ANN ARBOR, MI – The University of Michigan has become the 17th institution of higher learning to be implicated in the checks-for-degrees scandal rocking American campuses, representatives from the Department of Justice reported Tuesday.
Above: The campus of the embattled University of Michigan.
“We have strong evidence that the University of Michigan granted academic degrees to students in exchange for hefty payments, often totaling tens of thousands of dollars,” Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey said. “In the process, thousands of graduates have emerged with degrees, but few or no skills applicable to everyday life. And many are as unprepared to enter the job market as they were when they first enrolled.”
According to documents collected as a part of the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation, some University of Michigan undergraduates attended classes fewer than three times a week. During these classes, students were asked to do little more than listen to lectures delivered by their professors.
Comey said that, while it seems apparent that the universities under investigation were conducting a monetary transaction, millions of degree-buyers believed that they had not bought, but “earned” their diplomas.
“The university is very careful to circumscribe the financial element of the transaction,” Comey said. “The employees who conduct lectures are made to seem above the world of commerce. Students don’t give their payments to the professors, nor to the departments from which they purchase their degrees. Rather, checks are mailed to the ‘Office of the Bursar,’ this ‘bursar’ being someone who’s nearly impossible to track down.”
Besides attending classes, students read materials relating to their lectures, write the occasional paper, and participate in testing, Comey said.
Although the content of many courses was often thought-provoking, what alarmed investigators was the subject matter’s “intractably abstract nature.”