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The Oregon Administrative Rules contain OARs filed through September 15, 2014
 
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HIGHER EDUCATION COORDINATING COMMISSION
OFFICE OF DEGREE AUTHORIZATION

 

DIVISION 50

VALIDATION OR INVALIDATION OF CLAIMTO POSSESS AN ACADEMIC DEGREE

583-050-0006

Purpose and Scope

(1) This rule implements Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 348.594 to 348.615 and 348.992 insofar as each section therein relates to ORS 348.609, intended to protect postsecondary institutions, businesses and other employers, professional licensing boards, patients and clients of degree holders, and all citizens from any person claiming to possess a valid academic degree that in fact was issued by a fraudulent or nonexistent school, by a non-educational entity posing as a school, by a nonstandard school without the use of a disclaimer, or by any entity in violation of applicable statutes or administrative rules.

(2) In order to be valid in Oregon as a public credential usable for general academic or professional purposes, under ORS 348.609 a claimed degree must have been awarded by a school that:

(a) Has accreditation recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or has the foreign equivalent of such accreditation; or

(b) Has been approved through the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to offer and confer degrees in Oregon; or

(c) Is located in the United States and has been found by the commission acting through the commission to meet standards of academic quality comparable to those of an institution located in the United States that has accreditation, recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, to offer degrees of the type and level claimed by the person; or

(d) Is an Oregon school that has achieved exemption from state oversight on religious grounds; or

(e) If unaccredited, has the legal authority from a U.S. state or foreign country to issue degrees usable as educational credentials in the jurisdiction of issue.

(3) This rule applies to any claim to possess an academic degree made by any person acting within the state, acting outside the state while domiciled within the state, or acting outside the state on behalf of an organization that is located within the state.

Stat. Auth.: ORS 348.609
Stats. Implemented: ORS 348.603 & 348.609
Hist.: ODA 2-1998, f. & cert. ef. 8-12-98; ODA 1-2001, f. & cert. ef. 6-27-01; ODA 3-2003, f. 10-29-03, cert. ef. 11-1-03; ODA 3-2005, f. 9-27-05, cert. ef. 9-30-05; ODA 1-2014(Temp), f. & cert. ef. 7-16-14 thru 1-12-15

583-050-0011

Definitions of Terms

(1) "Academic Standards" means those standards in 583-030-0035 or the equivalent standards of an accrediting body that relate to admission requirements, length of program, content of curriculum, award of credit and faculty qualifications.

(2) "Accredited" means accredited and approved to offer degrees at the specified level by an agency or association recognized as an accreditor by the U.S. Secretary of Education, under the 1965 Higher Education Act as amended at the time of recognition, or having candidacy status with such an accrediting agency or association whose pre-accreditation is also recognized specifically for HEA purposes by the Secretary of Education.

(3) "Claim a degree" means to present orally, or in writing or in electronic form any symbol or series of letters or words that would lead the listener or reader to believe a degree had been received and is possessed by the person speaking or writing, for purposes related to employment, application for employment, professional advancement, qualification for public office, teaching, offering professional services or any other use as a public credential, whether or not such use results in monetary gain.

(4) "College level work" required for a degree means academic or technical work at a level demonstrably higher than that required in the final year of high school and demonstrably higher than work required for degrees at a lower level than the degree in question. From lowest to highest, degree levels are associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral. Professional degree levels may vary. College level work is characterized by analysis, synthesis and application in which students demonstrate an integration of knowledge, skills and critical thinking. Award of credit for achieving appropriate scores on commission-approved nationally normed college-level examinations such as those from College Level Examination Program, American Council on Education, Advanced Placement or New York Regents meets this standard.

(5) "Commission" means the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

(6)(a) "Degree" means any earned or honorary title, rank, or status designated by a symbol or by a series of letters or words-such as, but not limited to, associate, bachelor, master, doctor, and forms or abbreviations thereof, that signifies, purports, or may generally be taken to signify:

(A) Completion of a course of instruction at the college or university level;

(B) Demonstration of achievement or proficiency comparable to such completion; or

(C) Recognition for non-academic learning, public service, or other reason of distinction comparable to such completion.

