Category Archives: Education

Dispatches from Los Angeles: Moving during a Pandemic

Written by: Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert

Image credit: Transport Executive

What is the one thing one dreads to do during so-called normal times that would be the last thing on the list during a global pandemic? Can you hazard a guess? If you answered “moving,” then you’re spot on.

After spending the past four months of lock-down working remotely, our ACEI team has proven to be just as productive as they had been while spending their eight hours at the office. In fact, they are dedicating the time they spent crawling on the freeways making their way through LA’s infamous traffic in the comforts of their home offices and getting an early head start to the day. During our first ten years, ACEI called S. Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills its base. Within that ten years we moved our office to larger suites in the same building to accommodate our rapid growth. The next sixteen years, ACEI called Culver City, CA its home. We enjoyed a very large open space with skylights and floor to ceiling windows spanning one entire side of the suites we occupied giving us a panorama of the on going development in the area. We saw the LA metro complete its building of the Culver City stop, a stone throw away from us. Soon after, we watched the construction of a still-in progress giant multi-complex commercial development. We have also witnessed the growing number of homeless encampments that is now become a common sight through Los Angeles.

What we also realized was that the old paradigm of holding on to large square footage of office space, especially the open shared spaces that had become popular in the recent years is no longer an efficient or prudent way to operate a business. With fewer people commuting and working from home, we just couldn’t justify the space that was literally beginning to look like expensive storage for office furniture and our reference library. So, the move. ACEI’s new home will be in Mar Vista, Los Angeles, about five miles west of the current location. We will be returning to individual private offices in a building with a lush courtyard, perfect for a meditative break.  But, preparing for the move which represents sixteen years of accumulated paper, books, supplies, furniture, computer and electronic equipment is not for the faint at heart. It has been cathartic! Where is Marie Kondo when you need her?!

Despite a global pandemic, lock downs, travel bans, campus closures, postponement of in-class instructions, civil protests, looming elections, we rally on, by keeping the proverbial doors of ACEI open and even embark on a move. Having fully embraced the digital age we are able to continue with our daily operations and providing our credentials evaluation and consulting services without a hitch. The point is to not freeze and become passive. As Albert Einstein is noted to have said: “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” And change it is.

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

 

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

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The 3 Child Policy: An Alternate Pathway to Graduate Admission in France

Marie AntoinettePhoto: Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

We recently received a diploma titled Grade de Master in Elementary Education, with emphasis in Teaching Social Sciences and transcripts for one year of study (60 ECTS) completed at a university in France. For the purpose of protecting the identity of the individual who submitted said documents, we will not disclose the name of the university. We can, however, state that the university is recognized and the Grade de Master was issued by the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche et de l’Innovation (Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation).

What was interesting about this case was that there was a 15-year gap between when the individual had finished high school (Baccalaureat) and started the Grade de Master program. When we asked our applicant to provide credentials for previous university studies, e.g. Licence or Bachelor, we were told they didn’t exist as the individual never studied for a Licence or Bachelor or any other university degree, other than the Grade de Master.

We asked for more information on the criteria for admission to the Grade de Master program as we typically see completion of the three-year Licence or Bachelor as a requirement. We were informed by the individual of the existence of a law in France where a person who is the parent of three children can participate in a special lottery to win admission to the Grade de Master program.

In order to verify this claim, we asked the individual to provide us with the link to the section addressing this three-child policy which would appear in the Bulletin Officiel (B.O.) of the Ministère de l’Éducation Nationale, de la Jeunesse et des Sports of France. The B.O. is the reference for all French education which lists all programs and teaching directives. It is amended many times every year.  The B.O. is very dense and searching for information relevant to the subject one is looking for is best left with the individual who studied in the system. We asked our applicant to point us to the section in the B.O. that addresses the 3-child policy. We were directed to item 6.3 in the B.O. which confirms that an individual with three children but no previous university studies may participate in a lottery and the winner will be admitted to the Grade de Master program.

Image source: Amazon

Courtesy of Google Translate, below is the  translation of the text in item 6.3 of the B.O. concerning the three-child policy applied to those who do not hold a previous university degree for admission to the Grade de Master:

“6.3 Candidates exempt from titles or diplomas

6.3.1 Mothers and fathers of at least three children

In application of the provisions of the modified decree n ° 81-317 of April 7, 1981 may apply for the competitions referred to in this note, without fulfilling the diploma conditions required of candidates, mothers or fathers of families of at least three children they actually raise or raise.

