The never ending case of Credential Fraud and Misrepresentation

January 19th, 2017

mill

On January 5, 2017, the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA), frustrated with the continued proliferation of diploma mills and fraudulent qualifications, made a bold announcement that it will name and shame holders of these bogus degrees and diplomas.  The SAQA has established a national registry where those found guilty of having misrepresented their achievements with the use of fake degrees will be listed and said registry will be made public.

The issue of diploma mills and misrepresentation of academic documents is not new but it is a growing problem which continues to fester in countries around the world.  Here at ACEI, we realize the importance of doing our due diligence in vetting and verifying academic documents and ensuring that they are in fact issued by legitimate educational institutions to individuals who have duly earned them through actual attendance and participation in classes and coursework validated by final examinations.

From time to time, we share tips we’ve gleaned from our years of experience with academic documents and in this week’s blog we’d like to do exactly that and repost a comprehensive to-do list for you. We welcome any tips you would like to add to this list.

Ensuring the authenticity of educational credentials is by far the single most important step in credential evaluation and international student admissions. Without due diligence in fraud detection, we may run the risk of evaluating documents that may have been falsified, or fraudulently procured and admitting the students into our institutions based on unauthentic credentials. As professionals involved in international credential evaluation and admissions, we must remain vigilant and adopt best practices that protect us and the community from fraud.

In this blog post, we offer some tips to consider when evaluating international academic credentials.

What is an authentic academic credential?
The definition adopted by the Michigan Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers is as follows:

An official transcript is one that has been received directly from the issuing institution. It must bear the college seal, date, and an appropriate signature. Transcripts received that do not meet these requirements should not be considered official and should be routinely verified for validity and accuracy before proceeding with the evaluation and admissions consideration.

The 5 Most Common Types of Non-Official and Illegitimate Documents

1. Forged or altered documents – Official, legitimate document that have been altered in some way (usually by omissions, addition, or changes)

2. Inside jobs – these are special cases because the documents are actually produced by institutional employees, usually for a fee; inside jobs are virtually impossible to detect upon initial review.

3. Fabricated (counterfeit) documents – documents fabricated to represent official documents from real or non-existent institutions (including use of letterheads)

4. Degree or Diploma Mill Products – The products of degree/diploma mills are not in themselves fabrications but the academic study they purport to represent certainly is.

5. Creative translations – “Translations” of foreign-language documents that are not just inaccurate but systematically misleading, tantamount to fabrication.

Watch for the Red Flags!

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Checklist of Clues:

• The application is unusually late, assuming that it would impede verification, or is accompanied by a long letter from an impressive office – usually located in the U.S. – which may be attempting to lend an aura of officialdom to otherwise unacceptable documents. Do not be pressured or rushed into completing the evaluation or reaching an admissions

• Discrepancies/inconsistencies noted in the application for evaluation;

• Evidence of corrected personal data (birth date, gender);

• Document is tampered and has evidence of white-out, burn-marks, erasures, corrections;

• Credentials do not display misspelling, wrong course titles for the time period, smudges, white-outs, or erasures;

• Fonts, text layout, and symmetry of documents are correct for that institution’s credentials.

• Interrupted/obliterated lines where information is generally typed or printed;

• Missing pictures on diplomas or professional identification cards;
• Partial seals on the surface of superimposed pictures not on the document surface;

• Institutional logos are clean and correct for the time period.

• Signatures of institutional authorities do not look forced, unsteadied, nor copied and pasted.

• The type is inconsistent throughout the document because subjects have been added or grades changed. In some cases, crude alterations have been made in longhand, or lines may have been typed in at a slight angle to the computer generated originals;

• Irregular spacing between words or letters, or insufficient space for the text;

• Questionable paper quality, texture, size (regular or legal), weight coloration;

• Ink color and quality;

• Inappropriate or outdated signatures;

• Incorrect seals/emblems, colors, shapes;

• Excessive seals and stamps attempting to help the document appear official;

• Does the document security features, such a embossed seals, foil printing, raised text, or holograms that should be the official document of that country?