(b) "Degree" does not refer to a certificate or diploma signified by a series of letters or words unlikely to be confused with a degree, clearly intended not to be mistaken for a degree, and represented to the public so as to prevent such confusion or error.

(7) "Confer a degree" means give, grant, award, bestow, or present orally or in writing any symbol or series of letters or words that would lead the recipient to believe it was a degree that had been received.

(8) "Diploma mill" or "degree mill" means an entity that meets any one of the following conditions as defined in ORS 348.594:

(a) A school against which a court or public body, as defined in ORS 174.109, has issued a ruling or finding, after due process procedures, that the school has engaged in dishonest, fraudulent or deceptive practices related to the award of degrees, academic standards or student learning requirements; or

(b) Is an entity without legal authority as a school to issue degrees valid as credentials in the jurisdiction that authorizes issuance of degrees.

(9) "Disclaimer" when appended to a published reference to a degree means the following statement from statute: "(Name of school) does not have accreditation recognized by the United States Department of Education and has not been approved by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission."

(10) “Earned degree” means a degree awarded based on academic work evaluated and accepted by qualified faculty in the context of a specific degree program, based on the Carnegie credit system as set forth in OAR 583-030-0035(5) or an equivalent as determined by the commission’s executive director.

(11) "Foreign equivalent of such accreditation" means authorization by a non-U.S. government found by the commission’s executive director to have adequate academic standards. This determination may be made through one or more of the following methods at executive director's discretion:

(a) Direct investigation of foreign standards;

(b) Reliance on an evaluation and determination made by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO); or

(c) Evaluation of the transferability of courses and degrees earned in the foreign country to accredited Oregon institutions at similar degree levels.

(12) “Honorary Degree” means a credential awarded by an accredited or approved school in recognition of the recipient’s personal merits unrelated to academic achievement demonstrated through course work or equivalent work taken at the awarding school.

(13) "Nonstandard School" means a degree provider that has legal authority to issue degrees valid in its authorizing jurisdiction, but which does not meet the requirements to be a standard school.

(14) "School" includes a person, organization, school or institution of learning that confers or offers to confer an academic degree upon a person or to provide academic credit applicable to a degree. The activities attributable to a school include instruction, measurement of achievement or proficiency, or recognition of educational attainment or comparable public distinction.

(15) "Standard School" means a school that meets the requirements of ORS 348.609 for degree use without a disclaimer.

(16) “Valid degree” means a degree issued by a standard school or by a nonstandard school if the disclaimer required by ORS 348.609(2) is used.

[Publications: Publications referenced are available from the agency.]

Stat. Auth.: ORS 348.609
Stats. Implemented: ORS 348.603 & 348.609
Hist.: ODA 2-1998, f. & cert. ef. 8-12-98; ODA 3-2000, f. & cert. ef. 8-8-00; ODA 1-2001, f. & cert. ef. 6-27-01; ODA 3-2003, f. 10-29-03, cert. ef. 11-1-03; ODA 2-2005, f. & cert. ef. 3-3-05; ODA 3-2005, f. 9-27-05, cert. ef. 9-30-05; ODA 1-06, f. & cert. ef. 6-23-06; ODA 1-2008, f. & cert. ef. 2-7-08; ODA 3-2010, f. & cert. ef. 11-16-10; ODA 1-2014(Temp), f. & cert. ef. 7-16-14 thru 1-12-15

583-050-0014

Unaccredited Degrees

(1) Users of unaccredited degrees may use the degrees in the following ways.

(a) Unaccredited degrees that have achieved approval under ORS 348.609(1)(d) can be used without a disclaimer.

(b) Unaccredited degrees that have not achieved approval under ORS 348.609(1)(d) can only be used with a disclaimer.

(c) Degrees issued by degree mills are invalid for use, with or without a disclaimer.

(2) Process for approval under ORS 348.609(1)(d). A claimant of an unaccredited U.S. degree may submit to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission information indicating that the school conferring the degree has the legal authority to issue degrees in another state and could reasonably be considered for approval in Oregon under OAR chapter 583, division 30.

(a) A reasonable possibility of approval can be demonstrated by submitting to the commission the appropriate review fee and sufficient evidence that the unaccredited institution could meet the academic standards established in OAR chapter 583, division 30 for authorization to operate in Oregon if it chose to make such an application.

