Rushmore University

This post is based on a comment from this posting that lead me to investigate Rushmore University. I have posted it here to make sure that it has a more prominent place on my blog.

David Kear posted this comment

Hello all. I came across this blog while researching Rushmore University. I am considering entering an MBA program there. I noticed that several people had submitted questions about Rushmore with no responses. I will share what I have found so far. They advertise freely that they are unaccredited. They feel that the high value of the content of their courses has given them a good enough reputation within the business community. This sits well with me. I am a libertarian and do not want the federal government’s stamp of approval for my education. They have listed hundreds of companies that recognize the school. After applying, I found that I will have to earn 30 credit hours through taking courses rated at 2-3 credits each. Each course consists of reading a book or studying and researching other materials, then writing a paper about how you implemented one or more of the ideas in these materials to solve an actual or a hypothetical practical problem. Also, one of the courses you can take is one based on creating a website to journal and publish your papers. I have found 10 or so student sites out there. This lends credibility to the school in my opinion. It sounds legitimate to me so far. As I said, I have applied and been accepted but, I have not decided if I want to enroll yet. I am going to do more research first. I will keep you updated if you want.

In reply, I posted this remark,

Dave, as a libertarian, you are entitled to believe what you want, but then, it shouldn’t be a problem if no one else agrees with you.

I can not comment on the usefulness of a Rushmore diploma. One thing that is hard not to notice is the very limited information available on their website. Very few of the people listed as “faculty” on the Rushmore website have the school listed on their resume. One “faculty” who is listed as a “star professor” describes himself as a “part-time” faculty member. Some of the “faculty” received their PhD from Rushmore, itself. Other “faculty” links are dead.

The Rushmore website contains a number of papers presented to “star professors” in completion of coursework. While I would hesitate to call these papers bad, it is clear that they are not scholarship in the sense that the term is commonly used. Many of them have no academic citations. One 62-page-paper on a topic I am very familiar with (Chinese-Western cultural differences) contains only 7 citations, none of which are truly academic citations.

The website contains ridiculous and misleading statements. We are told that, “Rushmore was designed from the very beginning to offer the benefits of an elite business school degree without a huge cost in time or money.” Other links lead to books discussing the failure of MBA programs — as if that’s somehow supposed to be a reason to attend Rushmore.

The very best I can say about Rushmore is that it appears much like St. Clements University; it has a standard, but it is just not clear what that standard is. In fact, that’s the best I can say. The website is misleading and contains information that is confusing and could not possibly be understood properly by most readers. While the best interpretation is that a Rushmore diploma is questionable, the worst interpretation is that it could be worthless.

It’s possible that I’m wrong, so I’d like to hear from people with more information about Rushmore. Bear in mind stories that run like, “I went to Rushmore and I got a good job” are not likely to get me to change my post. What I’d really like to see are verifiable statements from the hiring officers of major companies stating that they will hire Rushmore University diploma holders. Anything less than that will make no difference to me.


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I’m all for the use of technology to get away from the classroom, and the MOE in Taiwan supports such efforts, and I myself have spent a lot of time on this ( But Rushmore’s Website does little to show they or their staff or ‘professors’ have mastered anything except the skill of hype. Where are the detailed online courses, how are online courses staged, is there office chat times, what software is used, etc. All these questions are not answered. The Rushmore page states that all projects are based on the mentor system, but from the example papers I read, why is there no detailed feedback? Why do these papers all look like first drafts, and what is the purpose of these papers? They all seem to be descriptions of personal experience, with plenty of “I did this,” and “I did that.” Is there a methodology or is it ever pointed out where assumptions are wrong?

The paper you mention Scott is a good example. The use of Wild Swans (which I have read) as the basis for understanding ‘communist China’ is a bit far fetched and certainly is not related to management in any real way. Why are not clear errors pointed, such as the authors continuous use of his own experience but no use of interviews or other’s experience or even any searching of underlying reasons. For example, one of the big issues he speaks of in his teaching in the PRC is the late arrival of textbooks. He pins this down to communist influences, yet the same practice is followed in Taiwan. The actual reason has to do with book channels and the willingness of book suppliers to take returns. This is all very basic retailing stuff. Does any professor point this out?