• Does the document include a stamp “not to be released to student’ or “confidential,” yet it is provided by the student?

• Applicant claims to have lost the original documents;

• Applicant claims to have graduated from an institution but can provide only a letter indicating completion of program;

• Although the applicant had taken external examinations, the certificates have been lost and all he/she has left is a statement of attendance or graduation from the school;

• You know the education system to be different from US system, yet the transcript appears to be very American, giving, subjects, grades and credit hours in US terms;

• Grade certificates prepared in a language other than the official language of the country where the document originated. Many countries are currently using official transcripts in English: Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Canada (except Quebec), Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Israel, Oman, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and India.

• Names may have been substituted. Typically, a person will type his/her name on a sheet of paper, cut it out and paste it across a copy of an original, which he/she then photocopies; the substitution of names will rarely appear on an original;

• Grades listed may be absurdly high, or the number of course hours claimed to have been carried per semester an improbably load;

• Numerical aberrations: credits do not add up and the overall grade point averages are a mathematical impossibility;

• Is the educational terminology correct for the country concerned?

• Use of unprofessional language on academic documents, poor grammar, misspellings;

• Are there any dates or signatures on the documents?

Our advancement in technology is both a blessing and a curse. With sophisticated computers and printers at their disposal, counterfeiters today produce flawlessly perfect documents that for the uninitiated make it difficult to detect fraud. We hope that the tips shared in this blog and your institution’s enforcement to have in place strict standards for the submission and receipt of academic documents help thwart it not eliminate fraud.

Who ever said international credential evaluation is dull doesn’t know and appreciate what we do. Stay vigilant and happy sleuthing!

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

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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Vive la Différence!

January 12th, 2017

viva

I was lucky to be invited by Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, the President and CEO of ACEI (Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute) to attend an event at the residence of the French Consul General in Beverly Hills, on Monday, January 6.

The event was the reception for the France Alumni USA Launch. The idea is to enable meaningful connections between those who have lived and studied in France and now find themselves living back in the states, with the French Culture here in Los Angeles, as well to encourage students from France to study in the U.S.  At least on the surface.

The event marked the latest endeavor to form new cultural alliances between Francophile/ Francophone professionals in the arts, science and technology. Many of us there, in fact most of us spoke both English and French, and presentations were done in both languages.

Considering the troubling transitions of government–– in our own presidential election and the up-coming April presidential election in France, it is imperative that we find new ways to better understand each other to work together to create new paradigms for our respective societies.

How people go out into the world for life, business, pleasure, and even love, is greatly affected by their own cultural pre-dispositions. It is so important to learn a new culture, to immerse yourself in its language, customs, and ideas to facilitate and anticipate and resolve differences in fulfilling and constructive ways.

The French Consul General, Christophe Lemoine, warmly, and easily charmed the audience by acknowledging the joys and appreciation of French wine, culture and history, and extoling the virtues and strengths of the French education system. He explained how important it is that we continue to seek out and foster an educational exchange between our two countries, and invited several speakers to share their points of view on “Multi-Cultural” immersion. This exchange is particularly successful in the exchange of cultural and artistic endeavors.

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Learning a second language was once a must in U.S. education. I was one of the lucky ones, having studied French from Second grade all the way through high school and college. I even went to live and study in France and on that night found myself in familiar company.

Not only did it gift me with the confidence of being able to travel almost anywhere in the world and communicate, it opened the receptors in my brain to the ability to learn and absorb language in general, encouraging me to learn other languages, in my case Spanish and German.  I doubt I would have done that without learning French, and immersing myself in French culture from a very early age.

Albeit through colonial conquer and rule, the French culture spread and became the lingua franca in most of the world, enabling people to communicate when they did not share a common language. In 1920, The League of Nations pronounced French as the official Language of Diplomacy worldwide. Up until 1990 my US Passport was written in both French and English, then was changed to include Spanish as well. I so appreciate that!

I love speaking other languages, because it has allowed me to truly understand the way people think, their cultural expressions in art, business, spiritual beliefs and life. It is like a magic key to a doorway one did not realize was previously there.

