Weasel Wording

Discussion in 'Accreditation Discussions (RA, DETC, state approva' started by Mac Juli, Oct 12, 2020.

  1. Mac Juli

    Mac Juli Well-Known Member


    What is the weasliest wording that you have seen regarding accreditation? I have seen a lot, but my current favorite is: "Graduates of the programme receive the British diploma of ###Business School. Diplomas have prestigious international accreditations."

    Best regards,
    Mac Juli
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  2. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Found 'em, Mac. You're right. It's not even a degree - so what's to accredit? :) This is NOT a degree. For 3300 Euro + they're selling an MBA DIPLOMA. I saw it on the site - it looks like a cert you might pay $100 for. Weasel is the appropriate word. This is not a degree-granting school, nor is it even partnered-up with some shady foreign institution, still clinging to its marginal ability to award degree-looking papers. :eek:

    One of the most flagrantly outlandish accreditation claims I've ever seen was from an unaccredited religious school in the U.S. The school claimed all its degrees were accredited by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. They did not, however, claim that the Lord would be presenting the diplomas on Graduation Day.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2020
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  3. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member


    And the most "weasliest" word abused when talking about accreditation? "Accredited."
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  4. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    "Accredited by the BBB" and "Accredited by ISO-2001" are two that come to mind. As somebody on a forum once said, "What are the ISO Standards for a degree mill, anyway?"
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  5. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    I've been wanting to do a full breakdown of this particular outfit for quite some time, but never got around to it with all else that was going on in my life. Given how absurdly and comically dishonest their accreditation page is, I'm inspired to share a bit of the fun here.

    There's a diploma mill known as USILACS - the United States Institute of Language and Cultural Studies. What makes them stand out from other diploma mills is who runs it and who the target market is. It's a juicy story, but basically, its student base is primarily ex-pat fundamentalist Christian evangelizers who need a bachelor's degree to maintain their Visas in Thailand. The "graduates" from the school are in Thailand and other Asian countries as TESOL instructors, and use the fake degree to gain employment and evade scrutiny from government officials while they dutifully go about their preaching assignments. They pay several thousand dollars, spend a few weeks reading fundamentalist propaganda (that they believe is somehow equivalent to a university education) and go off on their merry way, proud of flouting the system.

    Now, get a load of this nonsense.

    NACCUA is, obviously, a fake accreditor. Its website was created the same month as the USILACS website, and the only school it actually "accredits" is USILACS. Note the tricky wording here leaving the impression that the school, or its accreditor, has some form of recognition by the USDoE. It doesn't. Unfortunately, there are "graduates" of this "school" whom I know first hand who don't even realize this, and have insisted that their degrees were accredited!
    Accreditation takes years. Well, it usually does. It takes but a day to be "accredited" by NACCUA.

    They're not approved by the State of Florida. They have EXEMPTION from approval as a supposedly religious institution. Their Florida headquarters is a small rented office which appears to be one of a couple of addresses that they use for mail forwarding. Also, this "school" operates under 2 different names- one of them replaces "cultural" with "clerical," in a bid to keep up the front of religious studies. Good luck finding the names of anybody associated at this school- no faculty, no administration, and they went so far as to block out the name of the person to whom the state approval letter is addressed. I was able to find the name of precisely one person associated with their operations, but since I could not find any further confirmation of this person's identity, I wont reveal the name here.

    They're not lying about the religious part, but they ARE lying about the studies part. I've even received word, from a first hand source, that the "school" has even been lying to students about their legal status in Thailand. Apparently, they don't even have THAT to their credit.
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2020
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  6. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Oh wow. Indeed a sad situation. One thing - It's not an Institute of "Cultural" Studies. It's Clerical Studies. That word, I believe, is a hallmark "religious modifier" word that defines weaseldom - used to support forays by "religious-exempt" schools into secular territory. I see this outfit has courses in "Clerical Business Admin." as an example. Other schools of this type have skirted around the same issue with "MBAs in Church Management," "Spiritual Psychological Counseling" and the like - often bringing displeasure of Authorities on their heads.
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2020
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  7. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    And they have a degree program in Family Counselling. I see real danger here. I see improperly qualified(?), unlicensed people with the potential to do irreparable damage.
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  8. Mac Juli

    Mac Juli Well-Known Member

    Oh yeah. Fun with ISO-norms. Like these guys from Switzerland who claimed "Triple Crown" since they were accredited by ISO9001 (qualitv management), 14001 (environment management) and 18001 (occupational safety). Great...
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  9. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    Florida certainly is an interesting duck. On the surface, they have one of the strictest laws around doctorates. No calling yourself a doctor unless you have one. Then, of course, they open wide the doors by allowing you to use the title if you received a doctorate from an exempt school.

