Chester Ludlow, a pug dog from Vermont, has been awarded an online MBA degree (master’s in business administration) by Rochville University—an online college that offers life and work experience degrees.
Chester is believed to be the first dog to be awarded an online master’s degree based on work and life experience credentials.
But did he earn it—or did he buy it?
Chester is the GetEducated.com mascot. In May, he submitted his resume—along with $499—to Rochville University online. A week later, on June 5, 2009, an express packet arrived from a post office box in Dubai. Rochville University kept its word. The dog had an instant, fast degree. Also, a cheap online MBA degree considering he paid only $499 whereas the average cost of a real distance MBA degree in the U.S. is close to $28,000.
The instant degree package contained Chester’s distance MBA diploma, two sets of college transcripts, a certificate of distinction in finance, and a certificate of membership in the student council. The paperwork says the pup “earned” a GPA of 3.19 (for an additional $100, he could have graduated with honors). All documents were issued in the dog’s AKC pedigree name: Chester Ludlow. Chester also received a Rochville University window decal for his car (though reportedly the canine does not drive).
Rochville University is one of scores of online universities operating from foreign post office boxes that advertise cheap, fast degrees online—for a flat fee. The university claims accreditation by the “Board of Online Universities Accreditation” and the “Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation.” The catch? Neither of these agencies is recognized as a college accreditor by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council of Higher Education Accreditation.
“It matters which agency accredits your online college,” explains Phillips. “Want to ensure your fellow alumni aren’t real dogs? Make sure your online college is accredited by a recognized agency.” To help combat degree mill fraud, GetEducated.com operates a free service, the Diploma Mill Police. This service allows consumers to verify the accreditation status of any online college. It also helps employers screen resumes for fake college diplomas.
“Degree mills represent a billion dollar industry worldwide,” warns Phillips. “If you define a degree mill as any agency willing to award educational credentials without concern as to whether or not learning actually occurred, then it appears Chester the dog has been the victim of a degree mill.”
Editor’s Update: In 2012, three years after Chester earned his degree, Rochville University was cited as a degree mill, and named as one of several online schools operating out of Pakistan. The Michigan courts ordered Rochville to cease operation and pay restitution to duped students in the United States.