This condition is assessed on the date on which the diploma is required to enter the competition.

6.3.2 Top athletes

Pursuant to Article L. 221-3 of the Sports Code, high-level athletes can apply for state competitions without fulfilling the diploma conditions required.

They must be entered on the ministerial list, established by the Minister responsible for sports, valid on the date on which the diploma is required to sit for the competition.”

You may be wondering how ACEI evaluated this credential? Since we recognize the three-year Licence or Bachelor as comparable to three years of undergraduate study in the United States, we evaluated the one year (60 ECTS) for the Grade de Master as comparable to one year of undergraduate credit at the upper division level.

Sources:

https://www.enseignementsup-recherche.gouv.fr/

https://www.education.gouv.fr/bo/13/Hebdo29/MENH1317592N.htm

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, California, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

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Racism, The Earthquake

Written by: Carine Fabius

It was just over 10 years ago that Haiti suffered an earthquake so devastating it is rated #6 on the list of 10 deadliest natural disasters since the 6th century. I am a Haitian-American, living in the States since 1964. I was not on the ground when it happened, but the collective national psyche of Haitians throughout the world collapsed along with all those buildings and structures, died a little with the 300,000 people who perished, and hobbled in spirit with the over one million wounded and displaced. Today, as we in the United States and many countries around the world grapple with the long-ignored effects of racism on modern day society, I can’t help thinking about the Haiti earthquake. Because racism (along with corruption and greed) is at the root of the why of the earthquake’s outsized impact on the Haitian people, just as racism crawls through the infrastructure of this and other countries’ dysfunctional state of affairs.

As evidenced by the outpouring of heart-wrenching stories from African-Americans and other people of color on a daily basis in the last month (which feels like years), incidences of racism often have the effect of rocking people to their core. Just as anyone who has experienced a strong earthquake will attest, you come away feeling off-kilter, confused, shaken, and incapable of explaining why the ground beneath your feet has gone the way of quicksand. You’re left with a pounding heart shouting What the hell just happened?! And just as with a big earthquake, whose aftermath you only come to understand with each passing day — who died, what broke, what’s left, where do I go now, and how do I move forward—so does racism leave in its slug-like wake a slimy realization that despite your best efforts, you’re still not perceived as good enough, smart enough, or human enough to warrant opportunities offered to the least of us, educational standards granted to most of us, and the respect for life that so many take for granted.

In Haiti, the severity of the earthquake’s strike wasn’t all due to mother nature. It had just as much to do with post-colonial racism from France and America, which placed an embargo on trade with Haiti after it fought off the French and declared itself the first independent, slave-free state in 1804. Reason for the embargo? The U.S. worried that its own slaves would catch the revolutionary bug. That economic blockage lasted some 60 years and crippled the island’s economy. From 1915–1934, the U.S. occupied Haiti, and, in addition to helping rebuild our infrastructure (new roads, hospitals, schools, bridges — thank you!), it seized the banks and the national treasury, and put itself in charge of collecting taxes, customs duties and more, skimming billions from the nation’s economy along the way (thanks a lot!). A U.S.-backed 30-year dictatorship, during which Haiti’s treasury functioned more like a personal bank account further eroded Haiti’s finances. There’s a lot more about Haiti’s complicated history than can be said here, which includes a long list of flawed Haitian rulers; but throw in additional economic blockades by the U.S. in the early 90s, and a 200-year-history of racist infighting between mulattos and black Haitians, and you end up with the perfect setup.

The reason so many buildings collapsed during the 2010 earthquake was because of corruption and greed, which allowed for shoddy construction throughout the country (like in so many other countries around the world), enabled by centuries-old racist U.S. policies and a prejudiced ruling class that averted its eyes to the unavoidable wreck waiting to happen. But it wasn’t just the poor who suffered. No one escapes the wrath of racism. Everyone in Haiti knows someone or several people who died. Concrete shacks and fancy hotels cracked. Insurance companies stiffed the rich.