    I really do believe that if religious exemptions were limited to, say, three or four clearly religious degrees there would be a lot less controversy around them. What you can do with an M.Div. is fairly limited in the grand scope of degrees and I could stand living in a society, since we currently do, where unaccredited M.Divs are just very common. These forays into business administration, communications really grind my gears.

    To the original question, I think one of the weasliest moves I've seen was when Trinity (Newburgh) was doing of of their British validation schemes. I don't recall the exact wording but at times it sounded an awful lot like you were getting two degrees, one from them and the other from Canterbury or wherever they had an arrangement. That is, obviously, a very different scenario than getting a degree from Trinity Seminary with a stamp from a UK school on the back that is completely meaningless in the landscape of US education.

    To their credit, their current accreditation statement is, I think, fairly balanced. They acknowledge they're unaccredited and (for better or worse) note that many of their graduates have gone into many areas of work unimpeded by this lack of accreditation. And it's true. Every time we do this exercise it doesn't take us long to find Trinity alumni in teaching positions at accredited religious colleges and universities. Of course, it does seem that if you're an unaccredited bible school you can pretty much just ride off of the accreditation of an accredited school of a similar theological inclination.

    When you think about it, though, is it really so surprising? Whenever a time bomb goes off on a resume the initial defense is usually "But s/he worked for this degree!"
  10. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    The last of now-defunct Trinity Newburgh's three UK schemes was with the University of Wales Consortium. The first two were with Liverpool and then Canterbury. Unlike the "Liverpool Stickers" and "Canterbury Endorsements," I believe a grad actually received a University of Wales diploma/degree when he/she graduated from Trinity. I know that was the case with other schools of the 200+ that were in the U. Wales overseas validation portfolio, e.g. Fazley College, run by a local (Malaysian) pop star turned celebrity chef. I've heard stories that it was the Trinity (Newburgh) link that tipped the whole scheme over the edge, so that the U. Wales Consortium imploded and some heads rolled. It has since been re-formed, in all senses of the word. I heard somewhere that it was the idea of an unaccredited US school being involved, that didn't sit too well with authorities in UK and caused them to start turning over the rocks, resulting in the subsequent implosion of the whole scheme and the Consortium itself.

    If it was a U. Wales offer you saw from Trinity - it can't really be called weaseling. More like incredible but true. The other UK validations - yes, if they suggested what you said.
    As I saw it, Trinity was certainly no stranger to weaseling.
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2020
  11. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

  12. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    I can only speak of what I recall reading during the Canterbury era. I really stopped looking at Trinity after that point.

    And, again, in fairness to them they do seem to be reasonably well respected within certain Christian circles despite the lack of accreditation. This one is always a wiggly sort of thing. Our company policy is your degree needs to be accredited if it is the degree required for the job. There are caveats, of course. Namely that state registered is also OK and, subsequently, if your job requires a license and that degree qualified you for said license, it's also good to go. So, for example, if someone rolled up here with an unaccredited (at all, ABA or RA or NA or anything) JD and the position they applied for required them to be admitted to the bar, they're good as long as they're admitted to the bar as required. The license, in a sense, remedies any deficiency in the degree requirement.

    But I have to admit that there is a difference between someone earning a degree from Trinity Seminary in good faith and "earning" a degree from a mill where it's paid and delivered. Trinity may have been unable to secure accreditation in its long life but I don't think anyone reasonably claims that they don't require coursework or have some measure of academic rigor. Almeda it ain't. I wouldn't recommend it to someone looking for a bachelors degree. Though, I suppose, if someone with a legitimate bachelors said "I really want to have a second bachelors in ministry stuff because I do ministry stuff when I'm not doing my day job" then, sure, I guess. Though I'd question why not get a certificate from one of the many legitimate schools out there and just tack it on. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.
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  13. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    By the way, the weasel wording we (sorta) discussing here central to my doctoral research at Union.
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  14. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Great! Rich, you must have encountered some fine weasel-wording by "schools" in your doctoral research. That was in the heyday of US-domiciled mills. A lot of those guys are dead and gone by now. I'm sure all who were caught have finished their prison sentences.

