Education Department's Online Resource Directory Listed Some Dubious Endeavors

March 16, 2010

The U.S. Department of Education publishes an online directory of organizations that can "provide information and assistance on a broad range of education-related topics." But how trustworthy is that directory?

A recent search of the Education Resource Organizations Directory revealed a number of organizations that might raise eyebrows. Among them was Victorville International University, whose Web site touts its "excellent reputation for graduating pristine domestic graduates who have gained success in their own industries alike."

Several telephone calls to Victorville, in California, all went to voice mail. Victorville is on the State of Oregon's list of "unaccredited degree suppliers."

Also listed was the American Association for Higher Education & Accreditation, which is not a recognized accreditation body. In an interview for a 2008 article in The Chronicle, an official with the association, D.A. (Doc) Brady, a hypnotherapist, called the rules for becoming an approved accreditor "retarded."

Both organizations were removed from the directory after they were brought to the Education Department's attention.

Also removed was California University FCE, which charges $100 for a service called "diploma equivalency." The certificates it issues look very much like real college diplomas.

Several such organizations, including Victorville International, have noted their inclusion in the Education Department's directory as evidence of their legitimacy.

Failing to properly vet who's on the list is a problem, according to George Gollin, a professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a diploma-mill watchdog. "It's naïve to create a resource that does not have some investigative capability to determine whom to include," he said.

Mr. Gollin did praise the department for culling those organizations from the list after being notified of their inclusion.

A spokesman for the department said that more than 2,900 organizations were in the directory and that an audit of the list was being conducted. The spokesman said the listings are submitted by the organizations themselves.