What it comes down to is feedback. The mentor system requires it! I don’t see any of that here. The example paper on brand I found to be even more of the same–a telling of personal experience, and the experience is nothing I would consider very special, nor is there any linking with theory or literature, and most sad is there is no critical analysis of what may have been done wrong. Again, self-promotion seems to be the name of the game here. These papers are little more than self-directed book reports. I guess it is good the students read some books, that is better than none, but where is the mentoring? I can buy or borrow from a public library all the books I want, but If I pay one dollar for a school education, I want to see the direction and feedback given by the teachers. Without that, I could do myself, and it looks to me that at Rushmore that is what students do.

Clyde, thank you for the insightful comments. This is certainly not what I would expect from papers nominated for public display by “star professors”. Your points are interesting in light of a comment on another post claiming that diploma mills regularly fail dissertations and papers to make it appear as though they have a real standard.

Can I roll around on the ground laughing here for a while? Rushmore U is an address in the Cayman Islands, according to the State of Oregon. Here’s a great article from the Chronicle of Higher Ed that also mentions Rushmore in a rather unflattering light. What can you say about a University that does not require a masters in order to do a PHD? Bottom line: anyone shows up at my door with degree from Rushmore, is getting the boot.


I feel like a heel. How could I have missed that one. Thank you very much, Michael and Clyde. All this goes to confirm something I have said many times; I don’t like the concept of accreditation, but I have yet to find an unaccredited degree-granting institution that has any credibility.

To quote Michael Turton:
“What can you say about a University that does not require a masters in order to do a PHD?”

I find nothing unusual with not requiring a master’s in order to do a PhD, despite how unusual, to put it kindly, I find Rushmore University to be. In fact, the overwhelming majority of my colleagues at my university and at other universities had no master’s degrees before becoming PhD students. Many—I’m guessing 25% to 50%—never earn master’s degrees along the way to earning PhDs. In fact, I am a PhD student with no master’s degree (although I am leaving my program after finishing the master’s degree requirements so I can change my academic direction).

The numbers I’ve given are based on my own fuzzy perceptions. Since I don’t have any hard statistics, I’ll at least explain where my perceptions come from.

I go to The University of Texas. My PhD program is computational and applied mathematics. My colleagues are predominantly in mathematics, computer sciences, and various engineering disciplines.

Based on my interactions with liberal arts PhD students at my university, I think the situation is similar with them but with a higher percentage earning a master’s degree en route to the doctorate.

My reason for going into the issue of doing a PhD without a master’s degree is that my first reaction to the thought of doing a distance PhD is that it’s insane. And the insanity would be compounded for students absent master’s work.

But after thinking about it a little, maybe it’s not inherently crazy. If I were to list the most important things about doing a traditional, brick-and-mortar PhD, they are proximity to adviser, physical library resources, physical interactions with faculty and visiting faculty, and seminars. I rank proximity to adviser as most important.

But then I consider situations where even though one is in a traditional PhD program, physical distance separates student from adviser. For instance, tenured faculty take sabbaticals. Also, faculty can change universities and continue to advise their PhD students at the old university.

As an example of the latter, I have a Taiwanese friend (with no master’s degree) who is a second year PhD student studying materials science. A year into the student’s studies, his adviser accepted a position at a different university, in a different country. This student expects to be studying for at least three more years. He is operating very much like a distance student.

Yes, many PhDs grant a masters as part of the process, but these are programs with two years of course work, exams, and a dissertation (not to mention admissions standards). One of the people mentioned on the front page at Rushmore received an MBA one year a PhD the next. This is just BS.

I’m not intrinsically opposed to quirky universities with small faculty and strange standards–many of our modern universities started this way (Princeton was the “Log Cabin College” started by feisty Presbyterians). But, if you are doing the degree because you want to learn something, you should expect standards, faculty who work with you, and sufficient time to gather and process information. And your school should be more than one person with a computer.

It’s possible that schools like this could become reputable, but only if they are actually aiming for longterm institutional viability, standards for admission, qualified faculty, etc. Don’t think this place is there. I also wonder about students who are ideologically opposed to establishment schools but want establishment credentials. What’s with that?

Yes, many PhDs grant a masters as part of the process, but these are programs with two years of course work, exams, and a dissertation (not to mention admissions standards). One of the people mentioned on the front page at Rushmore received an MBA one year a PhD the next. This is just BS.