    Care to share one or two of the most egregious examples?
  15. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    In that case, I'd agree with you 100%. That was the "weaseling" era, as far as statements on accreditation went. We had several l-o-n-g threads re: Trinity, mostly on that exact point, back in the day.
    Indeed there is. Good point. The only similarity is, that both schools are unaccredited. You covered all the bases on this one. A+. Here are your 3 credits, with top marks. :)
  16. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    The biggest is also one of the most talked-about (around these parts, anyway.) Back in the day, California had a three-tiered system. It accepted accredited schools without further scrutiny. It approved individual programs at unaccredited schools--upon the schools' applications for approval. And it authorized schools to operate without accreditation. And this is where the fun was.

    Because the DL market hardly existed--but with the need for working professionals to earn higher degrees burgeoning--a lot of fly-by-night operations set up in California. This was because the authorized recognition was crazy easy to get. All you had to do was file affidavits in 13 areas of operation, explaining what you were doing, and declare that you had $50K in assets dedicated towards the school. The state reviewed your application, but didn't verify it. (It did verify things in the programmatic approval process. Only a handful of unaccredited schools had approved programs, however.)

    My research compared various forms of recognized accreditation (and foreign equivalent) as well as several forms of recognition that WERE NOT accreditation. I did an experiment with almost 300 HR professionals, asking them to rate the acceptability of each form. They put state authorized (which was almost meaningless) and state approved (not much better) right up there with national and regional accreditation. They didn't know what they were looking at, despite the fact that it was an untimed, "open book" exercise. (They were encouraged to use whatever resources they normally used to make decisions about whether or not a job candidate's degrees were acceptable. Pro Tip: They tended not to use anything, choosing to fly blind instead.)

    Once given a brief description of each category, they were asked to again rate each one (11 in all). The main finding: each one moved exactly the way we would expect. The forms of accreditation went up, the forms that weren't accreditation went down. In all 11 they moved enough to be statistically significant. Conclusion: a little knowledge went a long way.

    Oh, the second finding: I did the first part with school names. The more "normal" the school sounded, the higher its acceptability rating. The state school (with "state" in the name) rated the highest. Number 2? "Columbia State University," a totally fake diploma mill that advertised daily in the classified section of USA Today for years.

    The third? I had 278 people who completed the experiment (it was online), but another 1,000 (or so) who started it but did not finish. Of the ones I could determine, they didn't finish either because it was too hard or because they just didn't bother to check credentials anyway.

    If you think diploma mills--and their customers--are a problem, this is why.
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  17. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Ah yes - owned by the illustrious "Dr. Dante" (his stage-hypnotist working name.) One-time Vegas star and last husband (7th?) of famed Hollywood star, Lana Turner.
    Real name: Ronald Pellar. Did jail time related to this "school." The story is story here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_State_University

    Mr. Pellar, if he is still with us, would be at least 95, very possibly 100 today. About a year ago, a friend asked me if I knew if he was still alive. I was unable to find any death info and the most recent details I could get were about 13 years old. It was reported that Mr. Pellar had suffered illness, but was currently living in a small-but comfortable-looking rented mobile home in a small CA town. I saw pictures of him and his home. Mr. Pellar looked frail, as one might expect at his advanced age. I suspect he may well have performed a final, quiet "vanishing act" by now.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2020
  18. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    Part of the problem is the patchwork nature of it all. A school authorized to award degrees in New York state undergoes a rigorous process of review. There is no Florida style "file a religious affidavit and have fun awarding degrees" type of exception to the rules. It's a weird situation that we, in essence, can't trust the individual state to say a school is legit. We trust the states to regulate and evaluate K-12. We trust the state to license and regulate physicians, attorneys and all manner of other licensed professions. We rely on the state to tell us a restaurant is safe or that our bridges are safe.

