Inside an Online MBA Diploma Mill

The AffordableDegrees site also promises you a Rochville degree “in just 14 days”—hardly the two to four years Rochville’s site claims for its degrees—and lists a host of prices for different degrees as well as the number of documents you get. A high school diploma runs as cheap as $399. But if you want to feel extra “educated,” just buy a special package of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees for $2,741 (along with 30 documents to that effect, which include a diploma, two original transcripts, an award of excellence, and so on). These costs, it should also be noted, are drastically lower than those listed on the public Rochville site, where degrees price at the more realistic $12,000-16,000. Nothing on suggested anyone would ever have to pay this, however.

Me and Mr. Jones

Rochville seemed like a myth until I received a call from one of its representatives. I had filled out one of the initial contact forms on Rochville’s website, and a few days later, a man who identified himself as Jones called to ask about the application and explain the philosophy of Rochville to me—ever the curious student.

What degree would you like? asked the man from Rochville.

A master’s degree might be nice, I said. And when did you earn your bachelor’s? he asked. Three years ago. How long have you worked and doing what? Three years. Communications and temp work. You’d be a great candidate—we’d love to help you out.

Rochville, the man said, began its online operations in 1992 and has existed in some form since 1980. He told me there was a physical office in Humble, Texas with 40-50 administrative staff, including himself, and that Rochville actually does offer online classes to those who want them. Could I register for those? No, there were no sessions on the horizon. Interestingly, Jones also acknowledged Rochville’s connection to—it’s the more “in-depth” face of Rochville, he explained.

A follow-up call to Rochville yielded the price for such a Master’s: $1,025, with a special discount offered that day making the cost only $820. Not too shabby.

School gets an “F”

The Better Business Bureau of Texas grants the people operating an F rating. The bureau cites 152 complaints against them for purported schools such as “Belford University” and “Belford High School” based out of the same Humble, Texas address, according to a report from the anti-fraud organization.

Still, Rochville has its defenders—at least online. Phillips of points to a laughably bad and hastily constructed blog titled “Vicky Phillips Fraudster” that decries her as the scammer. The language of the two 2009 posts is rambling and barely coherent: “ is a big scam they vow to harm students. Biased ratings – Biased rankings of online colleges and universities.” The blogspot user responsible also runs the all-caps “GET EDUCATED FRAUD” blog, with nine entries from 2009 that blast Phillips’ site in, at times, identical language to the first blog. Phillips suspects Rochville is responsible.

Equally suspicious is the website, full of purported, poorly written alumni testimonials defending it against charges of fraud. “There are only few reliable education institutes amongst which comes the name of Rochville University,” the homepage testimonial declares. Also on the site: “Before you call Rochville University scam you need to understand what scam is. Word scam is used for such online educational institutes which don’t disclose or deliver the item one has paid for.”

Rochville representative denies it’s a diploma mill

I called Rochville back myself to ask a few follow-up questions about how to get my online Master’s degree. What of the purported testimonials at Had Rochville played a part in creating the site? “No, absolutely not,” a Mr. Nelson replied. “These are not fake testimonials.”

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