Scammers targeting Hawaii for diploma mills

Stephen Levins
Stephen Levins

By Paul Drewes - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Back to school means back to scamming for some institutions found here in Hawaii.

Many students have come a long way to go to college in Hawaii. From the mainland and foreign countries. Most had never been to the islands and checked out their future school on-line.

"There is a lot of advertising for schools online," said Susanti Bong, from Germany.

But many of these same students didn't bother to check accreditation, because in many countries, the only schools that operate are government approved.

"We have our own school department and they regulate everything," said Caroline Andersen, of Norway.

Which is why some unaccredited schools operating in Hawaii that offer degrees, can be confusing to foreign students.

"Because they say they are registered with State of Hawaii. Students are thinking they are dealing with a school, like they would be in their country," said Stephen Levins, with the Office of Consumer Protection.

But in many instances, the school is a scam.

A problem Levins and the State of Hawaii have been dealing with for years.

"Just over the past 5-6 years we've brought 60 lawsuits to schools," said Levins.

Hawaii is just one of a few states that allow unaccredited schools, and that opens the door to diploma mills, places where you can just buy a degree.

To start up a non-accredited college, all you need is a home office, 25 students here in the state and one full time employee. But you also have display the school is not accredited, something many on-line sites don't do.

These illegal Hawaii operations misrepresent the State's higher education system and they also take up costly resources to investigate and pursue legally.

While there have been hundreds of illegitimate Hawaii schools, just waiting to take money from students, there are also some non-accredited institutions here that offer a very real education.