Look Back in Anger

[Erwin] Sniedzins, who said he was on the hunt for a master’s degree to “validate” his professional and life experience, thought [Kings Lake University] was real.

“It felt like they were more legit than the other ones. Their website’s pretty good. And when you phone, you get someone there,” Sniedzins said.

After his experience was “validated” by the university, Sniedzins said he paid the $8,100 fee, and received a master’s degree in education, specializing in technology in education.

The university mailed him the degree and several other signed, stamped and apparently certified documents. He said he even received a graduation cap and gown.

Sniedzins repeatedly told CBC Toronto that he never suspected a degree based on life experience that required no academic work, studying or exams could be fake as it was in line with his approach to education.

… Any doubts Sniedzins may have had were also eased by what appears to be a sworn affidavit, included in his package of documents, supposedly signed by former U.S. secretary of state John Kerry.

“I really feel stupid if [it’s a diploma mill], and I’m angry about it,” Sniedzins said.


UD thanks Jack.

Go Big or Go Home…

… is the mantra of many an academic scammer, as in the case of Ireland’s Fergus Heffernan, a floridly compulsive liar with a thriving business as a lecturer on mental health.

Like a lot of degree frauds, Fergus seems to have decided somewhere way back that having issued himself a PhD, he might as well manufacture an array of further achievements.

[H]is doctoral qualification in psychology is fake …

[An] investigation also revealed he had falsely claimed to be a visiting professor at a number of top international universities, and that his claim to have served with the Irish Defence Forces in Lebanon in 1976 was untrue — as there was no conflict in Lebanon until 1978.

In response to these discrepancies, he said he used the wrong terminology and that he was a “visiting lecturer”.

He also claimed that he was in fact in Lebanon in 1978.

… [He] claimed to be a visiting professor at Trinity College Dublin, Boston University, and Columbia University in New York.

All three institutions have ­confirmed they have no record of any employment or affiliation with Mr Heffernan.

Now that the world has enjoyed the feel-good story of high school students outing their scamming new principal…

… it’s time for the feel-bad part.

The dull-witted Kansas public schools superintendent who showed gross negligence not only in hiring the scammer, but in condescendingly and aggressively defending her against his sharp-witted students should, UD believes, resign. He has brought international embarrassment to his district. Even after he was forced to fire the diploma mill grad, he noted, with persistent gullibility, that she “also has a teaching degree from the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England.”

It is clear that the superintendent’s education on matters of credentials is happening much, much too slowly.

He needs to go.

“They worked very hard to uncover the truth.”

Actually, journalism students at Pittsburg High School in Kansas didn’t have to work all that hard to discover that their incoming principal (salary close to $100,000) had diploma mill degrees. They just did what the people in charge of educating Pittsburg’s high school students couldn’t bother doing: They checked her out online.

“If students could uncover this, I want to know why the adults couldn’t find this,” said their journalism advisor; and in response UD says: Check out the credentials of the people who were supposed to check her out. Public education (with charter schools right behind) is a notorious dumping ground for frauds who bought their degrees. This blog used to cover such cases, but there were so many of them, and they were so redundant in style and content, that I stopped doing that. Now I only cover fun diploma mill stories like this one, where students had to do the work of the the superintendent, and everyone else in Pittsburg pulling down a good salary to do due diligence on behalf of public school students.

Worse, the local superintendent ignorantly and indignantly defended the diploma mill grad… Until he couldn’t anymore, presumably because of the outcry from parents, teachers, and students.

Now it’s a big national story.


… Robertson was unable to produce a transcript confirming her undergraduate degree from the University of Tulsa …

UD thanks Janet for sending her this very detailed Washington Post account.

Back when she followed stories like this closely, UD always used to say that you could probably get away with buying or fabricating all of your degrees if you kept your head down. By which UD meant that modest diploma millers, content with anonymous mid-level employment in the military, the fire department, or public ed (America’s three big milltowns), will probably live out their lives quite comfortably, drawing reasonably good salaries on the basis of having spent five thousand dollars on a totally bogus BA and MA. It’s only when they rise enough in the world to merit the slightest degree of vetting (and even there, as the Pittsburg case, pre-journalism students, demonstrates, there probably ain’t gonna be much vetting) that diploma millers run a risk of exposure.

I don’t mean to suggest that America is overrun with diploma mill grads. Pakistan, yes. Saudi Arabia, definitely. Once Hungary finishes pushing Central European University out of that country, it will certainly have made itself a much friendlier home for diploma mill grads.

Most countries are chockful of bogus degree holders, from the president on down, and no one cares. No one in a position of responsibility in the public schools of Pittsburg Kansas cared. But UD will say this: America has fewer bogus degree holders than probably any other country; and America even occasionally unmasks and removes bogus degree holders. That is a remarkable, distinctive, fact about UD‘s homeland.


You just can’t keep a good story down.

And that photo!


Explanatory Update: Why, you ask, has UD said nothing about those other two immense stretches – as far as the eye can see – of American diploma mills?

Why has she not even bothered mentioning here our profuse and hilarious online godbots, grinding out bogus preachers?

