Texas Cracks Down on ‘Diploma Mills’ Again

Texas Cracks Down on ‘Diploma Mills’ Again

In a legal action led by Attorney General Greg Abbott, the State of Texas charged Houston-based Marque Learning Center Partnership and its operators and owners as defendants for unlawfully marketing and selling fraudulent high school diplomas on Friday, December 5.

The Harris County district court issued a temporary restraining order and froze the assets of the alleged “adult high school diploma program.”

The lawsuit explained that that since 2003, Marque offered the diploma program. They used online advertisements to promote these alleged educational services that cost participants anywhere between $99 and $1,000 or more to take an unaccredited 80-page at-home exam that did not even require a high school education.

The legal documents also stated that to “receive a diploma, consumers only had to pay and could start taking the test immediately, noting that consumers “may take the test (or portions of the test) as many times as needed without additional costs until they pass” with a grade of 70 and then, Marque would provide the consumer with a high school diploma.

The State’s investigation uncovered that “although Marque pledges to provide a ‘quality’ education and ‘qualified’ teachers and tutors,” none of their employees had a teaching certificate from the Texas Education Agency or other known certification.

Marque falsely positioned itself as a legitimate, nationally accredited home school and a legitimate GED alternative program whose graduates were “guaranteed” acceptance into any Texas higher education institution.

Marque did not qualify as a home school under state law because the “diploma is not based on any actually coursework or instruction.” The lawsuit calledthe diploma “educationally worthless” and it would not be accepted by community colleges, four-year universities, trade schools, the military, law enforcement academies, or employers, despite Marque’s misleading claims.

The lawsuit emphasized that home schooling is perfectly legal in the state of Texas; however, Marque provided no education. Conversely, legitimate homeschooling utilizes coursework and instructional materials.

The Texas Home School Coalition (THSC), the largest home school advocacy non-profit organization in the state, lists the state requirements on their website.

Bona fide home school instruction includes curriculum and learning materials (i.e., textbooks). It also covers the five basic subjects of reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and good citizenship.

“100% of all traditional colleges will accept” a diploma garnered through legitimate home school, and 98% of all employers and technical schools will also accept the diploma, according to the lawsuit, which also noted that 2% will require graduation from a traditional high school while special licensing for certainprofessions (i.e., realtor, plumber, electrician, day care professional) can be obtained with a bona fide home school diploma.

The State’s legal action also cited the compounded deception of “encouraging students to claim ‘home school’ status on their federal financial aid forms.”

In doing so, Marque subjected its students to criminal and administrative penalties referred to on the federal financial aid application. The “college or university is also at risk of penalties, including having to reimburse financial aid payments that have been received based upon students’ falsified applications.”

Earlier this year, a virtually identical “diploma mill” case arose against the Houston-based Lincoln Academy and its affiliate, Brownstone Academy. TheState also filed a lawsuit against the academies’ directors and five related entities as defendants plus froze their assets, which Breitbart Texas reported.

Tim Lambert, THSC President, told Breitbart Texas, of his gratification with the actions taken by the Texas Attorney General’s office this Spring in “suing diploma mills who are not truly schools and provide no instruction and in fact often call themselves home schools to hide behind the hard work that the home school community has done over the last two and a half decades to change Texas laws to remove discrimination against home school graduates.

The list of defendants named in the State’s enforcement action are Marque Learning Center Partnership, Guerra Management Group, LLC; Guerra International (a corporation); Guerra Products Company, LLC; Marque Learning Center (a corporation); Henry Guerra Jr.; Henry Guerra Sr.; Michael Guerra; Rebecca Gomez Guerra; Esther Gomez Tristan; Alfonso Mendoza; Bianca Estella Guajardo; Linda Ruth Garza; and Lauro Garza.

The Attorney General’s Office is seeking court-ordered penalties from the defendants for numerous violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Texas Business and Commerce Code. The State will also seek restitution for students who purchased the defendants’ worthless services, according to the Attorney General’s office.

A temporary injunction hearing on this case is scheduled for December 19.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom


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