Foreign students given unearned degrees at North Dakota college

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 12, 2012 6:53 PM
Foreign students given unearned degrees at North Dakota college

(Reuters) - Hundreds of foreign students in a joint degree program at a North Dakota state university were admitted despite lacking credentials and awarded degrees without completing coursework, an audit of the program has showed.

According to a review of the procedures in place for certain international programs at Dickinson State University, just 10 of the 410 foreign students awarded joint degrees since 2003 actually fulfilled all required course work.

The majority of the degrees in question were granted to Chinese students, the remainder to Russian students, according to the report.

Most of the students' files were also missing general administrative paper work including enrollment transcripts, partner campus documents, course substitution forms and language proficiency evaluations, the report said.

The audit finding, released Friday, is the second black mark on the U.S. higher education system in as many weeks. Just two weeks ago, Claremont McKenna College in California disclosed it had inflated the standardized test scores of incoming freshman in a bid to boost its reputation.

The audit conducted by the North Dakota State University System and the State Board of Higher Education showed "seriously lacking controls and oversight" of these international degree programs.

"Several process level controls have been waived or controls that were once in place have been intentionally overridden or ignored, threatening the overall compliance of the program," the report said.

The school, situated on the edge of the North Dakota Badlands with about 2,700 undergraduate students, was cited for accepting students into the international programs who did not meet minimum admission requirements, lacked official transcripts as part of the application process and could not demonstrate English proficiency.

According to the audit results, the school did not verify students were completing general education classes and degrees were awarded with out sufficient credits completed.

Of the 816 students enrolled in the special international programs since 2003, the review found 743 files in question, the results showed.

Stopping the programs, reworking policies and procedures, accepting only official-sealed transcripts and reviewing agreements with foreign student recruiters were among the recommendations presented to Dickinson State.

The school said in a statement it would be working with the North Dakota University System and State Board of Higher Education to ensure future compliance.

(Reporting By Lauren Keiper; editing by Dan Burns)