Bahrain warns students over US courses
Manama, August 19, 2008
Students in Bahrain are being urged to do their homework before signing up for distance learning college and university degree courses in the US.
The warning comes after 10 people from Bahrain appeared on an American government watchlist, accused of buying counterfeit qualifications.
They were among almost 10,000 people from 131 countries who spent $7.3 million (BD2.75m) between them purchasing certificates from a ’degree mill’ based in Washington.
Among those implicated were hundreds of people with links to the US military, educational institutions, government and security agencies such as the CIA.
Some of the buyers reportedly paid anything from a few hundred dollars for bachelor’s and master’s degrees up to $7,770 (BD2,937) for a PhD (doctorate).
According to the watchlist, the people listed from Bahrain bought school diplomas and Master’s of Arts (MA), Bachelor’s of Arts (BA) and Master’s of Science (MS) degrees.
However, some claim to have been victims of an elaborate con, saying they spent time studying and submitting assignments.
US Embassy spokesman David Edginton urged students in Bahrain to carefully research the institution where they wished to study before signing up and paying the fees.
’The embassy encourages Bahrainis seeking to study at a US college or university to verify that the institution is fully accredited,’ he told the Gulf Daily News.
’This applies to distance and online education programmes as well.
’The embassy has a full-time educational adviser, who can assist students in determining the accreditation status of their prospective institution.’
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Edginton also advised students to visit the EducationUSA website, which is supported by the US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, at http://educationusa.state.gov.
Bahrain’s Higher Education Council, which is responsible for accrediting degrees, earlier told the GDN that strict checks had reduced the problem of bogus degrees.
It said none of the latest fakes had been submitted for accreditation in Bahrain.
Officials said all higher education degrees issued outside the country had to be presented to the National Committee for Degree Evaluation as part of efforts to curb such crimes.
Eight people who set up and operated the Washington-run diploma mill have already been indicted and convicted of federal crimes, after being caught through the US Attorney’s Office Operation Gold Seal.
The ringleader, a 58-year-old high school dropout, was jailed for three years.
The husband and wife team are said to have sold counterfeit degrees and transcripts from legitimate colleges as well as phoney degrees and transcripts from non-existent online universities and schools.
Most of the sales were carried out via an Internet spam.
According to court documents, the ringleader twice bought one million e-mail addresses and sent e-mails telling people they could ’earn a college degree the easy way’.
The culprits also allegedly offered ’special holiday gift certificates’ that provided buyers a ’free dean list certificate’.
Another promotion included an offer to ’buy one degree at full price and get a second free’.
The ringleader was also said to have created more than 300 fictional online colleges.
Prosecutors who worked on operation Gold Seal are said to be in the process of forwarding the list to all of America’s attorneys and other agencies, including the Washington State Health Department.
It is understood that they are considering using a federal law that allows them to charge people who have fraudulently obtained credentials to work for the US government.
The US Department of Homeland Security is also believed to be consi