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College Group To Publish Directory of Diploma Mills

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The American Council on Education, calling the organizations that sell fraudulent college degrees "numerous, tough, and aggressive," says it plans to release a directory of the so-called diploma mills later this year.

From its records, the ace's office on educational credits and credentials "can identify 145 organizations operating now or in the recent past as clearly fraudulent under state or federal laws," according to a summary of the office's findings in the latest issue of the Educational Record, the council's quarterly publication.

The article on "the new breed of diploma mills," written by Henry A. Spille, director of the office of educational credit and credentials, and David W. Stewart, a higher-education consultant, states that "another 114 organizations for which records exist appear to be legal but grossly marginal if any rational educational standards are applied.''

The authors estimate that "at least 200 more ephemeral diploma mills exist" and that "the total number of straight-out diploma mills in the United States is probably in the 400 to 500 range."

"In addition," the report notes, "there are at least 31 accrediting agencies that have at best casual standards."

According to the authors, a diploma mill "in its simplest form ... has few academic pretensions. It simply sells a diploma or degree to a person upon payment of a fee and does not require demonstration of the achievement of college-level learning outcomes. Such diplomas may carry the name of the diploma mill itself, or they may be duplicates of diplomas issued by legitimate colleges and universities. Bogus transcripts and letters of recommendation may also be part of the wares offered by the diploma mill in its most pristine form."

The ace's estimate that there are several hundred diploma mills in the United States is in line with that of the fbi, which is continuing its five-year "Dipscam" probe of such operations. (See Education Week, May 29 and June 5, 1985.)

According to Robert L. Pence, head of fbi operations in North Carolina, "Hardly a week goes by that we don't have someone call us or write us about another possibility in another state that we should take a close look at. We're probably dealing with tens of thousands of degree holders throughout the country and several hundred institutions."

This summer, for example, federal investigators issued a search warrant against Lanetta Williams for the records of the Elysion College of Liberal Arts in San Francisco, which had previously been known as Williams College.

According to Otho Allen Ezell Jr., a special agent for the fbi, Ms. Williams attempted to destroy records of the 15-year operation and was eventually indicted in July by a federal grand jury for obstruction of justice.

Meanwhile, Anthony James Geruntino of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, the kingpin of an operation that involved 22 entities and the selling of thousands of phony degrees in education, business, engineering, medicine, theology, and other fields, was sentenced in early July to five years in prison and fined $5,000.

Three other co-defendants were sentenced in May. The case represented the first time federal agents released the names of degree recipients in court records.

Mr. Ezell said that the agency is sending those names to state attorney generals and officials of other state and federal agencies. The list includes the names of about 2,000 people who bought degrees from American Western University, Northwestern College of Allied Science, and Southwestern University--unaccredited and bogus institutions.

The list, he said, also includes the names of about 2,300 people who bought degrees from Alumni Arts, a business that operated out of Grants Pass, Ore., selling counterfeit degrees from real universities. Those names were not released in court records.

Mr. Ezell said the fbi is continuing its Dipscam investigation.

"Some of the larger school cases involving search warrants should be completed within the next six months," he said. "We're doing them as fast as we can and we're probably talking about thousands of graduates again."

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