The Heyday of The Degree Mills

BARBARA MOON April 6 1963

The Heyday of The Degree Mills

BARBARA MOON April 6 1963

The Heyday of The Degree Mills


How a few strange Canadian colleges are making Doctors of Just About Anything out of just about anybody who buys their pitch

DEGREE MILLS have been operating in North America for well over a hundred years but U. S. educational authorities began to deplore them seriously only five years ago and Canadian authorities, following this lead, less than three years ago.

Up till then dubious trade, business and technical schools — certificate or diploma mills — had been thought far naughtier, since they victimized working-class people innocently in search of job training. Those who patronized fake institutions at the university level were thought probably to be as corrupt and cynical as the proprietors themselves.

What brought about the change of heart was the snowballing evidence that degree mills were pushing their product to the export market, particularly in the Asian and African nations eager to build up their own corps of native technicians, teachers and administrators.

Aside from feeling compunction, educators realized the prestige of North American higher education would inevitably suffer. At least one of them was reminded uncomfortably of the cartoon that once appeared in a Berlin journal: it showed a coin-in-the-slot machine and a sign underneath it reading, “Put your dollar in the slot and pull out an American doctor diploma.”

Efforts are now being made in the U. S. and Canada to catalogue the offending institutions. In 1959 a report of the American Council on Education identified more than two hundred degree mills in at least thirty-seven states.

In Canada, so far. four institutions with some or all of the characteristics of degree mills are known to the various official bodies concerned with college degrees.

One of them is Earl James’s National

University C ollege, which is described in detail on the following pages. The other three differ from it, and from each other, in certain respects. But they are all in varying degrees designed to fool the public into taking them for fully accredited institutions of higher learning, and into taking their degrees as seriously as they take most other baccalaureates and doctorates. They arc:

THE CANADIAN TEMPLE COLLEGE OF LIFE (of the International Academy) alias the Institute Academy, the Universal Life Foundation. etc., 4835 East Grandview-Douglas Highway, Burnaby 2, B.C.

In a 1958 report, a West German government official who was investigating international operations of degree mills described “a far-flung organization for the sale of doctor diplomas with branches in London, New York, Paris, Rome, Geneva, The Hague, Athens, Brussels and Vancouver . . . Year of founding is given as 1880 and place and year of incorporation: Washington. D.C., 1916. Diplomas are sold to this day for all kinds of Doctor Degrees . . . Sometimes they are signed, in addition to the 'President.' by one ‘Archbishop John I.’ Places of issue are not given . . . Thus far it has not been possible to ascertain the various distribution branches.” The German was describing the American International Academy. The Canadian Temple College of Life is the Vancouver branch he mentions. Its officers and the officers of the other branches confer degrees on each other like mad, sit on each other's hoards of governors and “accredit” each other’s institutions whenever necessary. This is big business.

The head of the Canadian Temple College signs himself Archbishop The Most Reverend Monsignor Doctor William Franklin Wolsey. He serves as honorary president of the American International Academy. The president of the American International Academy, one Harry Cohen, MD, PhD, LittD. etc., serves as honorary president of the Canadian Temple College of Life. Remember C'ohen’s name.

Besides being a degree mill the college is a sort of religious society. Wolsey makes a nice sideline of peddling religious robes.

PHILATHEA coi i EGE, 306 King Street. London, Ont. This is a bible-training school of the First Church of Christ (Disciples). It has no full-time staff and few students. Its mailing address is that of a local business college. Its working space is an addition recently built on to the First Church of Christ (Disciples). Its students are not required to comply with the admission requirements of recognized universities. Nevertheless Philathea offers these degrees: Master of Theology (ThM), Bachelor of Theology (BTh), Licentiate of Theology (LTh) and Bachelor of Religious Education (BRE).

There are two interesting things about Philathea. The first is that at least until 1959 the college claimed the right by its act of incorporation to grant honorary degrees of Doctor of Divinity (DD) and Doctor of Humanities (DHum). It had no such right. But in a dozen years Philathea granted more honorary than earned degrees, a practice that presumably brought it both funds and publicity. One of Philathea's innocent DHums was Eleanor Roosevelt. Another Philathea DHum is The Hon. John P. Robarts, premier of Ontario.

The second interesting thing about Philathea is that its president. The Rev. Dr. B. C. Eckardt. is official representative in Canada of the American International Academy. Philathea's chancellor is Harry Cohen. MD, PhD, LittD, etc., president of the American International Academy, New York, and honorary president of the Canadian Temple College of Life.

ROYAL COLLEGE OF SCIENCE, alias the Empire College of Ophthalmology and the Empire Optical Co., 709 Spadina Avenue, Toronto. The “college’’ operates less than regally from the ground floor of a duplex, specializing in free-lance “doctorates" in optometry, optical science, ophthalmology. R-A-Y-O-L-O-G-Y, Orthophorotonics and Psychology. The psychology course is described in the current course list as “the course that provides the knowledge, the know-how for cause and effect and direct information on how to advance to a position of poise, importance and influence in the Community." ronttnucb on next page

rleaf : a portrait of tfje 6' Cljamp

continuel) Courses cost from $250 to $280. A doctorate costs $100 to $300 extra.

The RC'S has provincial letters patent secured in 1904, when provincial letters patent were easy to get. Its three proprietors are headed by Dr. W. J. Harvey, who is now ninety. It secures customers for its unusual psychology course through local newspaper ads, like the one that appeared in Halifax newspapers in 1961 reading, “Health. Happiness. Prosperity. Advancement and Success are accelerated by the Home Course in Psychology. Information free.” It secures customers for its pseudo-science courses by mail. This is how it works;

In 1961 the college wrote the consul general of Canada in Manila, Philippines, for a list of optometrists and also asked about any association of optometrists in the Philippines. It obviously then sent out prospectuses, because the next year a Filipino professor of optometry made inquiries of the Canadian government, since “two or three of her students wished to take post-graduate courses at this college."

The college is also known to have solicited students in India, Ceylon and parts of Europe.

In earlier years the college also offered licentiates, baccalaureates and doctorates in music and a correspondence course in obstetrical nursing. It also offered a fellowship with a suffix — FRC'SC — almost identical with the highest award given by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada: FRC'S(C). The real college tried to stop the imitation college, but found nothing could legally be done about this plagiarism. Nor can anything legally be done to stop its use of “royal.” although Government House has specifically refused permission.

These institutions operate legally in Canada. Their letters patent, if they do not specifically grant the privileges the “colleges” are exercising, can at least be interpreted to allow them. They have not been given degree-granting powers by statute, as is the case with any accredited university: but the only penalty is that their degrees are not recognized by respectable people. There is as yet no law in Canada setting up ground-rules and regulations for private institutions of education.

Private institutions of education can, of course, be prosecuted under the criminal code if they obtain money under false pretences. But fraud is probably the most difficult charge in the books to prove. In order to get a conviction it must be shown that the sole reason money changed hands was a fraudulent statement or claim by the defendant. The defendant can almost always show that the plaintiff had other reasons for paying the cash—particularly when he has got a sheepskin in exchange. ★