Wyoming fights diploma mill website

2012-12-27T07:00:00Z Wyoming fights diploma mill websiteBy ELYSIA CONNER Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

The state of Wyoming is pursuing legal action to stop a Cheyenne-based website that offers degrees in medicine, cosmetic dermatology, law and teaching based on life experiences.

The website, www.degreeinaday.com, says it offers associate to master’s degrees for $195-$360.

The complaint asks the defendant, Right Price Registration LLC, to stop operating as an unregistered institution in Wyoming and to remove all references to Wyoming from its websites and promotional materials.

Repeated calls to Degree in a Day's Cheyenne phone number by the Star-Tribune were unanswered. Calls to the listed phone number for Alex Callan, the registered owner of the domain name, and Right Price Registration rang to a fax or modem.

The complaint was filed by the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office at the request of the Wyoming Department of Education. 

State law requires private, post-secondary, degree-granting educational institutions to register with the department. Additionally, those institutions must be accredited through an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Elaine Marces, the Wyoming Education Department’s private school licensing program manager, said Degree in a Day is one of the most egregious diploma mill websites she's seen.

“To think that somebody would go there to get a medical degree and then pass that off as an actual medical degree at a hospital is a little scary,” Marces said.

The website tells visitors that purchasers can receive diplomas “in the traditional university manner printed on traditional paper with traditional fonts in the traditional format,” plus official transcripts, signed letters of verification to for use with an employer and letters of recommendation from the dean and president.

Under a tab called, “About Degree in a Day,” the website says it “offers verifiable and authentic life experience degrees from our own 'Anonymous Universities.’” It continues, “We will never publish the name or allow it to be associated with this site to anyone other than alumni. We do this to ensure our alumni can feel confident there will not be any negative press online about their degree.”

The website “gives examples of legitimate-appearing university websites that it promises to construct in order to give purchasers ‘further proof their degree is in fact authentic,’” according to the complaint.

The complaint was delivered to Degree in a Day's listed Cheyenne address Nov. 26, according to a representative of the Laramie County District Court clerk's office. According to the complaint, the defendant has 20 days after the delivery of the summons to respond. No response had been processed with courts as of Wednesday, but if recently filed, there may be a delay until the response is entered in the system.

Violators of the Private Schools Licensing Act can face criminal penalties. The misdemeanor is punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail, and each solicitation of enrollment or transaction is a separate offense, according to the statute. Officials were unaware of any criminal charges filed against names associated with the business.

Right Price Registration LLC, based in Cheyenne, was administratively dissolved by the Wyoming Secretary of State in January for failing to pay taxes and file annual reports. According to the complaint, Callan, the registered owner of the site, lives in Mesa, Ariz.

Callan’s other domain names include openplainsuniversity.org. Open Plains University doesn’t appear to exist outside of the website, according the complaint. 

Marces said she found out about the corporation from another state’s education department calling about a student who claimed to attend Open Plains University.

Reach education reporter Elysia Conner at 307-266-0593 or elysia.conner@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter @ElysiaConner

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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