Now, when we think about the impact of racism on the rich in general, we must put aside the 1% because they always seem to turn out OK, don’t they? Its pernicious effects tend to wallop everyone else, though — the poor, the middle and upper middle classes. Let’s take a simple example from recent history in the United States. Black families start moving into white neighborhoods. Racist white people flee like bats out of hell are on their tails. In order to get as far away from people of color as possible, they move into enclaves that are much more expensive than they can afford, thereby cutting back on things they enjoyed before — dinners out, that new car, the family vacation. Both workers and owners at those restaurants lose their earnings; car manufacturers and airlines raise prices on everyone to make up for the lost income. When the loss of the lifestyle they used to love becomes too much to bear, racist white people apply for credit cards and run up debt that is often hard to shake. That’s when the ground beneath them starts to shake and they spend the rest of their lives hopping from one foot to the other to stay steady.

Back in those neighborhoods, when those racist white people left they took the taxes they were paying along with them. And since taxes fund schools and quality of education, future generations get whacked at the knee just as they’re starting to walk. That’s when the tremors start for them, as well. Racist white people have been selling the trickle-down theory for decades — give more money to the rich and their spending will trickle down to the rest of us. Except that in reality, it’s not more economic activity trickling down, it’s less.

My husband likes to recount the story he read years ago of public swimming pools throughout the south, which, after integration, allowed blacks access to the swimming privileges whites had long enjoyed. In the cut-your-nose-to-spite-your-face scenario, rather than mix with blacks, community leaders chose to deprive everyone instead, emptying the pools of water and filling them with cement. Today many former public pools still lie underground. If you’re lucky enough to have a private pool, good for you. If not, too bad.

Racist white people of all classes, and racist people of color like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, have long decried the “nanny state” and “welfare queens.” That is, until something like a pandemic hits and they find themselves out of a job and accompanying health insurance benefits, and on their computers applying for food stamps. And then comes the rattling of their self-esteem, the jolt to their confidence, the jangling of nerves and the jarring clatter of a life falling apart. Who will they blame? It has to be someone’s fault! It must be those immigrants and these black people now running around looting and creating havoc. And so the rumbling continues, with racism destabilizing everyone on its path.

Just to be clear, it’s not America or Americans I’m talking about here. It’s racist Americans. Americans are the first to open their hearts and wallets to disaster zones like Haiti’s after the earthquake. And American companies are stepping up to address the “newly revealed” issue. Just a few days ago The New York Times published an article about a number of companies that have set aside hundreds of millions of dollars and created programs to give grants and assistance to minority-owned businesses that would otherwise be denied access to bank loans easily approved for white people. Those companies include Softbank, Paypal, Youtube and others. I got very excited. Hey, I have an arts education program that needs funding! My friend Lauren’s small business got hit hard by Covid-19! I ran to my computer for the links to apply; except that each and every one of those companies were already overwhelmed by the number of applicants. We are no longer accepting applications. I was disappointed but I felt like Wow!

I just want to remind racist white people in this country that black people aren’t sitting around wishing for a better life. We are ready and raring to go! If only the earth would stop moving beneath our feet — and everyone else’s.

*Image courtesy Brittanica.com

 Carine Fabius is the author of six fiction and nonfiction books, and a longtime contributor to Huffpost, writing on issues of lifestyle, the arts, politics, and more.

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, California, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

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COVID-19 Survey Reports: Impact on International Students

A recent survey conducted by the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) Consortium at the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California, Berkeley,  the findings of which were published on Wednesday, July 1, 2020, “The coronavirus pandemic that shut down university campuses across the globe this spring has heightened concerns among many international students enrolled in United States institutions regarding their personal safety.”

Participants in the survey include 22,519 undergraduate students and 7,690 graduate and professional students at five public research universities in the United States. Of those surveyed, 77% have remained in the U.S. during the COVID-19 global pandemic, while the others have returned to their home countries.

Here are key highlights from this survey:

  • Overall, international graduate and professional students were more likely than undergraduates to acknowledge worries.
  • Maintaining good health was cited as a top priority for two-thirds of graduate and professional students and more than half of international undergraduates
  • Managing immigration status and visas was another concern as cited by 55% of graduate students and 44% of undergraduates.
  • Having adequate financial support was a concern shared by almost half (49%) of graduate students and 36% of undergraduate
  • Understanding US medical insurance and obtaining health services was a concern shared by 53% of international graduate students and 35% of undergraduates.
  • Travel restrictions were of concern to 61% of graduate and professional students versus 45% of undergraduates.
  • More than half (55%) of international graduate students and 43% of undergraduates said instances of xenophobia had affected their mental health.
  • 30% of international undergraduates and 29$ of graduate students said they had experienced offensive behavior that affected their relationship with their US peers or friends
  • 17% of international undergraduates and 22% of graduate studies said they the offensive behavior they experienced affected their academic or professional performance
  • 13% of international undergraduate and 18% of graduates said these negative experiences were more likely to not complete their degree program.
  • 54% of international undergraduates and 56% of graduates expressed a lack of motivation as an obstacle to adjust to online instruction
  • 44% of international undergraduate and 55 % of graduates cited the absence of interacting with other students as a concern
  • Approximately four in ten international undergraduates who left the U.S. said they were unable to attend online classes mostly because of time zone differences.

As the policy brief of the survey said: “We must recognize the toll that instances of xenophobia, harassment and discrimination have on international students. The effects bleed over into international students’ feelings of safety, their mental health and their relationships with US peers or friends.”

Sources:

SERU COVID-19 Survey Policy Briefs

University World News

Inside Higher Education

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, California, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

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Filed under COVID-19, credentialevaluation, Credentials, Education, evaluation, History, Human Interest, international education, international students, News, Politics, study abroad, technology, Travel

Dispatches from Arizona during the Time of COVID-19

Written by: Laura Sippel

As I write this in my home office in Arizona, there are news reports that Arizona is the second highest state to have the most spikes in COVID-19 cases in a single day. My husband and I have been self-quarantining ourselves since March. As my profession is marketing for expert organizations related to credential evaluation and applied comparative education research, these have been very trying times.

According to NBC News, “Coronavirus hospitalizations in Arizona have hit record numbers as cases continue to surge in states in the South and the West, overwhelming medical professionals.” Arizona reported a record high of 3,591 new cases Tuesday, June 23, 2020 – with nearly 60,000 known cases in the state overall.  Some of the people hit hard by the pandemic are in rural areas.

11% of the White Mountain Apache Tribe population in Pinetop, just north of downtown Phoenix, have tested positive for COVID-19. According to AZ Family News, the number of cases per capita is now outpacing the sprawling Navajo Nation, which has been a COVID-19 hot spot.

The Navajo Department of Health reports 7,045 cases out of a population of approximately 173,000, according to 2010 Census data. The White Mountain Apache tribal community will go on a 57-hour lockdown starting June 26, 2020, followed by a shelter-in-place order. Tribal leaders are also prepared to use the police and the courts to force people into quarantine. The council approved converting part of the Hon-Dah casino-hotel in Pinetop into a site for both voluntary and involuntary quarantine.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey encouraged people to continue to physically distance and wear masks when they could not stay home if they were sick. He acknowledged the rise in cases, but said there had also been an increase in testing. “We’ve increased testing in Arizona 600 percent since April 15, we’ve more than doubled testing since we lifted the stay-at-home order, so we’re going to continue the focus there,” he said. “But we’re also seeing an increase in positivity, which tells us that the virus continues to spread.”

It has certainly been some challenging times and I’ve been searching for a way to cope and have found it in my international higher education community.

Today I attended the fourth session of Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI) Mindful Minutes with ACEI – Safe Space, Virtual Place. ACEI President and CEO, Mrs. Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert said, “ACEI’s Mindful Minutes provides a moment of rest and refueling in these times of upheaval. In today’s session, we utilized the mind-body connection to foster personal stability. Practicing mindfulness in community, we interact with care for connection. This session was geared toward helping us all meet this moment with inner courage.”

ACEI’s guest speaker is Abby Wills who is an educator with an MA in Human Development. Abby has over twenty years of experience in integrating mindful practices for social emotional health into a wide diversity of school settings through direct service to learners and educators throughout Los Angeles and internationally.

These sessions focus on our mental health during the challenges and uncertainties of these times which can be overwhelming. Jasmin continued, “self-care is crucial right now. To effectively navigate our way through the unknown, we need to first take care of our own well-being, before we can help our loved ones, co-workers, students, applicants.”

As a community, we are directly addressing the changes and gaining an understanding of how individuals and institutions are managing change in higher education. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities have worked diligently and creatively to bring students back to the United States to complete their academic programs online. Professionals are banding together to provide roundtable discussions and sessions on international policy issues, international credential document fraud, updating online resources for admissions, how to think differently during a time of crisis, sustainable online databases available and how to use them, and much more.