Why has she failed to discuss our equally pious high school diploma mills, whose function is to grind out plausible transcripts which allow schools like today’s scandal-plagued darling, the University of North Carolina, to admit their extraordinarily physically fit graduates? He got all A’s at Glorious and Merciful Supreme Master of the Playing Field Prep!

Why should ol’ UD waste time on these structural elements of modern American culture? We couldn’t have Touchdown Jesus without them.

Trump’s Weakest Flank: He Founded a University.

“The smart people will never be on our side,” announced Rick Santorum in his last run for the presidency; he attacked Obama’s hope to see all Americans attend university as “snobbery.” Obama, Santorum’s side said again and again, was an “intellectual snob.”

Sarah Palin led the charge, but several candidates followed in relentlessly calling Obama “professor.” Another high-profile Republican, Scott Brown, “consistently addressed [Elizabeth] Warren as ‘professor’” in their debates and in his speeches. Palin, in her first speech after being named a candidate for vice-president, said “we need a commander in chief, not a professor of law standing at the lectern.”

Apparently a lot of voters (not enough – all of the people I’ve just cited lost) despise universities because that’s where the liberals and the atheists roam. The very words “professor” and “university” are red meat to them.

That’s why Donald Trump has some splainin to do. He not only taught at a university; he founded a university. He put his name on a university: Trump University. Here’s his Chairman’s Welcome – complete with a British voice-over (Trump’s uber-snobby Anglo thing reappears in the symbol of Trump University – a lion rampant, drawn from British heraldry) which praises him as an “educator,” a graduate of “prestigious schools,” and the “author of many books.” Trump says, “I like academic life.”


On the positive side of the ledger, Trump has been sued for having opened Trump U. This allows him to tell his constituency that it was all a big mistake.

As our native tax syphons – the for-profit ed scams – are forced to shut down…

… their ex-employees can always find work in Pakistan.

Testamur-Faking in Australia

And a very professional outfit it is.

Another Degree Faker Forgets the “Below the Radar” Rule.

As UD has long noted on this blog, if you’ve bought your diploma(s) from a diploma mill, or if you’ve forged your diplomas, you stand a chance of getting away with it if and only if you content yourself with a middling sort of place in the world. The minute you begin to rise, people start checking your credentials. If you want to go undetected, you must figure out a way to avoid or reject any career event that will make you an object of bureaucratic interest.

And yes, I’ve got a current example.

One Kimberly Kitchen practiced a little estate law out in the boonies for years without attracting any attention. Unfortunately, she did it so well that her firm decided to make her partner. The people reviewing her noticed certain, er, discrepancies in her paperwork, and began looking further.

According to her resumé, she graduated summa cum laude from Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh and had taught trust and taxation law at the Columbia University School of Law.

But the state attorney general’s office and a criminal complaint say none of her credentials hold up. Kitchen allegedly forged numerous documents attesting that she was a licensed attorney, including an attorney’s license for 2014, supposed bar examination results, supposed records of her law school attendance and a check purporting to show she’d paid her registration fees.

A forger’s work is never done. But Kitchen could have stayed in Permanent Forge mode for many more years were it not for her apparently unblockable worldly success. That’s what did her in.

Here at University Diaries, we don’t cover diploma mill grads unless these people are outstanding, extensive, users of diploma mills…

… and unless these same people have achieved high-level jobs in education and related fields.

Cindy Holguin, CEO of a New Mexico charter school, seems more than amply to fit the bill:

Holguin is … fighting back against allegations regarding her qualifications to lead the school as CEO.

[D]egrees held by Holguin from Belford University, … a proven diploma scam, [are] invalid and did not meet standards set by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Holguin told the Current-Argus the only degree she used in applying for her position was an associate’s degree obtained from the Carlsbad campus of New Mexico State University in 1995.

The university was unable to find a record of that degree when requested by the Current-Argus.

In addition, Holguin said she has an MBA from New York State University Online from 2007.

Holguin said she would not cite her degrees from Belford University, saying those were not degrees she was “proud of.”

The I didn’t cite them or We didn’t use them in assessing her qualifications for the job are classic diploma mill-revelation moves… Yes, yes, she got two PhDs from East Ipswich Institute of Holistic Theology… But those are totally irrelevant to her work as superintendent of schools, so they don’t count… I got those degrees when I was a single mother subsisting on dog food and I was desperate…

But Holguin, if these reports are accurate, goes way beyond that. According to my count, she’s got at least four degrees, and it’s possible that none of them exists. I’ve never heard of New York State University Online. New Mexico State University has never heard of Cindy Holguin. And for all we know, there are several other degrees she’s not proud of and doesn’t list for certain jobs…

This is one of the most impressive diploma mill hauls UD has seen, and she’s seen a lot. She has speculated on this blog before about how this happens – how you accumulate not one or two but four or five bogus degrees. Her theory is that once you enter the twilight zone, the outer limits, of university degrees, you are in danger of being lured even deeper into the universe. Why stop at Calaspia when you can take your spaceship to Deltora and then Eternia?

“I think I do a fantastic job,” Ferraina said when asked about his $245,000 salary; he took home more than $600,000 in additional income over a decade of service — payouts for unused sick and vacation days. “I don’t apologize for what I make.”

