June 6, 2001 – Alerted by a V.I. Source reader, territory officials are looking into what they say is a blatant Internet scheme using the Virgin Islands as a backdrop.
The web site for "Concordia College & University" advertises college undergraduate and graduate degrees "without ever having to attend classes."
Just send money and a resume and choose a subject area in which you'd like your "degree." An official-looking diploma saying you "earned" a bachelor's degree costs $499. For a master's degree, make that $599, or go all the way for a doctorate for a mere $799.
According to the web site, "Concordia College and University is a state-licensed private degree-granting institution in the Virgin Islands."
Andrew Rutnik, commissioner of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, said there is no license for such an organization.
He had not heard of the web site until contacted by The Source. The online newspaper had been contacted by a reader seeking information about Concordia. Rutnik passed the information along to the Justice Department, which he said was previously unaware of what he believes to be scam, but is investigating it now.
The web site lists an interesting "contact address": 37 Connection Street, St. John, VI 00831-0037, United States of America.
The popular private mail service on St. John, Connections, has as its address P.O. Box 37. In a system approved by the Postal Service, mail for customers of Connections is addressed to P.O. Box 37. As part of its business, Connections acts as recipient and distributor of mail for many customers.
The Concordia "address" appears to be a physical address, yet it may be close enough to the well-used legitimate Connections P.O. box to ensure delivery.
A staff member at Connections said Connections forwards mail it receives for Concordia but declined to say where, indicating it is a matter of customer confidentiality.
As if buying a diploma weren't bad enough, officials aren't sure whether Concordia's "students" even get what they pay for. On the web site, just under the list of fees, it says "submitted fees are not refundable." It is up to Concordia to decide whether the resume you send in is good enough to warrant issuing a degree.
"Who knows" whether people who send in the money ever get any paperwork, Rutnik said.
"It's an absolute fraud," he said. "If anybody wants a good laugh, go there (to the website) Concordia College & University and look." He noted that nowhere on the elaborate web site is there a name of any individual representing Concordia. And "the accreditation web site (to which Concordia refers readers for assurance of its validity) is really a joke. It's the same people." Distance Graduation Accrediting Association.
Rutnik said law enforcement is looking into the enterprise and "we're going to put out a warning."

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