We are also learning how to adapt to a virtual world. While virtual education abroad may not substitute a direct experience abroad, it may be increasingly relied upon to engage students for effective education abroad programming. Our professional organizations are providing excellent up-to-date travel information, while others have kept us informed of the endless changing immigration policies.

Our profession has addressed our need for a solid, steady and predictable world during these uncertain times. By collaborating closely with colleagues, education abroad program providers, and international university partners; organizations and institutions are adapting academic standards and set practices to accommodate changes.

According to Inside Higher Education, members of the higher education community are supporting front-line workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic. “Whether it’s repurposing university-owned equipment to decontaminate N95 masks, mixing hand sanitizer in chemistry labs for use by hospitals, collecting supplies of personal protective equipment — of which there is a critical national shortage — or babysitting health-care workers’ children, professionals in higher education and the students they serve have found all kinds of ways to help.”

Everyone goes into this field wanting to help others.

Abby said today’s Mindful Minutes with ACEI, “being mindful is simple, but it’s not easy. None of us are alone in this experience. Keep each other in mind and heart.”

I am so very grateful for our community. Be safe and be well.

P.S. If interested, you can listen to the recordings of ACEI’s Mindful Minutes Sessions by clicking here and scrolling down to “Presentations.” You won’t be disappointed!

Laura Sippel is President of Laura Sippel Dynamic Consulting. She has more than 25 years of experience in marketing in higher education. She is the Director of Marketing and Communication for The Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE) and is a member of ACEI’s Global Consulting Group www.acei-global-consulting.org.

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, California, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

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Filed under COVI-19, COVID-19, credentialevaluation, Credentials, Education, evaluation, Human Interest, international education, international students, Language, News, Politics, study abroad, technology, Travel

3 Court Victories in June 2020

Despite the sucker punch 2020 has thrown our way this year with the COVID-19 global pandemic, this week has proven to be the bringer of good news, as far as the legal system of the U.S. is concerned. Here are three areas where we’ve witnessed positive outcomes:

  1. CARES Act

A federal judge blocked the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) from limiting emergency aid grants under the CARES Act. This is seen as a setback for Education Secretary, Betsy Devos. It was also the second time in a week that a federal judge blocked the USDE from enforcing its interpretation that limits student eligibility for emergency aid grants under CARES Act for some colleges. To read more, click here

  1. DACA Protection

In a rebuke to the Trump Administration, The Supreme Court on Thursday June 18, 2020 rejected President Donald Trump’s effort to end legal protections for 650,000 young immigrants. Those who were part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will retain protection from deportation and authorization to work in the United States. To read more, click here

  1. LGBTQ Rights Protected

Another stunning rebuke from the Supreme Court this week was its ruling that it’s illegal to fire people because they’re gay or transgender. To read more, click here

What’s next?

Though these are epic legal victories, we cannot rest on our laurels. We have heard that there is the strong possibility of a forthcoming presidential proclamation (aka Executive Order) that would modify federal foreign student visa policy in ways that would have a dramatic and negative impact on higher education institutions. According to a message ACEI received from the Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA) earlier this week:

“The measure will be consistent with broad, long-standing Administration goals to curb   immigration, but will be framed as a response to the spike in Covid-19 era unemployment numbers.  Higher education institutions and the business community  have pointed out that visas with job-related components do not create unemployment in the U.S., in fact they help economic development.”

It is expected that the suspension of various visa categories and sub-programs will be announced soon. AIEA warns:

“Note that the action will be a suspension, and we hear that it will be framed as a 60, 90, 120, or 180-day period.  Rather than an outright ban, the move appears to be calculated to avoid regulatory and legislative oversight. These measures will be effective  immediately, and existing visas and approvals are likely to be reversed.  Suspensions of  this type are easy to extend and will persist regardless of the outcome of the November  3 election.”

AIEA, along with sister organizations and in coalition with others, recommends that the most effective way to change the trajectory of these moves is for member institutions and organizations to directly contact their congressional delegations through letters, and in concert with measures your government affairs offices may be taking.  AIEA notes: “We have seen some movement in likely components of the proclamation in response to external input – as well as resistance.  There is hope that a groundswell of advocacy for the continuation of job-related visas might help stem potential draconian moves.”

We urge you to act.