Women could learn a lot from guys like these. The Jersey Honors List includes an old familiar face around here – James Wasser, diploma mill grad par excellence – but it’s good to get acquainted with his fellow scholars.

In the old days, this blog used to cover a lot of diploma mill stories.

For whatever reason (no really big stories? you’ve seen one you’ve seen ’em all?), University Diaries doesn’t do much of that anymore. But the business of buying degrees online, or just saving money and making them up out of thin air, continues to thrive. Local blowhard politicians – like this guy in California – remain a rich source.

Accepted to Cornell at age 16. A Ph.D. by age 21. A degree from UCLA Law School and membership to the state bar.

I sat down with him at his restaurant and presented evidence that he’d never attended those schools or passed the bar. He brushed my findings aside, stuck to his claims and a couple weeks later even posted online what appeared to be his Ph.D. from Cornell. … [T]he signatures of the dean and president weren’t those of anybody who’d ever been dean or president at Cornell.

For-Profit Education in America: It’s exactly like a sausage.

Bridgepoint Education, a for-profit online school that has been under scrutiny for what Mr. Miller, the Iowa attorney general, called “unconscionable sales practices,” turned to [a lobbying firm] to set up meetings with [Florida Attorney General Pam] Bondi’s staff, to urge her not to join in the inquiries underway in several states. Again, her office decided not to take up the matter, citing the small number of complaints about Bridgepoint it has received.

You do not want to know what goes into it.

‘What benefit to administrators, faculty, staff and students could possibly be derived by the sullying of what is left of Chicago State’s “reputation”?’

This blog has followed the ever-tanking fortunes of dropout factory Chicago State University forever. So scandalous is this joint that its faculty have begged for the entire board of trustees to be dumped.

Faculty members have also started a great blog, Crony State University, where the endless degradations of life under a North Korean style dictatorship are chronicled.

One of many similarities between CSU and the DPRK is their shared belief that their university/country is the best in the universe, that life there is glorious, that other universities/countries look enviously upon their magnificence and seek to emulate them, etc.

This attitude makes the troubling persistence of internal dissidents an unendurable insult to the Mothercampus. The dissidents (as one of the CSU blog writers – attempting to respond rationally to the charge of sullying – notes in my headline) must be publicly shamed. They cannot be allowed to continue making slanderous statements such as this:

[B]y the end of [CSU’s latest] disastrous presidency in 2016, the school’s enrollment should decline to around 4,000. Obviously, the question of how long the state will allow Chicago State to exist as it hemorrhages students is one that all of us should consider.


Today’s Chronicle of Higher Ed (UD thanks a reader for forwarding this) (oh, and you need to have a subscription to read the article in full) takes note of the the latest hilarity at CSU: The trustees have closed the faculty senate.

That’s it. Out of business. Shut the fuck up forever.

Onward, brilliant peace-loving masses of CSU!

“No matter what the football rankings show, FSU is far from No. 1 in Florida.”

Shocking. Wins on the field, we’re always told, translate into wins at the admissions office… Yet in one of our most educationally pathetic states, Florida State University is the worst of the lot…

So what they need as president is a man who, as FSU board chair, pushed for a chiropractic school there (he was shouted down by legitimate scientists), and who has been a pretty routine pretty corrupt politician for America’s most corrupt state.

John Thrasher has now been elected president of Florida State University. When he was one of the finalists, he met with students.

Asked about evolution, Sen. Thrasher talked about his religious beliefs, saying: “I have a great faith in my life that has guided me in my life in a lot of things I believe in.” The implication is that science and faith cannot co-exist.

Sen. Thrasher also declined to give a specific answer when asked about the science behind climate change, and then threatened to walk out of the room when two students giggled at his answers…

You and I know that the most important problem with Thrasher’s answer isn’t that, at a university, he refuses to discuss (is incapable of discussing?) evolution and climate change. It’s that any institution that thinks someone who can barely speak English should be its president needs to have its head examined.

“Brian Haas, the chief assistant state attorney, said the State Attorney’s Office received a complaint about the professor’s academic claims as the result of a separate dispute in Palm Beach County over coins Broxterman sold to a collector.”

Once a fraudster, always a fraudster. For some people it’s a way of life. It’s the way they roll.

As with that subset of fraud we routinely cover on this blog – plagiarism – the danger in being a fraud is that you will eventually get caught because you keep doing it, and each time you do it you run the risk that someone’s going to figure out what you’re doing.

David Broxterman, ex-business professor at Polk State University, appears to be a case in point. Like Mathew Martoma, Broxterman allegedly stitched together official university materials and got his job at Polk based on them. He’s been teaching there for five years, snug as a rat in a rug. But then he went and (allegedly) defrauded someone else – a coin collector – who complained to the attorney general, who turned around and asked Polk to reexamine Broxterman’s papers.

Broxterman will possibly have to pay back his years of salary. He might also go to jail.

But the real problem here lies with Polk. Apparently Broxterman’s stitched together materials were laughably amateurish. Any idiot should have been able to detect the fraud.

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