Institutional Accreditation: A Standard Under Attack? Misunderstood? Ignored?

February 15th, 2019

iaasuami

Last year, the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE), of which ACEI is an Endorsed Member, hosted its annual Symposium in Orlando, FL and tackled the issue of institutional Accreditation.  Those of us in the credential evaluation field live and breath accreditation. Determining an international institution’s recognition status is the first step any junior or seasoned credential evaluator takes. It is what sets an international school or institution of higher education on a par with its accredited counterpart in the U.S. There are many types of accreditation in the U.S. and I will not go into each of them in this blog (CHEA would be a good source to visit for details), but the one we focus on and use as the standard is regional accreditation.

Unlike most countries where the Ministry of Education is responsible for the oversight and recognition of schools and institutions of higher education, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) does not have this authority. It does, however, recognize accreditation boards and provides this information to the public. In most countries, when evaluating international credentials, we look to see if the studies were completed at an institution that is formally recognized and endorsed by the country’s Ministry of Education (MOE). I’m over simplifying but as I said, in most cases, we look for MOE recognition.

Lately, I see there’s a disconnect between educators, school/college counselors, and admissions professionals in relation to accreditation. In some cases, it’s an afterthought or entirely forgotten. As if accreditation is a bad thing, a nuisance. I even find that many, even those in the education sector, are unfamiliar with what is meant by accreditation and the different types of accreditation available in the U.S., especially regional. For example, I recently read a question in a forum intended for admissions officers at local colleges here in Southern California about a “university” in Downtown Los Angeles. The individual was asking whether anyone had heard about it and did not even consider checking the list of regionally accredited institutions CHEA has available on its website. A quick online search found this so-called university to be nothing but a diploma mill with a defunct website.

Everyone involved in education or counseling students for further education must, I repeat, must keep this link handy for reference.  The USDE also dedicates a page to Diploma Mills and Accreditation. Many of you who follow my posts on this blog know that I frequently write about Diploma and Accreditation Mills, warning fellow credential evaluators, educators, admissions officers, counselor, and prospective students against the perils of falling prey to these fraudulent entities.

Every day, I come across news of yet another individual holding a prominent position in government, whether here in the U.S. or overseas who has been discovered to have a degree from a diploma mill or misrepresented him/herself as a degree holder from an institution never attended. Examples abound, but I’ll share a couple in this blog. First, there is the Deputy Foreign Minister of Malaysia who had falsely claimed to have a degree from the prestigious University of Cambridge in the UK. He has now admitted that he had misspoken and his degree is from Cambridge International University in the U.S., which is still dubious in status given it lacks regional accreditation by one of the accreditation boards recognized by the US Department of Education. A little digging on the Internet shows it to be yet another diploma mill. Read this piece and you’ll see all the red flags. Click here.

Next, we have Nigeria where the Minister of Education announced last month that the government will shut down and demolish 68, I repeat, 68, institutions discovered to be operating illegally and without accreditation and will apprehend and prosecute their owners.  What is disconcerting is the following quote in the article posted by University World News: “Some academics are asking if closing down “illegal” universities is the answer, in view of the inability of Nigeria’s current legally-established universities to absorb the number of school leavers wanting places.”  Begs the question, have we slipped so far down the slippery slope of mediocrity that attending a sub-standard “university” or one operating illegally is better than none at all?

Accreditation in the U.S. is also under scrutiny. The USDE, under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, released newly proposed changes to rewrite several rules concerning regulation of colleges, universities, and their respective accrediting agencies. The proposed changes would loosen federal oversight of these institutions.  In an article for Inside Higher Education, a former for-profit college executive speaks out against plans by the USDE to weaken requirements for oversight of college quality. It’s a disturbing expose of the misappropriation of funds and other unethical activities.  Just as I was about to post this blog, a new report came out by Inside Higher Education that USDE is rolling back or toning down some of its proposed changes in the face of strong opposition.

