April 2, 2002
BOARD TO CONSIDER PROPOSAL TO CURB USE OF FAKE DEGREES
SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois Board of Higher Education has voted to recommend a measure to crack down on trafficking in bogus college degrees. The Board, meeting April 2 at Illinois State University in Normal, endorsed legislation establishing criminal penalties for individuals who falsely claim credentials from legitimate Illinois colleges and universities.
Board members also voted on the final report of the Committee to Study Nontenure-track Faculty, approved an allocation of Governor George Ryan's fiscal 2003 budget, and examined a report showing progress in achieving gender equity in intercollegiate athletics at public universities. The Board meets at 9 a.m. at the Bone Student Center on the ISU campus.
The proposed legislation is designed to counter the proliferation of Internet sites peddling false college credentials. The proposal would make it a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and up to a $2,500 fine, for an individual to use false credentials from Illinois colleges and universities for the purpose of securing business, employment, or admission to legitimate academic institutions.
The staff report on the proposal notes that a recent search found 20 Internet sites trafficking in fake degrees, including Bogusphd.com, Graduatenow.com, and Degrees-r-us.com. One site - fakedegrees.com - specifically markets false credentials from a variety of Illinois public and private universities and community colleges, including Illinois State University, where Board members will be meeting. Another site, Closedcollege.com, offers degrees, transcripts, and other documents, lists 21 Illinois institutions, and advertises a phony B.S. degree allegedly awarded a student from Metropolitan Community College of East St. Louis.
According to the staff report, most sites offer a template that permits purchasers to insert the name of the "graduate" and the "degree awarded." A few sites include realistic logos, letterhead, and other paraphernalia to put a gloss of legitimacy on forged credentials.
The report notes that "individuals who falsely hold themselves out as graduates of legitimate institutions displace legitimate graduates, lower the overall quality of the workforce, and compromise the reputation of the universities they claim to have graduated from."
The Governor's fiscal 2003 budget includes $2.6 billion in general funds for higher education operations and grants, an increase of $78 million, or 3 percent, over the FY2002 adjusted base. The Governor directed that $24.2 million be set aside for retirement, and increased funding of $936,400 for Career Academies, at least $10.4 million for the needs-based student financial aid, and $3 million for a teacher loan repayment program. The budget asks public universities to continue a FY2002 commitment of $45 million to group health insurance coverage. Governor Ryan's capital budget calls for $283.7 million in new spending for capital renewal, 18 new projects, and the second year of the Illinois Community College Board Enhanced Construction Program.
Six public universities in Illinois gave female athletes tuition waivers valued at more than $1 million in fiscal 2001 in an ongoing effort to achieve gender equity in intercollegiate athletics, according to a report Board members will review next week. Nearly $400,000 in tuition waivers were given to male athletes in FY2001 under gender equity policies approved by the General Assembly in 1995. Tuition waivers designed to balance spending for male and female sports under federal Title IX requirements are used at Chicago State University, Eastern Illinois, Western Illinois, Northern Illinois, and the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses of Southern Illinois University.
The report shows the policies have significantly increased female participation in intercollegiate sports, which rose by 57 percent between fiscal 1995 (the year before waivers became available) and 2001. Female participation at EIU jumped 140 percent during that time frame, 137 percent at SIU-E, and 112 percent at Chicago State. There were other notable increases, even at institutions that did not offer tuition waivers to promote gender equity, such as at the University of Illinois' Springfield (106 percent) and Urbana-Champaign (100 percent) campuses.
Between FY1995 and 2001, spending on female athletic programs rose $8.5 million, or 82 percent, while spending on male sports rose $9.4 million, or 45 percent.
However, the report also notes gaps that leave room for additional
progress. Overall, women comprised 52.6 percent of full-time
enrollment at the ten universities with intercollegiate athletic
programs, but only 42 percent of athletes were female. Athletic
expenditures were even more out of whack - 38 percent of spending
goes to female sports, 62 percent to male. On the other hand,
female athletes have been improving their portion of athletic
financial aid dollars. Women made up 42 percent of participants
in intercollegiate sports in 2001 and received nearly 44 percent
of financial aid dollars related to athletics.
The committee recommended that public colleges and universities devise plans to eliminate inequities among faculty on the nontenure track and to more fully develop their teaching abilities. The report cautioned institutions to ensure that faculty paid on a part-time basis are, in reality, teaching only part time, and urges higher pay scales for nontenure-track faculty whose workload is at or close to full-time employment. Finally, the study recommended that public colleges and universities monitor hiring to ensure a balance between tenured/tenure-track faculty and nontenure-track that is educationally appropriate.