Higher education oversight and accreditation
At first reading, this might seem to be an arcane subject, dry and of interest only to university professors and administrators. But that has not been my experience. In 2002 University of Illinois computers began receiving spam via the Windows Messenger Service utility that had been sent by the "University Degree Program," a diploma mill later sued by the Federal Trade Commission. After months of spam, I called a number in one of the ads to complain. What I learned was alarming so I began collecting information in a more systematic fashion in order to post it to a university web site.
I presented Unconventional University Diplomas from Online Vendors at the UIUC Center for Advanced Study in February 2003. See this Chronicle of Higher Education story (and this follow-up article) for a description of what happened later that year. (Everything is fine now.) The events of 2003, in combination with investigative reporting by journalists in Spokane, Rochester NY, and Indianapolis, triggered a multi-agency federal criminal investigation that generated felony indictments (and convictions) of eight individuals. Some of this is described in Symmetry, an online magazine "about particle physics and its connections to other aspects of life and science." See also Diploma Mill Concerns Extend Beyond Fraud, Diana Jean Schemo, New York Times, June 29, 2008.
We are making progress. The increase in national attention to the problem of diploma mills has given rise to new legislation in several states, including Washington and Wyoming. Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN-04) and co-sponsors submitted House Resolution 773, the Diploma Integrity Protection Act of 2007 to the 110th congress early in 2007 as House Resolution 773. I have had the good fortune to work with Ms. McCollum's office on some of the details of the bill. Most of the text of the bill was included in the House version of the Higher Education Act Reauthorization bill (H.R. 4137, Title VIII, Part H: Diploma Mill Prevention). The diploma mill content of the final conference version of the bill was descoped, but not eliminated entirely. It was passed by the House and Senate by wide margins (380 - 49 and 83 - 8) and is now (August 2008) awaiting the President's signature. Click here for my analysis of the diploma mill content of H.R. 4137.
Current international efforts include a diploma mills working group that is newly organized by UNESCO and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Click here for information resources concerning unaccredited degree-granting institutions.
Click here for briefing material I use in congressional visits when discussing HR 773 and HR 4137, Title VIII, Part H.
I was elected to a three year term on the Board of Directors of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation in 2006.
I have presented a number of talks about accreditation and diploma mills:
- Center for Advanced Study Presentation (University of Illinois): February 5, 2003
- Department of Physics Special Seminar (University of Illinois): May 2, 2003
- Laboratory of Elementary-Particle Physics Journal Club Seminar (Cornell University): July 18, 2003
- Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics Seminar (University of California at San Francisco): September 12, 2003
- University of Illinois Alumni Association presentation: September 18, 2003
- Searle Center for Teaching Excellence seminar, Northwestern University: November 14, 2003
- Stanford Linear Accelerator Center colloquium: January 12, 2004
- Fermi National Accelerator laboratory colloquium: January 21, 2004
- University of Pittsburgh / Carnegie Mellon University Physics (Joint) Colloquium: February 2, 2004.
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Institute of Government and Public Affairs seminar: February 9, 2004.
- University of Michigan Law School and Ford School for Public Policy: March 8, 2004.
- University of Iowa Physics Colloquium: April 26, 2004.
- University of Wisconsin at Madison Physics Colloquium: September 29, 2004.
- Illinois Institute of Technology Biology Colloquium: October 18, 2004.
- American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) 2005 Annual Meeting, New York: March 28, 2005.
- National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals, Chicago: April 23, 2005.
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Education: September 21, 2005.
- University of Colorado Physics Colloquium: December 7, 2005.
- University of Chicago Physics Colloquium: January 5, 2006.
- Council for Higher Education Accreditation Annual Meeting: January 24, 2006.
- Indiana University Physics Colloquium: February 8, 2006.
- AACRAO 2006 Annual Meeting, San Diego: April 17, 2006.
- University of Oregon Physics Colloquium: May 18, 2006.
- Association of International Educators (NAFSA) Annual Conference, Montreal, May 23, 2006.
- National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) Annual Conference, June 6, 2006.
- AACRAO 2007 Annual Meeting, Boston: February 28, 2007.
- UIUC Campus Honors Program presentation: April 10, 2007.
- Case Western Reserve University Physics Colloquium: November 8, 2007.
From time to time I work with a variety of governmental and professional organizations concerning curricular issues, accreditation, and unaccredited degree-granting entities:
- State of Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection
- State of Illinois Board of Higher Education
- State of Missouri Department of Public Safety
- State of North Dakota Department of Career and Technical Education
- State of Oregon Office of Degree Authorization
- State of Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
- State of Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board
- State of Washington Office of the Attorney General
- Swedish National Agency for Higher Education
- United Kingdom's Department for Education and Skills
- The Netherlands Organization for International Cooperation in Higher Education (Nuffic) and the Netherlands Informatie Beheer Groep . Of particular interest is the Netherlands Diploma Mill website (Co÷rdinatiepunt Informatievoorziening Diploma Mills), a cooperative effort of IBG and Nuffic, commissioned by the Netherlands MOE.
- U.S. General Accounting Office Office of Special Investigations
- U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Inspector General
- U.S. Federal Trade Commission
- U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education
- U.S. State Department, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
- U.S. Secret Service
- Embassy of the Republic of Liberia
- American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO)
- Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)
- lots more (ask me)...
University of Illinois guidelines concerning faculty public service activities: A Faculty Guide for Relating Public Service to the Promotion and Tenure Review Process. In particular, see Defining the Scope of Public Service.
Information about some degree-granting institutions not accredited by CHEA-recognized organizations had described a number of topics relating to accreditation and distance learning. The material has been transferred to the State of Oregon's Office of Degree Authorization site and is now available here. For more information see this Chronicle of Higher Education story.
CBS Evening News story Cracking Down on Diploma Mills, July 25, 2003. Some of the footage shows my students working in the lab.
CNN story Controversy Over Online Education, August 30, 2003. CNN interviewed Dennis Chandler, a "professor" affiliated with (the unaccredited and now defunct) "St. Regis University" and me. (Scroll down to the second story.)
Carp are bottom feeders. (Higher education officials refer to diploma mills as "carp.")
Just for fun:
(94 kB jpeg);
big Carpmasters (655 kB jpeg);
Carpmasters bumpersticker (189 kB ppt).