Right now, the jury is out as to how USDE’s proposed changes will impact accreditation regulations. Personally, I don’t have a good feeling about the direction it is headed. Do we really want less oversight of our schools, universities, and accrediting agencies given the proliferation of questionable for-profit schools and the booming diploma mill industry?

Additional Links:

https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=b024016f-e13c-4897-8290-817c71b7a3f1

http://www.insightintodiversity.com/u-s-department-of-education-plans-to-overhaul-several-college-accreditation-rules/

jasmin_2015
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Fighting Diploma Fraud & Protecting Credential Integrity with Technology

February 8th, 2019

blockchain

Diploma mills are here to stay as long as there is little or no regulation monitoring them and there is a demand for degrees which do not require classroom or online attendance, exams, research papers or thesis.  Fake degrees are purchased from online sites offering an à la carte menu of “products” at a fraction of the cost of an actual earned academic degree. Their websites can range from the tacky, cluttered with advertisements to the sophisticated boasting a litany of institutional accreditations with equally fraudulent accrediting entities. Individuals visiting these sites can select a degree of their choice in their preferred major from the menu and even select their graduation date.  They can order class rings, mugs, sweatshirts and other paraphernalia with the fake university’s emblem. At the strike of a few keys on the keyboard, and payment of fees with a credit card, they walk away with the promise of a Bachelor, Master, and even a Ph.D.  As employers post job openings requiring degrees, and in most cases, advanced degrees such as a Master’s or Ph.D., the absence of an earned credential has driven many to willingly seek a diploma mill or fall prey to sales schemes and tactics that lure the naïve and unsuspecting consumer to purchase a degree they were promised from what they assumed to be a prestigious, though non-existent, university.

Earlier this week, we came across a question on an online quorum where a counselor at a local community college here in California was asking about a “university” a student at his college was considering transferring to because, and I quote, “he could get a bachelor’s quickly.” The college counselor could not find any information on the so-called university that cited its physical address in the Downtown Los Angeles area.  A quick search on the Internet took me to the university’s website that was “under maintenance” and thanks to GooleMaps, found its campus to be a strip mall with a “For Lease” sign posted on the door. I warned the college counselor to advise his students against applying to this university as it was not regionally accredited and most likely a diploma mill.

And, just when we thought diploma mills are set up by nefarious entities, we recently learned that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had set up a fake university in Michigan to crack down on illicit operations allowing foreign citizens to stay in the U.S. illegally. The sting operation was to catch recruiters and others engaging in immigration fraud. Indictments were issued with charges of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit. Fighting fraud with fraud. To read more, click here

Clearly, there is a market for fake degrees. Where there is demand, there is supply. And it’s proven to be a very lucrative industry…a billion-dollar industry.

What is being done to protect against fraud when it comes to academic credentials?

Blockchain Platforms

1blockchain

We are beginning to hear about Blockchain technology being used as a platform to help combat against falsified diplomas and certificates. There are several companies offering Blockchain platform to address this issue. One that I read about recently is EchoLink Foundation that has designed the EKO Blockchain Platform with the goal to provide verified education, skill, and work experience information. To avoid tampering from third parties, EchoLink Foundation allows only approved educational, training, and other institutions access to enter their information. To read more, click here and for learn more about for more on how universities are adopting blockchain technology , click here.

There are many institutions and countries that have adopted digital platforms for the secure archival, verification and transmission of their academic credentials. Here’s a partial list of  countries that have sprung into action by using technology to fight against fraud and protect credential integrity:

Republic of Georgia

The Business and Technology University in Tbilisi, Georgia has implemented an educational credential verification system using the blockchain technology powered by Emercoin. To learn more, click here

Russia

We just learned that the Russian Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Education and Science, (Rosobrnadzor) will implement blockchain technology in the country’s main graduation examination. To learn more, click here

Caribbean Examination Council:

In November 2018, the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) started distributing blockchain-based certificates to “24,000 shortlisted candidates” to ensure a faster verification process of educational credentials. To learn more, click here

