Two online businesses purporting to be educational academies are now in the crosshairs of the state of Texas. The state Attorney General's Office has frozen the assets of Houston-based Lincoln Academy and its affiliate, Brownstone Academy. The AG's office has also filed a lawsuit against the academies, five individuals who serve as the academies' directors, and five related entities. The academies offered an online "course" that would provide high school diplomas or GED degrees, but those degrees were apparently bogus. "The only thing they're selling is a piece of paper, and a piece of paper that may not be worth much," says Jerry Strickland, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office.
A state investigation reportedly found that the two academies had no proper accreditation to provide any diplomas or degrees. "Lincoln Academy and Brownstone Academy--neither one of them qualify to be a home school, nor are they authorized to provide GED testing," says Strickland. The Attorney General's lawsuit says the academies charged customers fees starting at $299 to take a series of exams that don't even require a high school level of education to pass. As a result, Lincoln and Brownstone degrees are not generally accepted by any colleges, military institutions, or employers in Texas.
The investigation further found that the operators of Lincoln and Brownstone created a phony accreditation source for the academies that was nothing more than a website itself. "These academies claimed that they were accredited, they claimed that once you went through their programs, took their tests and exams, you could get into a community college or register to go to college," says Strickland. "We found that simply to not be the case." Now, the state is hoping to get legal relief for customers who were ripped off. "We will work as quickly and thoroughly as we can to determine how many people paid this, who paid it, and we will ask a court for restitution to try to get their money back," says Strickland.