identified, vilified, and thwarted through state and federal oversight, monitoring, and strict legal consequences. Sadly, there are no consumer protections against the notorious poltroons of pseudo higher education.

I encourage you to view Public Broadcasting’s “College, Inc.” This may save you years of regret and thousands of dollars.

Verify legitimate, regional accreditation at these sites:

1. Middle Association of Colleges and Schools (MASCS) -
2. New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) -
3. North Central Assoc. of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)
4. Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NCCU) -
5. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) -
6. Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) -

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Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Engagement Manager

Thomas, thank you for sharing this with our community. Most of us are focused on the K-12 experience, but what happens afterward is just as important.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

As part of a fully accredited institution (Antioch University) can I just say AMEN and thank you! I see slick ads for for-profit "universities" and "Institutes" and they make me not only furious but also sad. Higher Education is expensive- it takes time and money to complete a degree- and I have no patience with those who would prey upon the aspirations of others.

At the same time, I think that many students make decisions about their undergraduate and graduate school path based upon an incomplete picture that goes beyond the fraudulent practices you describe. It's disheartening to hear students talk about selecting a program based on upon the cost, the schedule, or the ease of completion. As educators, we need to think hard about the institutions that we select. Do they align philosophically with the kinds of practitioners we want to be? Do faculty model good pedagogy, or are students subjected to lectures on the power of PBL? Do faculty actually teach courses based upon their research, or are they figure heads with a team of TAs doing the instructional work? Will you be known well and respected by those you're paying to teach you?

Thanks again Thomas. Well written!

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