Inside an Online MBA Diploma Mill

Chester, the first dog to ever graduate with an MBA degree.

Chester, the first dog to ever graduate with an MBA degree.

If Chester the dog could get an MBA, why couldn’t I?

I recently explored obtaining a b-school degree from Rochville University, the online program that infamously granted a business degree to a pug dog two years ago. And I found that in as little as a week I could join Chester and others who’ve obtained diplomas from questionable institutions.

“We translate your work experiences into your credit hours,” a Rochville official told me over the phone. The degree would arrive “within a matter of 7-10 days.”

My personal Rochville quest captures the wild-west nature of the online MBA field today. The number of such virtual programs has expanded into the hundreds over the past decade or so, but many are diploma mills that pose challenges for would-be MBA students and make it difficult for legitimate online programs to establish credibility (see related story).

Rochville’s continued existence signals just how dubious the online MBA world can be. The program, with a mailing address in Texas and operations in Dubai, continues to woo students despite a damning Better Business Bureau report and the sensational story of Chester the dog.

Chester is owned by Vicky Phillips, the 53-year-old CEO of, a consumer-awareness organization focused on online MBAs. Phillips submitted Chester’s application and $499 to Rochville University and received his online degree—complete with a 3.2 GPA—straight from Dubai a week later.

Things haven’t changed much at Rochville. Despite widespread coverage of the doggy diploma incident, the folks behind Rochville are still willing to peddle empty degrees.

A Closer Look at Rochville University

Rochville’s presence appears legitimate at first glance. The school’s website says it caters to the “education needs of 38,000 working adults and individuals.” It claims to have 218 faculty members and an administrative staff of 65.

But look closer. The web URL is .org, not .edu. The accrediting agency is the Board of Online Universities Accreditation (BOUA). BOUA has a website, yes, but the writing on it does not inspire confidence—the FAQ page contains bizarrely worded subheads such as “Why at all become accredited?” and “From where can I get to know the institutes that have sought accreditation from BOUA?” There are various awkward sentences such as “The most important factor must be that the institution should perform the functions that it claims. If it does, then after inquiring a little more, the institution will be declared fit for distance education training.” BOUA accredits other “life experience online degree” colleges such as Ashwood University (From the Ashwood U. Web site: “No need to take admissions exams, no need to study.”).

A bit of Internet research on BOUA reveals it’s not recognized as an accrediting agency by the U.S. Department of Education. Then there’s this damning evidence in a disclaimer on Rochville’s affiliated Affordable Degrees site: accreditation from BOUA and Rochville’s other accrediting agency, the Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation, “is strictly private international accreditation and the University has not applied for any accreditation recognized by the Department of Education of any country nor would it qualify for such accreditation due to its non-traditional and non-resident international status.” Few signs point to the company’s location, but the law of Seychelles, an island country off the coast of Africa, apparently has jurisdiction in any legal dispute, according to Rochville’s site.

Although Rochville University’s primary site makes no reference to selling degrees, (a site linked to from Rochville’s contact section) implies active, knowing deception and declares that it can help potential buyers persuade their employers about the legitimacy of their new Rochville degree purchase. The website has a section on “Education Verification Services” for Rochville customers and offers verification to employers by phone, fax, letter, and e-mail, with samples on the site.

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