Degrees for Sale 2/19/04
So...how much money did you — or your parents — spend for your college degree? And how many years did you spend earning it?Well, imagine if someone could get a college degree for a fraction of the price — without attending a single class. Our I-Team discovered it's happening all over the country:
Sound of dog barking
There's no denying this dog's got "skills"....I mean, he can:
Peter Brancato/Wally's Owner "Lie down...down...good boy."
And he can fetch...well, sort of. That's just about the extent of 7-year-old Wally's education, though. But then again...these days more people are furthering their educations later in life....often online. 52-year-old Andrew Deliveron of Schroon Lake was considering it. He's out of work.
Andrew Deliveron/Schroon Lake "One of the things that occasionally comes up is do you have a Bachelors of Science degree?"
This veteran trucking salesman has always had to answer "No." But...he thought...wouldn't it be great to say "Yes"? He saw the ad for a "legal degree" based on experience on our station web site...and WAS approved if he sent in 595 bucks. But Deliveron was skeptical so he called our I-Team and that's...where Wally comes in. After all, it's one thing if an experienced businessman can earn a degree...but quite another if your four-legged friend can. Not that Wally doesn't have "experience" of his own.
Peter Brancato/Wally's Owner "Plays with the kids every day...teaches them to interact better with each other...Teaches them responsibilities like feeding the dog."
Wally's Almeda College application took about 5 minutes...including his age, 49 in human years, and experience. But no social security number or driver's license needed. So...if we sent the cash...could Wally graduate magna cum doggie?
Sound of Peter opening box
We got our answer in just a couple weeks.
Peter: "Look what you got...you got your college degree." Amy: "Wally, don't you care about your degree?"
The associate's in Childhood Development came with a complete course list too.
Peter Brancato/Wally's Owner "European culture...college algebra....here's the best one: public speaking. Wally...speak?"
Wally barked. And, even though he "passed" U-S History:
Peter: "Who was the first president of the United States?...there you go."
He could still wear his alma mater with pride though...and all Andrew Deliveron could say was:
Andrew Deliveron "Wow."
But FBI consultant, Dr. John Bear, told us a dog with a degree did not surprise him.
Dr. John Bear/FBI Consultant "Almeda is a relatively new arrival on the scene."
Bear is an expert on diploma mills and says Almeda's already one of the biggest — out of at least a thousand out there. They make up to 200 million dollars a year....and are often based in the Caribbean to avoid U-S authorities. When we called...the operator said she was in Boise, Idaho.
Amy: "I'm just wondering how difficult it is to get a degree." Woman: "Well we only approve 25 percent. If you do not have credentials, you do not get one of these."
Amy: "We had a dog apply for a degree through your college...and you guys awarded it." Woman: "Well I wouldn't know anything about that."
Bear insists besides stealing people's money...fake schools like Almeda pose a whole host of other dangers.
Dr. John Bear/FBI Consultant "These people with fake degrees...the fake doctors, lawyers, ministers, teachers, principals, they're having a great effect on other people."
Think about it....if you hadn't seen Wally, but just his resume....you may have trusted him with your kids. But don't worry...the only kids he'll be watching are these. And as for that diploma?
Sound of Peter hammering
It'll be right above his food dish...where he'll be sure to see it every day. Of course, diploma mills are no joking matter. As soon as we found out about Almeda College, we took its ad off our station's web site. Dr. Bear says often phony schools go undetected because the FBI doesn't have the resources to investigate them. States like Illinois and New Jersey have made it illegal to use one there though — so, if you do...you could be arrested.