Dr. Sniffingwell's alma mater gets a takedown in the New York Times | Arkansas Blog

Monday, May 18, 2015

Dr. Sniffingwell's alma mater gets a takedown in the New York Times

Posted By on Mon, May 18, 2015 at 3:16 PM

click to enlarge Dr. Maxwell Sniffingwell, Ph.D.
  • Dr. Maxwell Sniffingwell, Ph.D.

Blog readers of some vintage may remember Max Brantley's favorite Arkansas Ph.D., Dr. Maxwell Sniffingwell, an English Bulldog from Clinton whose owner, a veterinarian there, secured for Dr. Sniffingwell a doctoral sheepskin in theriogenology (that's the study of animal reproduction) from Belford University, an online diploma mill. It's the same calligraphy factory that famously conferred a doctorate of business administration on Johnny Rhoda, the Arkansas Republican mover/shaker who resigned as the 2nd District Republican Party chair last year after telling a reporter that Hillary Clinton would "probably get shot at the state line" if she ran for president. 

Drs. Sniffingwell and Rhoda probably need to update their resumes to include this story from the New York Times on Axact. The Pakistan-based Axact is the parent company of Belford University, which turns out to be one of hundreds of smoke-and-mirrors universities and high schools owned by Axact. The Times investigation has found that those "schools" are supported by at least 370 legit-looking websites, which allegedly rope in both the gullible and desperate looking for cheap education and the unscrupulous who want the pay and respect bump often associated with having alphabet soup behind your name. Revenues by the company are estimated at several million dollars per month. 

From the story: 

As interest in online education is booming, the company is aggressively positioning its school and portal websites to appear prominently in online searches, luring in potential international customers.

At Axact’s headquarters, former employees say, telephone sales agents work in shifts around the clock. Sometimes they cater to customers who clearly understand that they are buying a shady instant degree for money. But often the agents manipulate those seeking a real education, pushing them to enroll for coursework that never materializes, or assuring them that their life experiences are enough to earn them a diploma.

To boost profits, the sales agents often follow up with elaborate ruses, including impersonating American government officials, to persuade customers to buy expensive certifications or authentication documents.

Revenues, estimated by former employees and fraud experts at several million dollars per month, are cycled through a network of offshore companies. All the while, Axact’s role as the owner of this fake education empire remains obscured by proxy Internet services, combative legal tactics and a chronic lack of regulation in Pakistan.

“Customers think it’s a university, but it’s not,” said Yasir Jamshaid, a quality control official who left Axact in October. “It’s all about the money.”

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