Axact fake universities and diploma programs: A story in stock photos.

The Very Busy Lives of Fake Professors at Bogus Online Universities, as Told Through Stock Photos

The Very Busy Lives of Fake Professors at Bogus Online Universities, as Told Through Stock Photos

Getting schooled.
May 19 2015 6:14 PM

Will the Real Alice K. Colbert Please Stand Up?

The busy, busy lives of faculty and students in fake degree programs, as told through stock photos.

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Alice K. Colbert aka Lance Redgrave aka young man showing thumbs up.

Photo by Edyta Pawlowska/Shutterstock

On Monday, the New York Times published a masterful exposé of Axact, the Pakistani company behind hundreds of sham diploma programs and online universities. “According to former insiders, company records and a detailed analysis of its websites, Axact’s main business has been to take the centuries-old scam of selling fake academic degrees and turn it into an Internet-era scheme on a global scale,” writes Times reporter Declan Walsh.

Walsh also published a list of more than 100 high school diploma programs, online universities, and accreditation bodies identified as Axact properties. Slate has reviewed several of these sites to find out more about the students and professors at the likes of Buffville High School, American Mideast University, and Fast Online University. Our findings are below.

The faculty at Western Advanced Central University is an ambitious bunch. George S. Kirkland, a permanent faculty member of the School of Business and Management, moonlights in the world of stock-photo modeling, where his alias is “middle-aged businessman in suit”; in addition to teaching, he’s also an active member of Johnsonton Community Parish Church.

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Kirkland’s colleague Maria J. Fleck, of WACU’s School of Health Sciences—aka “woman standing in front of her colleagues (woman, mature, business)”—is most famous for also being an 82-year-old French woman who has never had any plastic surgery.

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Over at Greenlake University, Dr. Tiara Dane, an associate professor of computer studies, is a woman of many talents (and nationalities): The “pretty businesswoman” is also a recruiter for the health care management company Global Medics in Ireland.

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Dane’s ample accomplishments are apparently an inspiration to Greenlake University business school student Gracy Alen, who, while earning her MBA at Greenlake, is also pursuing a Master of Arts in communication at Spring Arbor University.

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Nelson Bay University boasts two professors named Alice K. Colbert—we bet they get each other’s emails all the time! The first Alice K. Colbert is a “[c]onfident young man” who goes by the alias Lance Redgrave, a “CEO/Founder” who is a client of dozens of online businesses, ranging from Web design firms to sporting goods stores. (If you ever need to find Alice aka Lance, go to Shutterstock and enter any of the following keywords: man, young, smiling, outdoors, urban, people, caucasian, guy, fun, day, male, arms crossed, one person, enjoying, carefree, confident, handsome, happiness, summer, standing, city, joy, happy.)

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The other Alice K. Colbert is known to her friends as “beautiful happy brunette woman or businesswoman in her thirties talking on her cell phone.” She “brings more than two decades of teaching, management, and curriculum development” to her role at Nelson Bay University, which is impressive given her age. Even more impressive is that she moonlights as a representative of Clienttell, “a leading provider of automated patient appointment reminders in the healthcare service industry.” Where does she find the time?

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Hoping to find out more about the varied and jampacked résumés of Axact’s unusually attractive professors and students, we tried chatting online with representatives of several Axact schools but only got the message “Please wait for a site operator to respond” for several hours.

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We also tried calling two Axact schools with particularly excellent names—Ford Worth High School and Headway University—and were treated to the same groovy, relaxing hold music for about a minute at each number. Sadly, no one picked up.

L.V. Anderson is a former Slate associate editor.

Mike Pesca is the host of the Slate daily podcast The Gist. He also contributes reports and commentary to NPR.