South Africa

Fake degree from diploma mills is one problem, the other is falsification of academic documents from legitimate institutions. South Africa is taking steps to tackle fake degrees and its universities have the ability to verify qualifications through a fully-automated centralized online degree verification systems called MiE. To learn more, click here

Switzerland

In 2018, University of Basel started using blockchain technology to protect and verify academic credentials. It has partnered with the Center for Innovative Finance, a research group within the University of Basel which focuses on financial technology and another company called Proxeus. This partnership is intended to end reliance on traditional paper-transcripts and adopt a digital platform for the archiving and distribution of academic credentials. To learn more, click here

This is just a sample of countries and steps they’ve taken to protect against credential fraud. In future blogs, we will showcase other digital platforms set up by institutions, third party providers, and governments to protect against falsification of academic documents.

As technology progresses, so do the entities operating diploma mills. They are using sophisticated tools to reproduce believable documents. At the same time, institutions and some countries are taking measures to fight these mills by taking advantage of advances made in technology.

Is the blockchain platform for credential verification deemed effective? It’s too early to tell, but according to retired FBI Agent, Allen Ezell, “as long as everyone gets on board and participates, it may be practical towards the future. (Similar to a chain link fence, with electronic record keeping.) Also, keeping out just one rogue entity will also keep the ‘chain’ trustworthy.”

jasmin_2015
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Venezuela: Education in Crisis

February 1st, 2019

venezuela

Venezuela’s deep political and economic crisis is in recent news headlines with reports on daily protests, violent repression of those opposing the Madura presidency, fomenting international tensions.  For an unbiased analysis of the current situation in Venezuela, click here. In this week’s blog post, we take a look at Venezuela’s education system and how it has been impacted by the crisis.

For decades, Venezuela’s standard of education had been ranked among the highest in the region. And, although the country’s education system is overextended and underfunded, the government had remained committed to the vision that every citizen is entitled to a free education.

The Ministry of Education was and still is the authority responsible for oversight and regulation of education in Venezuela which is highly centralized. Students are required to attend school from the age of 6 and complete the first cycle known as basic education (educación básica) which is free and compulsory. After which, they can continue onto secondary school (educación media diversificada) for another two years and receive the bachiller.  Secondary students also have the option to pursue a two-to three-year specialized curriculum (educación media profesional) that leads to the award of a technical degree.

Under the 1999 constitution, higher education in Venezuela remains free with access to more than 90 institutions of higher education.  Caracas is an educational center and home to several notable universities, including the Central University of Venezuela (founded in 1721) and the National Open University (1977). Other prominent state institutions are the University of Zulia (1936), the University of Carabobo (1852), and the University of Andes in Merida (1810).

Once among the top countries in the region for its strong education system, we can see the negative effects the economic crisis has and continues to have on Venezuela’s institutions of higher education.  A 2015 report from Associated Press recounted that many faculty members were quitting jobs as they were unable to support themselves on government-mandated salaries that are as low as the equivalent of US$30 a month. According to the article, the Central University of Venezuela lost 700 faculty members out of a total 4,000, an exodus that begun four years prior to 2015. The situation has not improved.

Tense relations between U.S. and Venezuela has also hurt study abroad and student exchange programs. In September 2018, the U.S. issued a presidential proclamation outlining new restrictions to the travel ban for nationals of eight countries that include Chad, Libya, Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen — and also recommended that nationals from Iraq be subjected to additional scrutiny. The restrictions imposed by the travel ban have made it difficult for Venezuelans to obtain visas as students, tourists, or for business. To see how the travel ban and the latest restrictions have affected the number of visas issued to Venezuelan students, click here. A recent article in PIE News  includes an interview with an educational counseling service based in Miami, FL that assists Venezuelan students, offers a bleak perspective on the current situation.

The interactive chart on World Inequality Database on Education created by UNESCO Institute for Statistics provides an up-to-date glimpse on the state of primary and secondary education in Venezuela.