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, California, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

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How to Spot Fake Online Programs: Highlights of June 10, 2020 Webinar

Written by: Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert

On June 10th, ACEI hosted a webinar on “How to Spot Fake Online Programs,” with Allen Ezell, as our special guest. If there was a moment in time that I held my breath for the entirety of a talk, it was during Allen’s presentation yesterday. He had us all on the edge of our seats as he took us on a journey into the dark crevices of diploma mills, accreditation mills, fake diplomas and the people running these criminal operations.

For those not familiar with Allen, which is hard to imagine, given how prolific he has been with his contributions to our field of international education when it comes to detecting fraud, he served in the FBI as a Special Agent handling all aspects of White Collar Crimes including accounting fraud and education fraud. He was part of FBI’s Operation DIPSAM (Diploma Scam) where he himself obtained about 40 fake degrees just to prove how easily attainable they were. Allen may have retired from the FBI, but he continues to be the tireless investigator of crimes related to fraud, revealing the hucksters and scam artists who run these outfits and is relentless in his pursuit to bring them to justice.

The growth of online programs and MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) has changed the higher education landscape. And now with the global pandemic that has forced many legitimate institutions in offering their courses online, the door has been pushed further open for the diploma mills to step in and showcase their fake online courses and degree programs. Their marketing tactics can be very persuasive, but there are some red flags to look out for to make sure you are not dealing with a fake school offering fake programs.

Using fake diplomas in order to get ahead is not a new phenomenon. As long as there is competition for jobs and admission to higher education, there will be people who are willing to take such shortcuts.

Allen shared an extensive toolkit for us to use to help us spot fake online schools and programs. Here is a sample of a few of his tips:

  • Websites make board grandiose statements about their campus and faculty, for example: claiming to be the world’s largest or best university
  • Advertisements appear on the website promoting products and services unrelated to education (legitimate universities don’t post advertisements on their websites)
  • No normal phone number is provided; only a toll-free number
  • Offer discounts on courses
  • Domain names end in .com, .us., .org., .net., .education
  • No physical addresses provided on the website

As credential evaluators, we strive to do our due diligence in verifying the authenticity of academic documents and legitimacy of the institutions issuing them. Staying vigilant, honing  our detection skills and remaining observant with a keen eye is par for the course.

If you missed our webinar and are interested in listening to this recording, please email us at acei@acei-global.org and let us know you’d like the link to “How to Spot Fake Online Programs.”

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the founder, President and CEO of Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, California, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

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Filed under credentialevaluation, Credentials, diplomamills, Education, evaluation, fakediploma, international education, international students, News, Politics, study abroad, unaccredited, verification

Sino-U.S. Relations and its Impact on Chinese Students

About 400,000 Chinese students were studying in the U.S. as of April 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the country and the globe to a halt.  With the closing of schools and universities, Chinese students began making plans to return home during the coronavirus pandemic. The virus alone cannot be blamed as the only source for the exodus of the Chinese students from the US. There’s also a concerted effort by the U.S. government to deter Chinese students from coming to America to study. Every day we receive news of yet another obstacle.

No need to elaborate. The links shown below will direct you to articles discussing the latest actions taken against students from China.

1. Suspension of Passenger Flights by Chinese Airlines to and from the United States. To read more, click here

2. Proposed legislation that would bar Chinese students from pursuing graduate studies in STEM. To read more, click here

3. U.S. cancels visas to students with ties to universities connected to Chinese military, To read more, click here

4. The writing was on the wall. Refer to the talk given by Assistant Secretary of State, Mary Royce at the 2019 Education USA Forum in Washington, DC. Ms.   Royce painted a disturbing picture of Chinese students studying at U.S. institutions. Her message was less of a message of welcome but a warning. To read more, click here

 

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, California, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

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Detecting Fake University Degrees in a Digital World

In 2019, the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE) hosted its annual symposium discussing the digital retention and transmission of academic documents.  An issue that was of great concern then and continues to be today is how do we maintain credential evaluation standards in a world that is rapidly digitizing? How do we ensure credential integrity? How do we detect fraudulent documents in an age where digital technology is used by hackers and forgers with tech expertise to falsify and issue counterfeit documents, tap into university databases, create degrees and diplomas that appear flawless and authentic?

