Changes in the wind in California (or: why I am writing this from a train)

Discussion in 'Accreditation Discussions (RA, DETC, state approva' started by John Bear, May 9, 2012.

  1. John Bear

    John Bear Senior Member

    The California State Assembly this morning held a 2-hour session on diploma mills, with the brand new (3 weeks) head of the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education and yours truly each bending their ears for half an hour. I was surprised and delighted to learn that the Bureau is now fully-funded and fully-staffed, with 20 Enforcement Officers, who are mandated to visit every one of the 1000-plus state-approved (but unaccredited) schools twice in every 2-year period, one announced visit and one unannounced. They are empowered to immediately close down a school and fine them $50,000, which they have done twice, so far, this year (haven't yet figured out which ones).

    There seems a strong interest, says Assemblyman Dickinson, head of their general oversight committee (equivalent of the GAO, sort of) to improve the image of California education and licensing. They had not grokked the severity of the problem, and their knowledge of accreditation is near zero, but the portents are encouraging.

    Third speaker was the local head of the Better Business Bureau who assured all the the BBB is on the job, helping to warn people. So I brought up the BBB page on the phony Breyer State on my iPad and showed it to the folks there. It has, as of this morning, an A+ rating.

    Two local TV stations, ABC and PBS, covered the meeting, and separately interviewed the new head of the Bureau (Ms. Methune) and me. Maybe the winds of change are starting to blow, at least a bit.
  2. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Fantastic, encouraging, amazing, wonderful news. If I can help....
  3. Cardinal Biggles

    Cardinal Biggles New Member

    LOL. Nothing better than an injection of reality.

    In your experience, Dr. Bear, are favourable BBB ratings often used as positive reputational cover for some mills, or is this one that slipped through the cracks?
  4. Chip

    Chip Administrator

    Wow. I'm impressed. I'm particularly impressed that, as strapped as the state is, and as much as they are cutting funding from community colleges and such, that at least they are funding efforts to shut down the frauds.

    I wonder what this will mean for the remaining frauds (if any) that are based here but claim to be operating somewhere else?

    On a side note, a friend who works for a nonprofit tells me that northern california is one of the worst places in the country for sex trafficking (which, given the number of obviously fake massage places here, I can believe.) Apparently a huge problem is that there are a ton of totally fraudulent massage therapy schools that apparently grant massage therapy training credentials to people who, at least in some cases, have never set foot in the classroom or done any work. These are thought to be people who are enslaved in some way or another, mostly non-documented Asian or Russian immigrants. So the fake credential from the fake school, in turn, allow these woefully unqualified people to get state certification as massage therapists... which they then use to get a license for employment at the front-for-prostitution massage places, making it harder to shut them down.

    There are many problems in California, but it's nice to see that money is being spent on enforcement on these issues.
  5. AuditGuy

    AuditGuy Member

  6. LearningAddict

    LearningAddict Well-Known Member

    There have been some unaccredited schools that wanted to become accredited but refused to better their ridiculously low standards. It seems awfully time-consuming to keep jumping through so many self-imposed hoops, when just working on standards would be a much better route. I mean, for the mills that definitely want to be mills, it makes sense to do nothing. But when you're a school that really wants to be legit, it makes no sense to just sit and fold your arms.
  7. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator

    Great news.....what did the BBB people say about their rating of Breyer State, if anything?
  8. emmzee

    emmzee New Member

    Am I correct in thinking that by default the BBB rating of all businesses is positive (hence the "A+") unless people start complaining about it?
  9. LearningAddict

    LearningAddict Well-Known Member

    That's always been my understanding.
  10. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    What I'd like to know is - what is the new BPPE doing about Breyer State? That um ...institution says on its site that it applied for BPPE approval in Sept. 2010. Why is it such a long-drawn-out deal? It's been over a year and a half!

    Can't understand why the aptly-abbreviated B.S.U. has been allowed to draw the process out for SO LONG! :(

  11. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Consumer complaints are a pretty good measure in most transactions. But as John pointed out in his article in 2000 about the subject, diploma mill customers are often not victims, but instead villains. Those people aren't going to complain to the BBB; they got what they bargained for.
  12. LearningAddict

    LearningAddict Well-Known Member

    What never ceases to amaze me about milled diploma holders, is just how fiercely they defend their fake degrees, lol. Had they put that kind of fire into actually taking real coursework they might've gotten an actual education.

    They get a Ph.D in 15 days and expect people not to question it? LOL. Wow.
  13. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    Fake degrees: a minute to earn, a lifetime to manage. Is it really worth all of that trouble?
  14. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I personally don't think so. But with a billion (or so) bucks spent on them each year, a lot of other people must think it's worth it. My dissertation research suggested it is worth it, too. As long as employers don't learn about the truth, of course. But they (largely) don't know and they (largely) don't care. "So the beat goes on...."
  15. LearningAddict

    LearningAddict Well-Known Member


    Ha, that would be good subtle slogan for the mills to let people know what they're getting into. I screwed around with the phony Western Advanced Central University a little while ago in a chat, and the millist claimed to be working on a new service that gives each student access to legal counsel to defend their right to use their (fake) degree. I asked the millist why a person would even need that, and the millist said "Because some people just want to keep people down." Yeah, THAT'S the reason... it has nothing to do with fraud at all (rolling eyes).


    The point you make about so many employers not knowing and not caring is a scary truth. I do a lot of contract work and one gig asked me to submit a credential history through their online form. The form is made by a third-party company (the name escapes me), but it allows employers to customize everything including the list of known schools that automatically populate when an applicant begins to type in the field. As I was typing, names like Kennedy-Westen, Preston, Breyer State, and other unaccredited gems would pop up. After getting the job, I never did find out if anyone in the company had a milled degree, but just the fact that those names were in the database says something. I mean, somebody had to actually put them in there.

    Then you see companies that put their fake degree holding employees and their fake credentials on public webpages, and still do nothing when an employee is pointed out as a fraud. I've been fortunate to have worked in a few places where the Hiring Manager knew about diploma mills and terrible unaccredited schools, but sadly those were the exception.
  16. John Bear

    John Bear Senior Member

    Cardinal: "In your experience, Dr. Bear, are favourable BBB ratings often used as positive reputational cover for some mills, or is this one that slipped through the cracks?"

    John: Alas, it is common. I devote a lot of space to the BBB in my main book on consumerism*, none of it favorable. They operate pretty much as a franchisor, with each local BBB quite independent. And if you are a member, you can do no wrong. If there is a complaint, they pass it on to the member, who thereupon says, "We resolved that," and the BBB marks it "Case closed."

    The most egregious example in recent years was the notorious Columbia State University, the huge ($72 million in 4 years) fraud that the Postal Inspectors and FBI finally closed down, at their unmarked location in San Clemente, CA. They featured, in their material, that they were a member of the BBB in Louisiana (where they pretended to be), which was true. When I sent clear evidence of their phoniness to the BBB, I got back a polite letter saying that they were indeed a member, and there were no unresolved complaints against them.

    What percentage of that $72 million that people lost can be blamed, at least in part, on the BBB?

    Bruce: the BBB representative in Sacramento was a bit feisty. "How do you know they aren't legitimate," she asked. I referred her to this forum, and others, and I've sent her some information . . . but somehow I wouldn't hold my breath expecting a result.

    I'd love to see someone sue the New Orleans BBB for contributing to the money they lost (or the trouble they got into) with Columbia State.
    * Send This Jerk the Bedbug Letter: how corporations, politicians and the media deal with consumer complaints (Ten Speed Press/Random House, but out of print)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 14, 2012

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