I’m not intrinsically opposed to quirky universities with small faculty and strange standards–many of our modern universities started this way (Princeton was the “Log Cabin College” started by feisty Presbyterians). But, if you are doing the degree because you want to learn something, you should expect standards, faculty who work with you, and sufficient time to gather and process information. And your school should be more than one person with a computer.

It’s possible that schools like this could become reputable, but only if they are actually aiming for longterm institutional viability, standards for admission, qualified faculty, etc. Don’t think this place is there. I also wonder about students who are ideologically opposed to establishment schools but want establishment credentials. What’s with that?

To quote Jon:

“One of the people mentioned on the front page at Rushmore received an MBA one year a PhD the next. This is just BS.”

Receiving an MBA and a PhD within a one-year period is not in itself alarming. I’ve heard of people at respectable universities earning MBAs and PhDs or MBAs and MDs within the same time frame.

It would be interesting to learn what was his total length of time spent studying at Rushmore.
Jon also said:

“I also wonder about students who are ideologically opposed to establishment schools but want establishment credentials. What’s with that?”

Building establishment credentials, for an anti-establishment person, provides a great environment for one to modify, refine, defend, and advocate one’s ideology.

Whoops Jon, I just reread your post and I think I misinterpreted your statement about “establishment credentials.”

You mean people who want to earn establishment credentials while avoiding the establishment, don’t you? If that’s the case, I echo your question.

I share your sentiments for the idea of an alternative university. My problem is that that’s not what Rushmore is. My blog is full of schools that claim to be that alternative, but upon closer examination turn out to be just an ordinary diploma mill.


I agree with your assessment of Rushmore University. To summarize my posts above, I have two points:

  1. I’m skeptical of any distance PhD program, especially ones from unaccredited institutions. However, I’m open to being shown otherwise.
  2. Not requiring a master’s degree to do doctoral work is an invalid reason for criticizing Rushmore University. There are plenty of valid criticisms, so let’s stick to those.

If David Kear is more interested in learning, increasing his marketability, and personal development than a piece a paper, I would suggest David Godin’s advice as an alternative to Rushmore University.

Derek, to be honest, I doubt that many employers would knowingly hire someone from the kind of place that Rushmore appears to be. In spite of the appearance of their webpage, I suspect that the vast majority of Rushmore’s customers are citizens of underdeveloped nations. Unless I am presented with very compelling evidence, I will continue to believe that Rushmore is not any different from the other worthless degrees I have been writing about.

Dear All,

I have my M.S.Degree in Applied Microbilogy
and doing CQM(ASQ)Course at American University at Cairo,Egypt. I have 17 Years
of Experience in Quality of Food.
i wanted to do my PhD.So i am searching for
any online e-learning program to get PhD.
I Know that many Fake Universities like
Buxton University are giving PhD for
Money.Now i want to know that
Rushmore University is a Fake University?
Is there degrees are accepted by the
I am really confused from their web site.
Could you help me to get clear idea about
this issue,so that i can choose another
university or i can register my phD as
external Candidate in India in any of the
known Universities.

Satheesh seshaiya P.M.
Senior Quality Manager


I would like to add that while I’m not a student of Rushmore University, I like their approach. They seem to stimulate people’s ability to think outside of the box. Look at the student’s and alumni’s profiles. You’ll find entreprenuers, authors and achievers. Most would not fit in the traditional “get a degree and a good job” type of thinking.

Second of all, accreditation is voluntary here in the US according to the US Dept. of Education itself. The only ones making the “noise” are some of the individual states. They are taking it upon themselves to legislate laws making it next to impossible to use a degree from an unaccredited institution regardless of how it was obtained.

I am all for stamping out “diploma mills” but let’s not forget about the good schools that offer a real education but have not or will not obtain accreditation for some reason or the other.

I am an alumni of such a school and will continue my studies with them until I obtain my MBA degree. My “unaccredited” school’s MBA program has been recognised by the International Certification Institute as an MBA granting institution and graduates qualify to sit for the Certified MBA exam. This is a relatively new professional designation that will one day serve as the benchmark of competency for MBAs. One day, not having this designation will mean that no matter where you got your MBA, it won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on.

Since my intention is not to obtain the MBA to get an “MBA job” but rather to learn how to start and manage my own business better, it’s really not worth to me spending all that money to get a degree from a traditional school where the quality of education is questionable at best and that’s a fact.

I like your view on post secondary education and agree 110% with what you said. TattBXCR D.C.C.