The title of the 2019 AICE Los Angeles Symposium was “The future is digital…are you? Effectively using technology while maintaining credential evaluation standards” which is timely today given the rapid adoption of digital platforms to offer online courses and transmitting official transcripts during the COVID-19 global pandemic. The goal of the symposium was to seek digital solutions that promote data security and protection as we move toward a paper-free environment.

This week’s blog is a re-posting of one we had shared in 2019, an informative and insightful piece written by our European colleagues Stig Arne SkjervenDirector of Foreign Education in NOKUT and President of the ENIC Bureau in the European Network of Information Centers, a frequent contributor to ACE-Global.Blog, and Linda J Børresen, Senior Legal Advisor in NOKUT (Norwegian ENIC-NARIC). The authors demonstrate steps being taken in Europe to combat fake diplomas in today’s digital world. This article appeared in the September 2018 issue of University World News and is shared in this blog with permission from Mr. Skjerven and Ms. Børresen.

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), will be hosting a free webinar on June 10, 2020 on fake online courses and diploma mills. To register, please click here.

We invite you to share your thoughts, experience, and questions in the comments section. Thank you.


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

 

By Stig Arne Skjerven and Linda J. Børresen

Using fake diplomas in order to get ahead is not a new phenomenon. As long as there is competition for jobs and admission to higher education, there will be people who are willing to take such shortcuts.

Articles in University World News often report new cases, the most recent on fake Scottish degrees. Over the summer in the United Kingdom, there was an article published in The Guardian in which the UK’s official service for verifying degrees, the Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD), urged new graduates who take selfies with their new degrees not to share the images on social media to avoid fueling the multimillion-pound trade in fake degrees.

 What are fake diplomas?

Generally speaking, there are three categories of fake diplomas. The first category is typically a diploma that seems to be issued by an accredited institution, but the diploma is in fact produced illegally. The person who bought the document has never studied at the institution in question.

The second category comprises diplomas that are issued by accredited institutions, but the holder of the diploma has altered the information in the document, most commonly the grades.

The third and last category includes fake diplomas issued by diploma mills (fake universities). Diploma mills grant ‘degrees’ to people who pay for this service, but do not offer any educational training.

Fake diplomas can finance serious crime

The consequences of using fake diplomas are dire, ranging from wrongful job hires to illicit access to regulated professions. The latter can pose a danger to people and society, most obviously in the health, engineering and financial professions.

Just as worryingly, the income from sales of fake diplomas often finances serious crime. The court case in Norway following the terrorist attack on 22 July 2011 is a clear illustration. During the trial, the defendant admitted that he partly financed his terror operation by selling fake diplomas through the establishment of an internet site called Diplomaservice.com. Its revenue was nearly US$500,000, which was laundered in Antigua and subsequently used to finance his illicit activities.

How can we deal with fake diplomas?

In Norway, NOKUT is the Norwegian ENIC-NARIC center whose task it is to recognize foreign higher education qualifications in accordance with the Lisbon Recognition Convention. In order to combat the problem with fake diplomas, NOKUT has developed several tools, such as rigid documentation requirements and thorough quality assurance.

Verification is crucial and all diplomas are verified from certain countries, either by the issuing higher education institutions or by the ministry of education in that particular country. Equally important, NOKUT’s experienced credential evaluators are fluent in many languages and possess unique knowledge about various educational systems, enabling them to track logical inconsistencies in the applicants’ educational backgrounds.

Since 2003, 120 people have been reported to the police for using fake diplomas. This comes in addition to the number of cases that are reported by Norwegian higher education institutions and other competent authorities. NOKUT, as the ENIC-NARIC center, cooperates well with Norwegian law enforcement. Many of the reported cases have resulted in convictions, normally two to three weeks of unconditional imprisonment.

Most of these convictions are for regular falsified diplomas, but convictions for using documents from diploma mills are increasing.

The Council of Europe’s ETINED Platform

The ETINED Platform is a network of specialists appointed by member states of the Council of Europe and states party to the European Cultural Convention (50 states). The purpose of ETINED is to build a culture of ethics, transparency and integrity in and through education.

One aspect of this is combating fraud and corruption, including fraudulent qualifications. In this part of the project, cooperation between the ENIC and NARIC networks, the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) and the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education(EQAR) have been established.

Suggestions for changes to the subsidiary text to the Lisbon Recognition Convention are being considered. An example is the establishment of a database with a list of criteria that students should look for when checking qualifications proposed by an institution.