(b) The commission may, upon its own motion, evaluate an unaccredited institution and determine whether it has a reasonable chance to meet Oregon authorization standards without a degree user making such a request.

(c) If a request for evaluation under this section is not made to to the commission’s executive director within 30 days of notification that an unaccredited degree is being used contrary to Oregon law, the degree user's right to such a review is waived and the commission may pursue appropriate enforcement action. Degree users may, within the first 30 days, request up to 30 additional days for the purpose of gathering material necessary to apply for an evaluation.

(3) A claimant of a non-U.S. degree issued by a degree supplier not accredited by a U.S. accreditor may submit to the commission information proving that the supplier issuing the degree has the following characteristics.

(a) The supplier is operating legally as a degree-granting institution in its host country.

(b) The host country has a postsecondary approval system equivalent to U.S. accreditation in that it applies qualitative measures by a neutral external party recognized in that role by the government.

(c) The supplier has been approved through the demonstrable application of appropriate standards by the host country's accreditor equivalent.

(d) All degrees issued by the supplier are legally valid for use and professional licensure within the host country.

Stat. Auth.: ORS 348.609
Stats. Implemented: ORS 348.609
Hist.: ODA 2-1998, f. & cert. ef. 8-12-98; ODA 1-2001, f. & cert. ef. 6-27-01; ODA 3-2003, f. 10-29-03, cert. ef. 11-1-03; ODA 4-2004, f. & cert. ef. 5-14-04; ODA 3-2005, f. 9-27-05, cert. ef. 9-30-05; Renumbered from 583-050-0031, ODA 4-2005, f. & cert. ef. 10-18-05; ODA 1-2014(Temp), f. & cert. ef. 7-16-14 thru 1-12-15

583-050-0016

Validation of a Secular Degree

(1) Any person claiming in Oregon to possess an academic degree shall, upon request from the Higher Education Coordinating Commission’s executive director, have an official transcript of the degree sent directly to the the commission from the registrar or other appropriate official of the conferring school.

(2) Where validation of a degree by telephone or electronic means seems readily obtainable from a school, the commission at its discretion may postpone with option of waiver the requirement for a transcript upon receiving from the degree claimant the name, address, and telephone number of the conferring school. Requirement of one or more transcripts may be reinstated at any time if other methods of validation are not sufficient for a conclusive determination.

(3) Upon receipt of evidence of a valid degree, the executive director shall inform the degree claimant that a validation has been entered into the record, which shall specify any title and abbreviation that may be used to claim the degree.

(4) Honorary degrees must be distinguished from earned degrees.

(a) Any person claiming in Oregon to hold an honorary degree must label any written use of the degree using the word “honorary” or the abbreviation “hon.” in order to make the public aware that the degree is not an earned credential. Any oral reference to the degree must be accompanied by a reasonable effort to ensure that listeners are made aware that it is honorary.

(b) Any person using an honorary doctorate may not use the title “Doctor” or “Dr.” unless the word “honorary” or the abbreviation “hon.” accompanies the claim in a clear and visible form, or is stated orally when an honorary doctorate is used as the basis for an oral use of the title.

(c) An honorary degree may not be used as a credential for employment in Oregon.

Stat. Auth.: ORS 348.609
Stats. Implemented: ORS 348.603 & 348.609
Hist.: ODA 2-1998, f. & cert. ef. 8-12-98; ODA 1-2001, f. & cert. ef. 6-27-01; ODA 3-2003, f. 10-29-03, cert. ef. 11-1-03; ODA 3-2010, f. & cert. ef. 11-16-10; ODA 1-2014(Temp), f. & cert. ef. 7-16-14 thru 1-12-15

583-050-0026

Invalidation of a Degree, Warning, Enforcement

(1) A person who may not have known that his or her claimed degree is invalid or nonstandard is given the benefit of the doubt as to intent, so as to reflect consideration for the possibility that the person was misled by the purported school or unaware of Oregon degree requirements.

(2) Failure to provide when requested a transcript or other information needed for validation of a degree is prima facie evidence under statute that the claim to such degree is invalid.

(3) Failure or inability to produce conclusive evidence of a valid degree results in a warning from the Higher Education Coordinating Commission that the claimant must thereafter cease and desist from making the invalidated claim.