We highly recommend this in-depth article about the state of higher education in Venezuela, the continued exodus of university faculty, and the Bolivarian University of Venezuela that was founded 15 years ago during Hugo Chavez’s presidency as an institution of higher education intended to be more inclusive and afford access to the underprivileged and poor, which too is suffering under the strains of economic austerity.

venezuela_1

There are also reports of massive desertion of students from universities. One report in 2017 said that close to 50% of university students had dropped out of the three public universities in Táchira.

venezuela_2

It’s not only public universities experiencing faculty and student desertions; private universities too report students dropping out and leaving the institutions. Not only do students and faculty blame the economic crisis for their decisions to leave the institutions but they also claim lack of academic freedom and university autonomy as additional reasons for their departure.

venezuela_3

We will continue to post updates on Venezuela’s education system as information becomes available.

Sources:

Encyclopedia Britanica https://www.britannica.com/place/Venezuela/Education

The Nation https://www.thenation.com/article/how-severe-is-venezuelas-crisis/

PIE News https://thepienews.com/news/education-agency-venezuela-calls-for-industry-support/

The New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/30/world/americas/venezuela-maduro-protests-faes.html?rref=co               

llection%2Ftimestopic%2FVenezuela&action=click&contentCollection=world&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection

US Department of State: https://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/35766.htm

World Inequality Database on Education: https://www.education-inequalities.org/countries/venezuelarb/indicators/eduout_upsec#?dimension=all&group=all&age_group=|eduout_upsec&year=|2000UNESCO

Washington Office on Latin America: https://venezuelablog.org/higher-education-venezuela-skirting-university-autonomy-creation-parallel-system/

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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10 Facts on U.S. Immigration

January 25th, 2019

immigration

In November 2018, the Pew Research Center, which regularly publishes statistical portraits of the nation’s foreign-born, released the results of its latest research on U.S. immigration. We would like to share a summary of this research to help answer some key questions about the U.S. immigrant population.

  1. The United States has the world’s largest immigrant population. Currently, more than 40 million people living in the U.S. were born in another country representing nearly about every country in the world. (For more, click here)
  2. Today, immigrants account for 13.5% of the U.S. population, but this number remains below the record 14.8% share in 1890, when 9.2 million immigrants lived in the U.S. (Fore more, click here)
  3. 76% of immigrants are in the U.S. legally, while a quarter are unauthorized. (For more, click here)
  4. In 2016, 45% were naturalized U.S. citizens. Approximately, 27% of immigrants were permanent residents and 5% were temporary residents in 2016. Another 24% of all immigrants were unauthorized immigrants.
  5. Mexico ranks on the top as the origin country of the U.S. immigrant population. The next largest origin groups were those from China (6%), India (6%), the Philippines (4%) and El Salvador (3%). (For more, click here)
  6. Other regions which make up a smaller share include: Europe/Canada (13%), the Caribbean (10%), Central America (8%), South America (7%), the Middle East (4%) and sub-Saharan Africa (4%).
  7. Immigrants from South and East Asia, Europe, Canada, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa are more likely than U.S.-born residents to have a bachelor’s or advanced degree.
  8. According to a recent Pew Research Center report, the United States was home to 10.7 million unauthorized immigrants in 2016, a 13% decline from a peak of 12.2 million in 2007. (For more, click here)
  9. Although the vast majority of immigrants in the U.S. are in the country legally, only 45% of Americans in a survey conducted by PRC in June 2018 correctly said most immigrants were in the country legally. (For more, click here)
  10. Most Americans, that is 71%, hold a positive outlook on undocumented immigrants and see them holding jobs that American citizens do not want and approximately 65% say undocumented immigrants are not more likely than U.S. citizens to commit serious crimes. (For more, click here)

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world.  It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts.  To learn more about Pew Research Center and its research, go to http://www.pewresearch.org.

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Why is Canada the favored destination for International Students?

