Vermont Dog Earns College Degree - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vermont Dog Earns College Degree

Westford, Vermont - October 13, 2009

College isn't easy.

There are hours upon hours of homework and some courses are a total nightmare.

But not all students are stressed.

Meet Chester Ludlow. The 8-year-old pug got a college degree without even cracking open a book.

His owner, Vicky Phillips, runs GetEducated.com -- a consumer advocacy group. She wanted to prove just how easy it is get a college degree, so she sent a fake resume and $499 check to Rochville University.

Three weeks later Chester had his degree, two sets of transcripts, and even a window decal for his car-- never mind the fact he'll never drive.

"We were very proud of him when the package came," Phillips said. "We had a graduation party. We got him a cap and gown."

Chester's achievement is shedding light on diploma mills.

Rochville is one of about 500 online universities that offer degrees for no work.

Many of the schools are accredited. The catch is-- most of the accreditation agencies aren't recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

But In most states--including Vermont-- diploma mills aren't even illegal.

"They're not committing fraud, technically, in most states, because most states don't require a college to be accredited," Phillips explained.

Some online programs and universities are legit.

Champlain College offers eight online degrees; everything from accounting to business management.

"We're actually a pioneer in online education," said Lance Millett of Champlain College. "So it's something we're really proud of."

Enrollment in those programs has risen 10 percent over the past 2 years-- an increase Millett says could be even more significant, if it weren't for diploma mills. The mills have created a stigma about online degrees.

And that's why back in Westford, Phillips is hoping Chester will actually use his fake credentials-- hounding diploma mills into cleaning up their act.

Vicky Phillips estimates that three-fourths of all people who get fake diplomas know exactly what they're doing but are willing to take the chance to save a few thousand bucks.

To find out if online classes at a school are legit, there are a couple of things you can do. For starters, find schools with name recognition-- specifically in the geographic region you're hoping to work-- and then visit that school. Most online universities do have an actual campus.

Click here for more tips on making sure an online college is legitimate.

Keagan Harsha - WCAX News

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