(4) Subsequent to such warning and in violation thereof, any renewed claim of an invalid degree exposes the violator to penalties as set forth in statute and under subsection (5) of this rule.

(5) Any violation of ORS 348.603 or 348.609 may result in any or all of the following sanctions:

(a) Prosecution for a Class B misdemeanor under ORS 348.992;

(b) Injunction against further use of the claimed degree;

(c) Civil suit for violation of Oregn’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act, ORS 646.605 to 646.652, if applicable; or

(d) A civil penalty not to exceed $1,000 per violation.

(6) Prior to the imposition of any penalty listed in subsection (5) of this rule, a person whose degree is found invalid, or the use of whose degree may be restricted, is entitled to a hearing in accordance with ORS chapter 183. Hearings will be provided in the following way:

(a) The commission's initial communication with a degree user will be an inquiry letter that will give the user 30 days in which to address any issues regarding degree existence, validity and restriction. No hearing is provided at this stage;

(b) If a degree user contacted by the commission under paragraph (a) of this subsection does not respond within 30 days, or provides information that is insufficient to allow unrestricted degree use while expressing intent to continue using the degree, the commission will issue a cease and desist letter to the user, setting forth the requirements of law and how the user's degree fails to meet those requirements. This letter will also be sent to the user's attorney, if any. The user will be given 30 days to respond, agreeing to either comply with the law or request a hearing to contest the commission's findings:

(i) If the user agrees to comply with the law within 30 days, the commission will provide the user with a standard form upon which such agreement can be stated and signed. No penalty will be imposed provided that the user carries out the agreement;

(ii) If the user does not respond within 30 days, the commission will proceed with a default hearing and may request the assessment of civil penalties.;

(iii) If the user requests a hearing within 21 days, the hearing will be conducted by an Administrative Law Judge as provided in ORS 183.335.

(c) If a hearing is held, the Administrative Law Judge will recommend a resolution to the Commission, which will decide whether the degree use meets Oregon standards, and if it does not, whether to impose a penalty and what the penalty should be.

Stat. Auth.: ORS 348.609
Stats. Implemented: ORS 348.603, 348.609 & 348.992
Hist.: ODA 2-1998, f. & cert. ef. 8-12-98; ODA 1-2001, f. & cert. ef. 6-27-01; ODA 2-2002, f. & cert. ef. 10-10-02; ODA 3-2005, f. 9-27-05, cert. ef. 9-30-05; ODA 2-2006, f. & cert. ef. 11-1-06; ODA 1-2014(Temp), f. & cert. ef. 7-16-14 thru 1-12-15

583-050-0027

Disciplinary Action; Civil Penalty Considerations

(1) The Higher Education Coordinating Commission may assess a civil penalty for each violation of a provision of OAR chapter 583, division 50.

(2) In establishing the amount of the penalty for each violation, the commission shall consider, but not be limited to the following factors:

(a) The gravity and magnitude of the violation;

(b) The person's previous record of compliance with the provisions of ORS 348.594 to 348.615 or with the rules adopted thereunder;

(c) The person's history in taking all feasible steps or in following all procedures necessary or appropriate to correct the violation; and

(d) Such other considerations as the commission may consider appropriate.

(3) An "incident" for purposes of the penalty schedule means a single use of the invalid degree, or each use of an unaccredited degree without a disclaimer, in a specific venue in a specific time period.

(a) Examples of specific venues include but are not limited to publications, job applications, web sites, spoken presentations, mailings, e-mails, flyers, posters, advertisements, and handouts.

(b) Examples of specific time periods include one-time uses and serial uses, e.g., monthly advertisements, annual publications such as college catalogs and the like. In the case of continued usage during a period of employment, each regular pay period (e.g. one month) in which the degree is used is considered a specific time period and therefore a separate incident.

(4) The commission may impose a civil penalty, provided that it first gives the person an opportunity for a hearing as outlined in ORS Chapter 183.