January 18th, 2019

canada

Right before the end of 2018, Forbes posted an article on how successful Canada has been in attracting international students to its institutions while the United States, United Kingdom and Australia are experiencing the opposite. The US has been keeping its #1 spot for a few decades as the preferred destination for international students, followed by the UK, Australia, and Canada but it is losing its hold on this title, as is the UK. We have decided to look at these four countries and highlight what has caused the uptick for Canada while the others are seeing the numbers plateauing.

Spotlight: U.S.A.

usflag

The 2018 Open Doors Report cited the political climate in the U.S. as one of the major factors contributing to the ongoing declining enrollment of international students. Out of 540 institutions surveyed for the report, 60 percent cited the present political and social climate as one of the major reasons for the slump.

  • Security and safety are an issue
  • High cost of living and tuition
  • New strict visa rule make is very difficult for securing student visas and work permits after graduation

Spotlight: United Kingdom

britishflag

UK has enjoyed holding the #2 spot after the US, but it has seen a decline in international student number due to the following:

  • Tougher Immigration policies
  • Brexit caused an immediate decline in EU students attending UK institutions
  • High cost of living
  • High tuition fees

Spotlight: Australia

ausflag

Australia is heavily reliant on China for its international students and is becoming less popular for the Chinese because of the following:

  • Security and safety concerns
  • Tougher immigration policies
  • High tuition fees
  • Difficult in securing student visas

Spotlight: Canada

canflag

Between 2015 and 2017 alone, the number of international students in Canada increased by over 40 per cent. What is Canada doing?

  • Lenient immigration policies
  • Seen as open, safe and welcoming
  • Offering postgraduate work permits for up 3 years and encourages international students to apply for permanent residency
  • Availability of study visas which are significantly easier to obtain
  • Lower cost of living
  • Lower tuition costs
  • Canadian employers have shown great interest in hiring international student graduates not only because they speak several languages but they are seen as an asset to the Canadian work force and economy. According to the Forbes article: “As baby boomers retire from the workforce, Canada looks to newcomers like international students to help cover projected worker shortages in local economies by 2025. As a result of international student spending, approximately 170,000 jobs were created in the Canadian economy in 2017. That is a significant economic stimulus.”

A few common threads we see amongst the US, UK and Australia are their stricter immigration policies, many of which were shaped because of shifts in their respective governments, but they are also seen as expensive both in terms of cost of living and tuition. Limited or no opportunities for employment and possibilities to apply for permanent residency on graduation also makes these countries less attractive higher education destinations. When you compare Canada’s open and welcoming approach to international students and the opportunities students have on graduation, it is obvious why it is the favored destination and why it will soon make its way to the #1 position.

Source Links:

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2018-12-10/how-international-students-are-changing-australias-universities

https://www.forbes.com/sites/andyjsemotiuk/2018/11/16/international-students-pour-into-canada-ahead-of-projections/#45eac55853ec

https://collegepostnews.com/international-student-enrollments-decline/

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/eu-students-numbers-apply-uk-universities-fall-7-per-cent-brexit-latest-news-figures-a7558131.html

https://www.studyinternational.com/news/uk-universities-losing-out-on-international-students-due-to-stricter-immigration-policies/

https://www.bbc.com/news/education-36252302

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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10 Higher Education Trends for 2019

January 11th, 2019

2019_trends

As we start the New Year, we are curious as to what 2019 has in store for higher education. We are already hearing about trends that will be influencing higher education this year and would like to share some of them with you.

In a recent piece posted on Forbes, Anant Agrawal, CEO of edX (www.edx.org), an online learning destination founded by Harvard and MIT, and professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT states: “In 2018 we discussed the increasing value of soft skills; how the skills transformation is affecting the way we work; and the rise of the non-linear career path. These topics merely scratched the surface of the changes we’re seeing in education and in the workplace, which we’ll continue to debate in 2019.” Professor Agrawal, suggests we keep an eye on the following three trends this year:

  • Education emphasizing hybrid skills – higher education degrees creating flexible and customizable credential offerings rather than single subject major studies over a course of four years.
  • Education goes omnichannel – combining in-person with on-line experiences.
  • Education underscoring soft skills remains critical – as technology advances, soft skills such as collaboration, communication, critical thinking, ability to make quick decisions based on a set of information will become even more critical.