That evening, we stood at a table with a young, married, bi-cultural couple; she is French and he is American. They met while attending a university in France.  Obviously, a successful cultural exchange! She is in International Admissions/Student Affairs here at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California and shared with us the alarming fact: Due to the recent shift in presidential powers here and the non-inclusive immigration platform of the incoming party, she has noticed a steep drop-off in queries from students around the world, wishing to study here in the United States. Prospective students are of course mirroring global feelings of uncertainty and concern.

I asked her husband what he perceived were the differences between the education systems in France and those of the U.S. His response was quick at hand. He said that in France they teach following a pedagogic model of passive listening to lectures, while in the U.S, students have access and the ability to have meaningful discourse with teachers, aids and other students.  While he loved and greatly benefited from the more well-rounded studies required in France, he preferred the more engaged creative model in the American Universities.

This just made the feeling of needing to connect on a variety of different levels with those outside the United States an even stronger imperative for myself and many of the people we talked to. We the people, have, to find ways to come together, as our governments are not presently setting exemplary standards.

That creative and collaborative exchange of ideas, was really, what the evening was about. Finding a pathway in challenging and rapidly changing times, to engage in new ways of creative collaboration across many platforms: the arts, sciences, technology and of course education, to change and enrich our selves and the societies we live in.

Vive la différence.

winston_jeannie

Jeannie Winston is a frequent guest blogger for ACEI’s Academic Exchange. Jeannie is an artist and writer living and working in Los Angeles, California. Jeannie completed her undergraduate studies in Illustration at The Arts Center of Pasadena, California.  Her vast and intricate knowledge of Los Angeles and its cultural history bring a new perspective to our understanding of the City of Angels. She draws her inspiration from the natural and inhabited world around her. She is especially inspired by her observations of cultural fusions and how people strive to invoke spirit in daily life.

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How To Verify Chinese Degrees

January 5th, 2017

verify-chinese-degrees-1

This was initially posted on June 23rd, 2016

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The Many Benefits of International Students at U.S. Campuses

12/30/16

interstudents

As we come to the end of 2016, we’d like to dedicate this final blog for the year to international students and the myriad of benefits they bring to the economic and cultural fabric of the U.S  Let’s take a closer look.

Economic Benefits

The economic benefits of having international students on U.S. campuses are impressive. According to the Brookings Institute, foreign students “paid $22 billion in tuition between 2008 and 2013 as well as at least $13 billion in living expenses.” According to the U.S. Department of Commerce: “In 2015, International students contributed more than $30.5 billion to the U.S. economy, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.”

International students are able to fund their education in the U.S. through funds they receive from personal and family sources outside the U.S. They also receive financial support from their home country governments or universities.

Additional breakdowns of economic impact by state and Congressional District, calculated using IIE’s Open Doors enrollment figures, are available on the NAFSA International Student Economic Value Tool website.

Take a look at the chart below to see the countries which send most of the students to study in the U.S. These numbers grew from approximately 975,000 in 2015 to 1,043,839 in 2016.

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Source: The Atlantic

Cultural, Scientific, Technical Research Benefits

In addition to the economic benefits of having international students on U.S. campuses, the cultural gains are equally positive and impactful. The benefits of American students who actively engage and interact with international students on their college campuses are tremendously positive and impactful. American students exposed to and interacting with international students are more likely to read or speak a foreign language, appreciate art, music, literature of different cultures, and view current problems in historical perspective. They also are more likely to be more open minded and curious and interested to reexamine their political and religious viewpoints and their beliefs about other races or ethnicities. They may even consider traveling outside the U.S. or studying abroad.

Another significant benefit of having international students studying in the United States is that they contribute to America’s scientific and technical research. They bring with them international perspectives and stories of their personal experiences into U.S. classrooms. All these contribute to helping prepare American college students to be better equipped for careers in the global job market and in many cases helps them build and foster longer-term business relationships and economic benefits with their international student counterparts after graduation.