Stat. Auth.: ORS 348.609
Stats. Implemented: ORS 348.609
Hist.: ODA 2-2002, f. & cert. ef. 10-10-02; ODA 3-2005, f. 9-27-05, cert. ef. 9-30-05; ODA 1-2014(Temp), f. & cert. ef. 7-16-14 thru 1-12-15

583-050-0028

Schedule of Civil Penalties for Violations of Laws and Rules

In assessing civil penalties, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission desires to be both consistent and equitable and to consider and evaluate each case on an individual basis. The actual civil penalty which the commission imposes shall be based on the commission's consideration of the factors in OAR 583-050-0027. The commission shall impose a penalty per incident based on only one of the degree use activities listed below, i.e. a single incident cannot result in a penalty from more than one category. Civil penalties shall be imposed according to the following schedule for use after warning by the commission of a violation:

(1) When such use is related to a position in any employment sector, paid or unpaid, involving public health or safety for which a degree of the type found invalid is required for employment or licensure: $1000 per incident.

(2) When such use is intended to induce or encourage payment of money by students, clients, customers or others for whom the degree may serve as an attractant or legitimizer related to a service provided in the business or not-for-profit sector: $1000 per incident.

(3) When such use is in public employment not related to public health or safety for which a valid degree of the type claimed is required or is necessary based on the conditions of employment: $500 per incident.

(4) By a teacher at any level, including K–12 and postsecondary education: $500 per incident.

(5) When such use is likely to deceive the public as to the user's qualifications but no money is sought or received by the user as a consequence in whole or in part of the use: $300 per incident.

(6) When in violation of any other provision of OAR 583, division 50: $300 per incident.

(7) Repeated violations of any kind may result in a penalty of $1,000 for each repetition occurring after a penalty is imposed by the Commission or an injunction against the usage is issued by a court.

Stat. Auth.: ORS 348.609
Stats. Implemented: ORS 348.609
Hist.: ODA 2-2002, f. & cert. ef. 10-10-02; ODA 3-2005, f. 9-27-05, cert. ef. 9-30-05; ODA 1-2014(Temp), f. & cert. ef. 7-16-14 thru 1-12-15

583-050-0036

Inquiries and Complaints

(1) Monitoring and validating degree claims will be done by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission in the course of routine activities such as approving faculty members of schools seeking authorization to offer degrees in Oregon, advising employers or professional licensing boards on applicant credentials, examining backgrounds listed by candidates for public election, and reviewing telephone directories or other publications for advertisements that list degrees.

(2) Any citizen as a matter of general information may ask the commission to discuss whether a degree encountered sounds questionable, and any citizen as a matter of public protection may ask the commission to validate a degree claimed by an identified individual. It is entirely optional for an inquirer unsure about a degree to make a formal complaint, because an inquiry alone does not imply that the inquiring citizen has accused the degree claimant of any deception.

Stat. Auth.: ORS 348.609
Stats. Implemented: ORS 348.603 & 348.609
Hist.: ODA 2-1998, f. & cert. ef. 8-12-98; ODA 1-2014(Temp), f. & cert. ef. 7-16-14 thru 1-12-15

583-050-0040

Fees for Validation Services

(1) ODA charges a fee for some services provided under OAR chapter 583, division 50. The fee schedule is as follows: [Table not included. See ED. NOTE.]

(a) Agencies or organizations that have contracted for basic degree validation services with the Higher Education Coordinating Commission do not pay a per-request fee. Contract rates are as follows: [Table not included. See ED. NOTE.]

(b) Fees for all inquiries, including contracted rates, must be paid in advance by bank check, money order or interagency fund transfer to: State of Oregon - Higher Education Coordinating Commission (use current address).

(2) The commission may require reimbursement of costs for other requests at the discretion of the agency, depending on the nature of the request and available staff resources. Such fees may not exceed the actual cost to the agency to provide the service, based on staff rates and related costs.

(3) The commission’s executive director may waive validation and evaluation fees:

(a) If the request for information is for purposes of criminal investigation; or

(b) If the consumer protection benefits of ODA action warrant a waiver, provided that sufficient staff time is available.

[ED. NOTE: Tables referenced are available from the agency.]

Stat. Auth.: ORS 348.609
Stats. Implemented: ORS 348.603 & 348.609
Hist.: ODA 3-2003, f. 10-29-03, cert. ef. 11-1-03; ODA 1-2014(Temp), f. & cert. ef. 7-16-14 thru 1-12-15

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