By Molouk Y. Ba-Isa
Saudi Gazette AL-KHOBAR – According to a UNESCO study, in 2009, about 24 “Mega” universities around the world were having a major impact in distance learning. Several of these enormous learning institutions claimed a million or more online students. As the importance and acceptance of online education grows, charlatans have been quick to take advantage of the trend. Unaccredited colleges and universities known as “diploma mills,” have sprung up online awarding distance learning degrees with little or no academic study required.
A newspaper in the Kingdom regularly runs advertisements for Washington International University (www.washint.edu). These ads claim that an “accelerated” distance education university degree is available from this organization based on work experience. The “degrees are authenticated by the American Government” and $500 scholarships are on offer.
“Washington International University has been around for quite some time,” said Vicky Phillips, online education expert and founder of GetEducated.com. “Originally they operated under the name Washington University, based in Hawaii. But there were a lot of problems involving the very reputable Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. So they left Hawaii and moved to South Dakota and then to Pennsylvania and changed their name to Washington International University. They have a long and checkered history.”
Washington International University has taken the path favored by many diploma mills. First they started with the name of a real and prestigious university. Then they got caught and changed their name. They moved several times as various locations changed laws to crack down on diploma mills. Now, Washington International University has incorporated in the British Virgin Islands where they are beyond the reach of the US authorities and US laws.
At the washint.edu website there is a price list claiming a $6,000 fee for a Bachelor of Business Administration and $6,600 for an MBA. But never fear — a discount is quickly available.
“If you actually apply, Washington International University staff will contact you and the price will go down drastically,” advised Phillips. “They’ll start their marketing pitch and say that for you, there’s a special scholarship of $500 today and they’ll also keep adding discounts for a variety of reasons. Essentially, they’ll get whatever they can.”
Unfortunately, although its degrees are rubbish, Washington International University’s advertisements are legal because the ads claim that the degrees are “authenticated,” not that the organization is accredited. In fact Washington International University is not accredited by any agency recognized by the US Department of Education. Authenticated degrees are actually pieces of paper where there’s a signature. The authentication or notarization certifies only that the paper was signed by the person named. It is irrelevant in regards to certifying the worth of a course of study.
Phillips noted that diploma mills are expanding their operations globally because it’s a very easy, profitable scam with few consequences for the perpetrators. Online education has become more credible and illegitimate universities are able to take advantage of this by setting up websites that provide a veneer of authenticity. In fairness too, not all the purchasers of degrees from diploma mills are deceived. Some people are determined to get ahead in the workplace, even by fraudulent means.
GetEducated.com has an online directory of over 3000 accredited online schools which are screened to be sure they are accredited by an agency that is recognized by the US Department of Education. The organization also rates the online degrees to show which ones are the “Best Buys,” because paying a lot for an online education won’t guarantee that it’s a better education. GetEducated.com offers a free service called the “Diploma Mill Police” that gives consumers factual information in order to verify if a chosen online university has proper distance learning accreditation or has consumer fraud or scam warnings lodged against it.
The majority of online degrees that are chronicled at GetEducated.com are offered by residential established schools such as Harvard University and Stanford University. Excellent online education opportunities are readily available and affordable so there’s no logic in purchasing a degree from an unaccredited school. Unless of course someone wants a “degree” fast and cheap – and doesn’t want to do any real academic work
Source : saudigazette