Two students have been expelled from this college and 10 others are under investigation for forging transcripts they submitted from other community colleges.
In addition, nine students of El Camino College (ECC), in Torrance, have been suspended for nearly identical transgressions.
“In my 17 years here we’ve never had anything like that before,” said Sharon Combs, Glendale College’s dean of admissions and records.
Some of the alleged perpetrators successfully achieved degrees or certificates from GCC using the transcripts. Combs did not know whether any students had managed to transfer to universities or attain four-year degrees using the fraudulent credentials.
The suspect documents purportedly originated from Los Angeles Trade Technical College (LATTC) and were virtually indistinguishable from the legitimate transcripts of that school. “Somehow they [the accused] got the actual paper that the transcripts are done on,” said Ann Ransford, GCC’s director of communications, marketing and foundation. “With all the electronic stuff there is today… you could make them look real in a minute.”
Investigations at Glendale College began in November when a staff worker in the Admissions and Records Office noticed discrepancies between the grades reported on the transcripts of the accused. “The grades here at Glendale College for these individuals were D’s, F’s, and W’s and their grades at Trade Tech were B’s and A’s,” said Ransford. “The other clue… was that they all were transcripts that there was some special issue about… they were all hand delivered.”
“We take this matter very, very seriously,” said LATTC President Daniel Castro. “When we first found out about this thing we brought the [Los Angeles County] Sheriff’s Department (LACSD) in and they are pursuing it… We feel fairly confident that they will come up with something.”
Officials at El Camino College said a formal student disciplinary review has begun. A criminal investigation by the ECC police department is underway and will submit a final report to the Los Angeles District Attorneys Office “for their review in determining if they wish to proceed with their own investigation.”
GCC administrators have decided not to take legal action against those suspected of involvement. “The college decided that we would handle it internally through the judicial board,” said Combs. “If they’ve gotten a certificate and they’ve used those classes we deny the certificate, if we’ve counted higher grades we put the grades back to original.” “We have to take it off our transcripts.” All students enrolled at GCC whose transcripts are confirmed as fraudulent are expelled.
No permanent mark, however, will show on expelled students transcripts from GCC. “About three to four years ago this institution decided that any type of expulsion or any type of… disciplinary procedure would not be on their transcripts,” said Combs.
“It’s really up to L.A. Trade Tech to handle whatever security breach they have,” said Paul Schlossman GCC dean of student affairs. “Everything’s taken care of on our end.” Castro said that Trade Tech “will press charges” against any individuals rounded up by the Sheriff’s Department’s investigation. Several other community colleges in the Los Angeles area have also requested confirmation of transferred LATTC transcripts in the wake of these events.
Detective Jeff Spelatz of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Community College Bureau said “there is an ongoing investigation,” but would not comment as to the spectrum of the investigation, how many schools might have been victimized, or whether the case could be related to a break-in involving the LATTC admissions office, which occurred earlier this academic year. “Release of any information right now might jeopardize the investigation,” Spelatz said.
Neither schools had any measures in place to prevent students from submitting fake transcripts beyond the requirement that the documents be sealed and bear official markings. The fact that colleges use specific paper, purchased from Diploma on Demand or similar companies specializing in school documents, had been considered sufficient in guarding against such crimes.
Sealed transcripts could be mailed to most community colleges from another school’s admissions office, or could also be hand-delivered by the students. For some students hand-delivering their transcripts may be the only way to make sure accurate grades or course requirements are indicated, on time, to meet deadlines for graduation, transfer or enrollment in higher-level classes.
Still, Ann Garten, director of public relations and marketing for El Camino College, said that they would no longer accept hand-delivered transcripts. “We’re only accepting transcripts from college to college now.” This precaution went into effect as soon as ECC officials were alerted to the situation.
Combs said that she couldn’t see how Glendale College could deny a student’s officially sealed transcripts if for some reason their situation necessitated hand delivery, but did say “we will check the transcripts as they come in from LA Trade Tech, whether by mail or by hand delivery just to be on the safe side.”