Hello, Mr. Scott Sommers!

You are really doing a great job by investigating Rushmore University! Here’s some news/remarks from Europe…
Since years I am a member of the Thomas More Academie (NIJMEGEN, THE NETHERLANDS): this is an organisation of mainly postmodern philosophers who TRY to search for making a change for the better, concerning the poor situations in worldwide society. Very hard work without remuneration, but we go on examining and fighting the fundamental issues (for instance: egoism, materialism, lack of communication between people, lack of “humanity”, etc…) that are sickening our society.
I got interested in philosophy and politics (AND some psychology) when I was only 13 through reading works of Jean-Paul Sartre, the great 19th century Russian anarchists, followed by works of Friedrich Nietzsche and the old Greek thinkers (extra muros: i.e. the readings had nothing to do with the studies of the school I attended: to me it was a passion).
In 1972 I started my first universitary studies (economic sciences) in Ghent (Belgium), where I had extremely good professors as well for psychology and for philosophy. Since those days I never stopped my self-study of both disciplines.
P.S.: Later on I also acquired my press card from the WOPP (World Organisation for the Periodical Press).
Recently, for several reasons, I wanted to go get my PhD in philosophy “ONLINE”. As I am not a rich man, I (amongst others) found out that it was as good as unable to choose for the great universities like Oxford (UK) because of the high costs.
So I turned to search affordable, even FREE ONLINE universities all over the world, thus – amongst others – “discovering” the famous RUSHMORE university thereby, out of interest LOOKING FOR THE ADDRESS of this “dark” institute. Quite soon I first got the impression it was located in South-Dakota or in Kentucky (700 Harbour Drive + a P.O. Box). After several searches in various directions I finally found out that Rushmore is “based” on the Cayman Islands, however without succes again in finding an … ADDRESS.
EVERY university on this globe HAS (at least) AN ADDRESS. This ABSENCE (where are “the offices”?) is good enough a reason to mark RUSMORE as “OBSCURE” in so far even that one asks himself about the CREDIBILITY of this so-called “university” and wonders at the same time about the WORTH of any diploma delivered by this “DARK INSTITUTION”. Unless elsehow proven, to me this nothing better than a FAKE UNIVERSITY, a DISGRACE for everything that is connected to EDUCATION.
I do not know what the U.S. law says about this kind of situations but what I do know is that over here (as has happened already in the past) the government is quite decisive in such cases and CLOSES, wipes out this kind of “activities”. This is no more than NORMAL, doing the right thing as I hope you will agree with me.

Yours sincerely,

Dirk CLAEYS (member of the WOPP)
Wetenschapstraat 12
B-2850 BOOM (=TREE in English)
main email address:

Has anybody asked any of these institutions for commment? It would be particuarly interesting in Rushmore’s case as it lists names and photos of actual faculty thus providing recognisable points of contact.

Also; please would one of the Rushmore graduates submit thier qualification to some universities both in the US and abroad for credits toward another qualification to guage the response? I’m sure many on this post would be VERY interested in the outcome. As n added extra, it would provide some definitave answers as to credibility too.

Becoming Dr. So and so by writing book reviews? I’ll have three thanks.


I’m from Spain and I’m looking for a good on line program to study my PhD in Business.

I’ve heard about rushmore and other Universities. Please, could you inform me about a good University to study my PhD online from Spain?

Thanks you very much.

My fiancee is a RU student now. We chose to go this route, despite my suspecting the “diploma mill” status, because we are living in rural S. Korea, and it appeared to offer a real education before getting a piece of paper.

I can state without a doubt that my fiancee has worked extremely long and hard for the six credits that she has earned so far. A two-credit course typically takes her about two to three months.

Each course has a core textbook, and she does as much reading outside the text as she can in order to write the best paper that she is able to. She normally sends her course papers for editing comments two to three times before the final paper is accepted.

Although I have some minor complaints about RU, I can say that the student probably gets much more out of this type of work than the typical fully-online university which grades mostly on computerized, multiple choice tests.

If I were living in the U.S., Canada, or Western Europe, I wouldn’t study with RU, because the degree wouldn’t be taken seriously, but for my fiancee, just completing the coursework in English is credit enough for most firms in Asia to hire her as Executive Assistant to the CEO or some such. She’s held such positions before, but getting them after completing this program will be much simpler.