FRAUDOC – An Erasmus+ project

All over Europe, significant efforts have been made to detect fraudulent documents. Recently, an Erasmus+ funded project, FRAUDOC, led by the Italian ENIC-NARIC CIMEA, launched guidelines on diploma mills and documents fraud for credential evaluators. The guidelines give an overview of the phenomenon, but they also provide tools and recommendations on how fraudulent documents can be detected.

The same group has also launched a handbook for credential evaluators with information about verification databases and other suggestions that should help credential evaluators in their daily work.

The future is digital

Routines developed by ENIC-NARIC centers are helpful for combating the use of fake documents. However, even in the world of recognition and credential evaluation it is true that the future is digital – soon, most diplomas will be digitally accessible in secure systems which will guarantee documents’ authenticity.

Norway has digitalized all diplomas that have been issued by Norwegian institutions, with a few exceptions, in an online portal called Vitnemålsportalen. Graduates can provide secure and time-limited access to their data to an employer through an electronic link. This procedure ensures the authenticity of the documents and is a safe and cost-effective way for an employer to verify someone’s credentials.

Other systems, at varying stages of development, are in operation in AustraliaBelgium (Flanders), ChinaEstoniaFranceIndiaMexicothe NetherlandsNew ZealandRomania, the Russian FederationSouth Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The network of EMREX aims to further connect and enhance student data portability and provide student data globally. EMREX empowers individuals to manage their student data and to transfer credentials securely to employers, institutions and more.

Fake diplomas will continue to pose a threat to higher education institutions, employers and recognition authorities in the years to come. However, recent initiatives involving digital diplomas in secure databases may be one of the most promising ways to combat false diplomas in the future.

Stig Arne Skjerven is the Director of Foreign Education in NOKUT and President of the ENIC Bureau in the European Network of Information Centres.

Linda J Børresen is Senior Legal Advisor in NOKUT (Norwegian ENIC-NARIC). 

 

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

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Filed under credentialevaluation, Credentials, diplomamills, Education, evaluation, fakediploma, international education, international students, onlinecourses, study abroad, unaccredited, verification

A Quick Look at: Online Learning, Virtual Learning, E-Learning, Distance Learning, Blended Learning

Contributed by: ConexEd

As the COVID-19 global pandemic has forced schools, colleges and universities around the world to offer alternative methods to their traditional in-class instruction, we thought it would be helpful to share this informative piece that was created and posted by ConexEd.

 What is Online Learning?

  • Online learning always involves an internet connection and can include virtual face-to-face interactions (webinar, online lecture, virtual meeting)
  • Uses online tools for learning, such as online curriculum or virtual space or conferencing software.
  • Could be considered a mix of virtual learning and blended learning.

What is Virtual Learning?

  • Can be used inside or outside the physical building of the educational organization.
  • Uses the computer and an online program or software to enhance the learning experience.
  • Can be used in a self-pacing format (individualized) or live web conferencing between students and instructors.
  • Students have remote access to content and instructors.
  • Student can connect and interact with other students and their instructors online.

What is E-Learning?

  • E-Learning utilizes digital tools for teaching and learning, and the technology facilitates the learning process.
  • Can be used online or in a classroom setting.
  • Students take a course from a teacher but only interact with the teacher online.
  • Students have unlimited access to the content.
  • The course completion, program, or degree is distributed online.

What is Distance Learning?

  • Same structure as online learning.
  • Specific purpose is to attract students from all locations.
  • Can provide instruction to someone learning in a different time and place than that of the teacher and other students.

What is Blended Learning?

  • Blended learning is the combination of classroom and virtual learning.
  • Ideally integrates virtual learning in a way that individualizes and enhances instruction for students.

When planning online resources and incorporating learning online in the classroom, the objectives for content learning, the intended student outcomes, student needs, and student access to technology and their current digital literacy should be taken into consideration, at which point instructors can determine which approach fits their goals best.

Links:

ConexEd: https://www.conexed.com/are-online-learning-virtual-learning-e-learning-distance-learning-and-blended-learning-the-same/

Applied Educational Systems: Online Learning vs Distance Learning https://www.aeseducation.com/blog/online-learning-vs-distance-learning

 

Kickboard: What is Distance or Remote Learning:  https://www.kickboardforschools.com/blog/post/distance-remote-learning/what-is-distance-or-remote-learning/

 

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

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