This reminds me of a taxi ride I once had from the airport in Reno, NV to a conference hotel. When I told the driver that I was attending a conference on international education, I was pleasantly surprised to hear him lecture me on the many benefits his city receives from its foreign students. He cited how international students contribute to the city’s businesses through their purchases, renting apartments, leasing or buying cars, paying insurance, going to the movies, eating at restaurants, and so much more. Clearly, he got it! And let’s not forget that many international students bring with them their spouses and children for the duration of their studies and these additional persons also help the economy. According to NAFSA, for the 2013-2014 academic year, “international students and their families at colleges and universities across the U.S. contributed $26.8 billion to the U.S. economy and supported 340,000 jobs. Compared to the previous academic year, this is nearly a 12 percent increase in dollars contributed to the economy and an 8.5 percent increase in job support and creation.” Another important and positive side effect of having international students on U.S. campuses which NAFSA found is that “three U.S. jobs are created or supported for every seven international students enrolled. These jobs are in higher education, accommodation, dining, retail, transportation, telecommunications, and health insurance.”

These economic benefits have not gone unnoticed by countries such as Canada, UK, and Australia who are aggressively seeking ways to attract and recruit international students to their institutions. Though, at this time, the UK–having undergone the Brexit referendum– is taking a harsher stand against international students. We, in the international education community, urge our representatives in Washington and the incoming administration to take the significance of international students and their contributions to the U.S. economy and the fabric of our higher education into serious consideration before embarking on any anti-immigration policies and legislations. A negative and hostile stand against immigration if not clearly defined will alienate the international students who enter the U.S. legally on student visas and deter them from seeking the U.S. as their higher education destination. They will in turn look to friendlier countries like Canada and Australia. The U.S. will have a great deal to lose.

Useful Links:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2016/11/21/where-americas-international-students-come-from-infographic/#708592224669

https://today.duke.edu/2013/06/internationalengage

http://immigrationimpact.com/2014/11/19/international-students-add-billions-u-s-economy/

http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20150212092452773

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/11/globalization-american-higher-ed/416502/

http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/international-students-united-states

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

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

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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Season’s greetings and warm wishes for a happy new year

12/23/16

greetings

As 2016 comes to an end, and we prepare for the New Year, I cannot help but reflect at the great progress ACEI has made since its inception in 1994. As both President & CEO of ACEI and as Board President of the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE), a non-profit professional association, of which ACEI is an Endorsed member, I can proudly look at how ACEI and AICE members have remained steadfast in our efforts to ensure the respect deserving of the international credential evaluation profession through our commitment in developing standards and guidelines while supporting and encouraging exchange of ideas and information.

ACEI will be turning 23 next year, and I have had the pleasure of watching it truly raise the bar for ourselves and for our colleagues in international credential evaluations. While the external environment and the new presidency brings with it uncertainties and challenges for international education,  I see our community coming together,  showing  resilience, determination and a shared sense of purpose, working effectively as a unified voice for maintaining standards and best practices. While the obstacles have been and will be many  – from a climate where standards and transparency have been neglected by some in the profession, to a political climate here and abroad that is becoming more nationalistic than globally minded – what has shone and continues to shine through is the steadfast commitment of our colleagues and partners in fostering and advancing international education, credential evaluation methodologies and standards and exchange of information with each other and helping the students and communities we support.

Thank you for your commitment to international education and support of ACEI. As we move forward in 2017 and beyond, I am proud of ACEI’s accomplishments and excited about the future. Our community is strong and vibrant, and together we will continue our efforts to remain interconnected, uphold standards and best practices, safeguard international education, and ensure access for international students and human dignity for poor and vulnerable populations worldwide.

Wishing you and yours a Happy Holiday season and a new year filled with health, happiness and success.

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

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

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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ACICS Gets Nixed

December 15th, 2016

john-king
Education Secretary John King (Leigh Vogel/Getty Images)

On December 12, 2016, John King, the U.S. Secretary of Education, announced the Education Department‘s final decision to terminate its recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).

