In journalism school, you’re taught that the “Dog Bites Man” story is not a story at all. That’s far too common a story line to make the front page or any page of a newspaper. Instead, a journalist is looking for the less common story, the “Man Bites Dog” article. That, you’re told, is the very definition of news—what people don’t expect and are more likely to be surprised by.
So when I found a rather unique MBA graduate in reporting a story on online education, I couldn’t help myself. My journalistic instincts kicked in. I had to get the news out, even if it was a little old. Chester Ludlow, whose mug is on the left of this page, is probably the first dog to legitimately graduate with an MBA degree. Seriously. No kidding. More on that later.
What you need to know is that online MBA education is booming. Already, there are more than 400 B-schools accredited by the AACSB that have online MBA programs. Some 11,000 students are currently studying for their MBAs at these schools alone. Then, there are also untold numbers of for-profit institutions that grant online MBAs. The University of Phoenix is said to have as many as 30,000 current MBA students.
Back to Chester. This pug dog is a proud MBA alum. Fair enough. He’s not an alum of Harvard or Stanford, Wharton or Chicago. He’s not an alum of any university that has school buildings and classrooms. Instead, he got his degree last year from Rochville University, an online college that you can find via Google. Chester is thought to be the first dog to be awarded a college degree. Never mind, that it is a graduate degree in of all things business. Chester is believed to be the first dog to be awarded a college degree, a masters degree nonetheless, based on his life and work experience.
He didn’t exactly attend any classes–even online. Instead, Chester submitted his resume—along with $499—to Rochville University online. After only a week, an express packet arrived from a post office box in Dubai. Inside was the dog’s distance MBA diploma, two sets of college transcripts, a certificate of distinction in finance, and a certificate of membership in the student council.
How well did Chester do? He wasn’t an honors student, but the transcripts showed that he earned a GPA of 3.19. For an extra $100, however, he could have graduated with honors. All the documents in the packet were issued in the dog’s AKC pedigree name: Chester Ludlow. The dog even got a Rochville University window decal for his car.
The stunt, or sting, was pulled off by a website called GetEducated.com, a consumer group that publishes reviews of online colleges and works to protect consumers from diploma mill fraud. Sadly, Chester reflects one of the many reasons why so many people are highly skeptical of online degrees.
Rochville University, says GetEducated, is one of scores of online universities operating from foreign post office boxes that advertise fast college degrees and instant diplomas for a flat fee. Rochville lists distance learning accreditation by the “Board of Online Universities Accreditation” and the “Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation.” Rochville is not accredited by the AACSB, which is the single most important agency that accredits business schools (these online MBA programs have that distinction).
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 Vicky Phillips, founder of GetEducated. “Degree mills represent a billion dollar industry worldwide. If you define a degree mill as any agency willing to award educational credentials or diplomas without concern as to whether or not learning actually occurred, then it appears Chester the pug has been the victim of a degree mill.”
And Chester is the “Man Bites Dog” story, for sure.