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Dickinson State Faces Report on Bogus Degrees, Suicide

February 13, 2012

A state audit released Friday revealed that Dickinson State University, in North Dakota, had awarded hundreds of degrees to Chinese students who did not complete required coursework and who in some cases may not have been able to do so, The Forum reported. The report described a campus that was so focused on attracting students that it cut corners to build its international enrollments. When the audit is shared with various authorities, Dickinson could face sanctions from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (over visa issues), from the state (over enrollment figures) and from accreditors (over failure to assure educational quality). At a news briefing Friday, officials said that there was no one person or office responsible for the problems, but rather a series of inappropriate decisions involving the multicultural affairs, admissions and academic records offices, as well as a number of academic departments.

Briefings on campus about the audit were interrupted by reports that a university official, with a weapon, was missing. Later, Doug LaPlante, dean of the College of Education, Business and Applied Sciences, was found dead from a self-inflicted gun wound. The audit did not mention LaPlante by name, but officials said that many of the students who were awarded degrees inappropriately had been enrolled in the college he led.

No disciplinary actions were announced against anyone involved in the scandal, but officials told The Forum that Jon Brudvig had resigned as vice president for academic affairs, but would continue in another position.

The institution has been under scrutiny for months, starting with reports in August that it had listed about 180 people as enrolled who never were enrolled.

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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