Danny Iny, the author of “Leveraged Learning“ and CEO of the online business education company Mirasee, also sees the emergence of hybridized degree programs and the importance of developing soft skills as AI takes over hard skills. Iny cites the following trends:

  • Education will become learner and more outcomes-driven
  • Shift toward lifelong “just in time” learning – employees accessing training just in time/when needed rather than “frontloading a career’s worth of training into a four-year program”
  • Businesses will take on a lion’s share of the training
  • Experts from various fields will step up to provide the required on-going education

For more on Iny’s projections, click here

And, we cannot forget the continued advances and trends expected in e-learning. In her January 1, 2019 piece on the blog Model e-Learning, Jessica Bishop, Instructional Designer, cites the following trends in the world of e-learning:

  • Augmented Reality (adds to the read world), Virtual Reality (replaces the real world), and Mixed Reality (adds virtual elements to the real world that behave as if they truly belong) – by incorporating these 3 technologies, e-learning will become highly immersive. To learn more about these 3 technologies, click here.
  • Open Systems and Open Pedagogy – Through open systems, faculty can collaborate to develop new curriculum and even receive input from students. And, with open pedagogy they can use open technologies to help streamline the process.
  • Blockchain – We’ve heard this term used before mostly as it related to Bitcoin, but it is now being used for education as a secure digital ledger.

We would like to hear from you. What trends do you see for education in 2019? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Links:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/anantagarwal/2019/01/02/three-education-trends-that-will-revolutionize-the-workplace-in-2019/#1aa06c7a6363

https://www.georgetownmortgagebank.com/10-higher-education-trends-to-watch-for-in-2019/

https://modelelearning.com/2019/01/01/three-elearning-and-higher-education-trends-for-2019/

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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AXACT (PRIVATE), LTD., KARACHI, PAKISTAN – ‘WORLDS LARGEST DIPLOMA MILL’ – A BRIEF GLIMPSE

January 4th, 2019

Regretfully, Axact is still in business on the Internet today. Look at their website, www.axact.com, and remember everything you see is ‘smoke and mirrors.’ They ‘hide’ in plain sight under the corporate umbrella as the ‘World’s leading IT Company.’ I am told they have no exportable product! Please click on all their links, look closely at the pictures, platforms, core ‘products,’ business units, etc. Just remember the true nature of the business!! You have never seen anything like this before.

Axact has about “25,000 employees and representatives worldwide” (their words) selling their products. They have websites for 700-900 fake schools, 400-500 fake accreditation mills, 100+ ‘spider web’ type sites designed to lure the potential student into one of their schools, along with other support sites used for support. Axact is currently updating some of their older schools and changing web to .education (.edu) extensions. Beware!

Since their fake schools are touted as being ‘American,’ they have created about 20-35 U.S. type accreditors which show the American Flag, U.S. Capitol and appropriately use red, white and blue colors. They even gave a Washington, DC address to a school or accreditor. Axact tends to use addresses for many schools in Southern California, more than any other state. Prospective students are lured into these schools by promise of great jobs requiring a degree, hefty scholarships, etc.

So you can better understand the magnitude of Axact, when the FIA raided their print shop in May, 2015, in Karachi at night (when Co-founder and CEO, Shoaib Ahmed Sheikh accompanied them), they seized 2,200,000 blank diplomas, transcripts, accreditation letterheads, etc. which the FIA General displayed to the press. Axact officials were masters at “Fake News” long before our current politicians made this a daily commonplace. Axact is the master at using all aspects of social media, along with fake free press releases, to hype and support their fake schools and business acumen.