    Yet, we cannot trust many states to tell us that a school is actually legitimate. That's really unfortunate. We need accreditation to have any hope of a credit transfer and admissions standards scheme here. Without it, how would UCLA know that Neuhaus Technical College in Syracuse is a legitimate institution and determine if they want to accept credits from there? The problem is that it's costly and that consistency hinders many programs from taking shape the way they would like to. I know quite a few involved in engineering education who would love to see school awarding a B.Eng. instead of a B.S. and to ditch most of the liberal arts requirements, for example. While I think it a noble idea to make students "well rounded" 1) it doesn't work and many courses just adapted to students' wants to avoid forcing them to step outside of their comfort zones and 2) that's great if you're earning a degree in Philosophy or even Business (possibly) but the aim of engineering schools is to train engineers. It has a much more vocational aspect to it than many of the arts and sciences.

    Personally, given how watered down undergraduate curriculum can be from school to school, I think we're better off just scrapping most of the system and simplifying it. Because in its present form it cannot be applied evenly by employers because this is one very small aspect of a candidate profile. So the HR representative rejects a degree from American InterContinental University because it "sounds fake" and the website "looks sketchy" while gleefully accepting a degree from Columbia Pacific or any of the myriad Axact schools. Finding the information is not hard. But there is no centralized repository that works like the clearinghouse but includes schools accredited by all accreditors. There is no easy standard to just say "This is good." We have too many synonyms flying around and people get confused.

    RA or the Highway was a thing. Then it was for-profit vs non-profit. Now we're in a world where an RA school might lack programmatic accreditation but an NA school might have it. It's a big muddy mess and it cannot just be reduced to a single, helpful sound byte anymore.
  19. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Something as complex as the widely divergent needs that different adults have for education never could be oversimplified into a soundbite.

    But for those who want the simplicity you describe, it's free and just one click away: https://www.chea.org/search-institutions
  20. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    In many other countries (e.g. Canada and UK.) It's simpler - a school may grant degrees or it may not. Here in Canada, it's controlled Provincially, usually requiring an Act of Provincial Parliament. In UK, I believe it's either Royal Charter or Act of Parliament. Without it, if you award degrees, you're a mill - ipso facto. No religious exemption for degree-granting. A religious school may award certificates or diplomas at its pleasure. If it awards academic degrees, it's now in secular territory and has to qualify - and we have very fine schools that do.

    I'm pretty sure you'd have another kind of patchwork in the US if it were left to the States. When you travel in the US, you often realize you've crossed a State line by the condition of the roads. I'm pretty sure that might happen with Universities. You don't want that.

    Some countries have their own kind of patchwork - in Switzerland, a school cannot call itself a University unless it has Swiss Federation Approval - and we've mentioned the onerous requirements here dozens of times. Yet, there's a tier of Cantonally licensed schools that can award degrees - with virtually no academic oversight. The degrees of these schools, while legal, vary widely in quality - from very good (very few) to mixed-lot and on down to poor. Panama is another example. Public universities vs. Private. The Private Universities have a choice - they can voluntarily place themselves under the microscope of the University of Panama and teach what, and how that University prescribes. That gives them the equivalent of accreditation. Their degrees will be recognized as the Public schools. If private universities choose not to go this route, they may still legally award degrees, which may well be of lesser standing. Again, some of those schools are good and some are very bad.

    Spanish and Latin American schools present a different duality. The school must be accredited (or equivalent) but the decision is also made in regard to all degree programs. The school awards degrees of full standing for programs recognized my the authorities. The school may legally teach others ("own title" or "titulo propio") for which it does not have the appropriate recognition (and it does not have to seek it if it doesn't wish to.) These degrees, while legal, are subject to restrictions at home (not for government job applications etc.) and can be somewhat of a crapshoot if submitted to an evaluator abroad.

    Consequently, I don't personally care for two-tier approaches. Most of them precipitate a "big muddy mess" as Neuhaus phrased it. One set of standards - high. If they can offer sound programs and teach them well, let 'em award degrees. I'm sure Neuhaus Technical College in Syracuse would come through with flying colours. :)

    BTW Neuhaus - what kind of programmatic accreditation were you thinking of, when you said a NA school might have them and a RA school might not. For business, I believe both AACSB and ACBSP require a US school to be RA. Are you referring to Nursing program accreditation - or???

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