ACICS was founded in 1912 as a national accreditor that accredited institutions offering programs in professional, technical, and occupational fields. According to InsideHigherEducation as a national accreditor, the Council “oversees 245 institutions, many of them for-profits, which enroll roughly 600,000 students and collectively received $4.76 billion in federal aid last year.”  ACICS had been the accrediting agency for now-shuttered Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute campuses.

The decision to terminate the Council’s accreditation authority follows extensive investigation by the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) which concluded in its report that ACICS “failed to protect students and taxpayers from fraudulent and underperforming colleges.”  In a letter to ACICS, Emma Vadehra, chief of staff to the education secretary wrote she is terminating the department’s recognition of ACICS as a nationally recognized accrediting agency as “ACICS’s track record does not inspire confidence that it can address all of the problems effectively.” ACICS said it would “immediately file litigation seeking injunctive and other relief through the courts.”

The U.S Education Department has given the colleges accredited by ACICS 18 months to find a new accreditor or will lose access to federal aid. Many of the college are turning to other accreditation agencies, in particular the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.  The Department did announce on December 12, 2016 that it was adding new conditions for ACICS-accredited colleges to remain aid eligible that include: monitoring; transparency; oversight and accountability requirements. ACICS-accredited colleges have 10 days to agree to these new conditions or they will not be able to receive federal aid.

For more on this latest development, please visit:

https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/2016/12/acics-loss-of-accreditation-what-it-means-for-schools-and-international-students

https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2016/12/13/education-secretary-drops-recognition-accreditor?utm_content=buffer25e06&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=IHEbuffer

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-09-22/education-department-strips-authority-of-acics-the-largest-for-profit-college-accreditor

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

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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A New Internationalization Strategy

December 8th, 2016

global

Continuing with our thread on the impact of a Trump Presidency on international education and internationalization as a whole, I found the blog recently posted by EAIE to be spot on. In the words of one of the authors of the blog, “… the task of regularly scanning the external environment to identify both opportunities and threats is now more critical than ever.”  This was most evident at the recent AIRC conference in Miami, FL and I’m certain that the discussion will only escalate in urgency in the months to come.

We can choose to look at the ramification of what a Trump Presidency may have on the future of international education in a negative light or its exact opposite. This new chapter in U.S. history may be just the wakeup call needed to reevaluate the way we have been operating. In fact, by shifting the focus to providing quality education (at the institutional level), and establishing standards (AICE is poised to be at the helm as far as credential evaluations are concerned with AIRC enforcing its certifications of agents/recruiters) we just maybe able to steer the ship into less turbulent waters. We can already see the negative effects of rapid unmonitored internationalization, where rules are broken, subpar or under qualified students are recruited, fraudulent documents are processed without vetting/verification/evaluation, and university reps compete for warm bodies overlooking principles/policies in order to meet the bottom line and generate tuition revenue.  Just look at the recent article in Reuters on how top U.S. colleges hooked up with controversial Chinese companies helped along by a former U.S. school board president and a former administrator from a liberal arts college in Vermont. The U.S. colleges indicate they were unaware of fraud accusations brought against the Chinese companies. According to the Reuters piece the companies “have engaged in college application fraud, including writing application essays and teacher recommendations, and falsifying high school transcripts.” Earlier this year, we read about the scandal facing fraudulent practices surrounding students recruited from China and India to several key U.S. institutions. The fraud covered all facets of the admissions process, from creating bogus financial statements, ghost writers preparing college admissions essays, to falsified academic documents. 

We see ACEI and the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE), the professional association that vets and screens private credential evaluation services and requires adherence to peer approved evaluation standards, to be at the helm of this paradigm shift in thinking. If quality, due diligence, and academic values are an institution’s mission and purpose, then they can only be achieved and fostered when partnered with organizations that share the same vision and adhere to the highest standards in credential evaluations. The benefits of the credential evaluation service we provide at ACEI are many, but the most important is that an unbiased evaluation based on vetted academic documents and peer reviewed placement recommendation guidelines protects the academic institution against risks such as fraud and misrepresentation which affect the institution’s reputation, ranking, and most importantly accreditation.

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

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

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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