Axact has sold millions and millions of fake diplomas and transcripts to individuals around the world since its formation in 1997 (initially only sold term papers and other scurrilous documents), before they purchased their first diploma mills and started sell to these wares. Afterwards, Axact began creating their own fake school in about 2003, by borrowing pictures of buildings, people’s images and identities, stock photos, or anywhere they took a notion to, adding text from companies and school sites around the globe, all resulting in what we have today. Sometimes they move so fast in creating a ‘new school’ they make an error and forget to change a name or two on a site, thus the schools ‘link up’. Or you can connect them through ‘tracing’ their faculty or accreditation. Several schools, including Gatesville, offer an “Online University Certified Education Associate” position where the associate keeps a percentage of tuition paid by the student, Silver 40%, Gold 50%, and Platinum 70%!! Think about this! I must compliment Axact on the finest graphics I have ever seen on these type sites.

Even after the diploma and transcript are sold, Axact employees have mastered squeezing additional monies from ‘graduates’ via the need for ‘legalization’ of their documents via Embassy stamps and seals, US Dept. of State Apostille Certification, etc.

Besides their size and world market via the Internet, Axact stands alone in another area. Generally, a diploma mill is finished with the buyer after they make the sale, maybe a verification to an employer later on.

Not with Axact! This is where their relationship takes a dramatic turn for the worse. Axact employees, those involved in the “Upsell” then tighten the screws on their ‘graduate’ with telephoned threats of arrest or deportation, impersonation, extortion, blackmail, supported by using phishing and spoofing techniques. They impersonate officials from law enforcement, government, regulators, Embassy personnel, even our Department of State, White House, and Department of Education in order to make this part of the fraud work. We have seen single victims of extortion by Axact in the range of $800,000+. There are also reports they may sell the credit card data they have amassed through their diploma sales. And, at one point, Axact recorded all these calls!!

Axact’s main target for sales is the Gulf Region, with the United States accounting for only about 34% of their sales. About 75,000 diplomas and transcripts have been sold in the USA. Axact reached the billion dollar sales mark in 2013-2014. Just think how long these fraudulent credentials will haunt the academic and business world in the future.

Like no other mill we have observed, Axact has diversified into other frauds (with web sites), including a publishing house, job placement companies, recruitment entities, term paper, dissertation mills, and research entities, ’reputation rebuilding/repair’, automobile importing, and travel sites.

Axact has probably stayed in business ‘in plain sight’ for 20+ years because of rumored connections with organized crime figures, connections with money laundering for the Pakistan government, their intelligence service ISI, or their military. (Many former Army officers, Colonel and Lt. Colonel are executives in Axact-What does this tell you?) I have never observed a case where a Judge admits accepting a $50,000 bribe to acquit the 14 Axact executives, which he did; a grenade is thrown into the house of a Axact former prosecutor; an Axact official on the eve of his ‘spilling the beans’ is assassinated on his way home one evening; several prosecutors were grabbed off the street and ‘re-educated’; cooperating employees disappear, etc. I hope you can see the magnitude and true colors of this fraud. This is just a brief glimpse. The FBI is investigating this.

Please look at these four fake school websites, two older, two newer. Once you have absorbed these, this will put you in a better position to instantly recognize their thousands of sites. Trace everything–accreditation, faculty names, and unusual word grouping, or misspelling!!

Gatesvilleuniversity.com
Manhattanbayuniversity.com
Sangonio University
Olford Mount University

A copy of the Pakistan FIA (Federal Investigation Agency) report on Axact (with school names) can be found on the web site of book, Degree Mills, which I co-authored at www.degreemills.com.

Additional Links:

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/world-news/pakistani-diploma-mill-of-fake-degrees-exposed/articleshow/62528628.cms

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-42579634

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/18/world/asia/fake-diplomas-real-cash-pakistani-company-axact-reaps-millions-columbiana-barkley.html

allen

Allen Ezell, FBI Agent (Retired), Education Consultant – Allen Ezell founded and was the head of the FBI’s DipScam diploma-mill task force. He is also the author of Counterfeit Diplomas and Transcripts and Accreditation Mills.

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