Nice topic! Tell me why it seems so important that Rushmore have an actual campus? How often do we conduct ‘business’ with organization’s that have a ‘virtual office’, many of us have staff who work ‘from home’ yet represent the organization? How often do we use trainers to coach our staff or send our staff on training programs presented by ‘specialists’ who often have no ‘office’ etc, etc?

As for accreditations, what is an accreditation really, some rules made up by traditional/old school full time academics expecting the application of learning presented in a typical theoretical, text book driven manner, surely the world has evolved…Furthermore, these academics have no/little ‘hands on’ business experience.

In my view, it all depends what you want out of a program. If you want ‘old school’ theory with often little/no use in a ‘real life’ business scenario, no problem, pay and get the digits behind your name. The alterative is working with ‘hands on’ business experts who are able to share their expertise and experience with you as you share your real life ‘hands on experiences with them in the application of your study…

Yes, I am a Rushmore student and have been working on my DBA since the beginning of the year. My thesis should be completed by the year end. Furthermore, I am an MBA grad from one of the UK’s top institutions, accredited, campus, all the ‘bells and whistles’ and it must be said I have learnt more working with the likes of Prof Tom Lambert that I have in the time spent on my ‘old school’ MBA!

It is my view that those people who decide on their choice of employee based on the qualifications and where they have been obtained have a skewed view of what business really needs…

I wonder how Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, or Donald Trump for that matter who by the way has his own ‘university’, see and has so many applications prospective students have to be turned away (how about the thousands of people wanted to take part in the apprentice?), would have been treated in today’s world of ‘accreditations’ and old school thinking that ‘bricks and mortar’ make an institution and ‘we only employ those with top grades from ‘top institutions’, if they were looking for employment?

As they say, each one to their own…

I personally think that real accreditations are extremely important as without them the risk is extremely high that it is a degree mill. I completed a distance learning MBA from the Open University from the UK. This a fully recognised university that has only ever done distance learning (since the 60’s) and was set up by the UK government. The university is ranked as amongst the best in the UK. The MBA degree is AMBA, EQUIS and AACSB acredited. All OU degrees are fully accepted across the EU and the world in general. As far as I am aware they accept students in Asia, so why go to a degree mill, when the real thing is available?

I am the founder of Rushmore University, so I am not unbiased. I can tell you however that there is a good reason that Rushmore programs work the way they do. In 1995 I did research that indicated that traditionally accredited MBA programs were failing their customers (their students and the companies that paid their way). The articles I read later turned up in bibliography of Stanford Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer’s article The End of Business Schools (

Our students are tired of tenured professors that are protected by accreditation systems controlling what they can learn when they earn an MBA and other degrees.

Before they enroll prospective students see that our students are publishing books and writing very good papers (see to browse papers), some that are even published in academic journals. Students can not write book reports nor can they write the standard type of research papers like the ones that can be purchased from the Internet. See for our requirements for papers.

We are able to do this because our mission is to help our students succeed not to provide a cushy job for our professors (who by the way include over 20 authors of major books).

We do this at a reasonable cost because are strictly a virtual online school. We have no need for a central office (though we do have several mail addresses around the world) as our faculty live all over the US and in many other places in the rest of the world. Our professors are almost all part-time, they are active professionally and some teach at traditional schools. Most have doctorate degrees from major traditionally accredited universities and some have Harvard MBA degrees. You can see this for yourself as we post their resumes at the time they start with us (by the way at this point they will not have their relationship with Rushmore listed).

The real issue is which is the biggest scandal in business education, that the traditionally accredited business schools force students to study obsolete curriculums that waste thousands of and dollars on irrelevant courses taught by their tenured professors, or the existence of an independent school that breaks the rules of the establishment so that its students can learn things that will help them in their career as they put ideas into practice at work.

What I think is missing in this thread is a sense of balance. Credentials and merit are both essential in our economy. This web page is a form of peer review, which might be considered a type of credentialing. On the other hand, merit, meaning effective performance and positive results obtained by one’s efforts, are also essential in our economy. Our established educational system has forgotten this point and has become a type of monopolistic entity relying on academic credential sometimes to the exclusion of practical merit. On the other hand, a strictly merit-based educational system such as that proposed by Rushmore runs the risk of focusing too much on the short-term reports of students. I think what is missing here is balance between credentials and merit.

In other words, if you simply give students (customers) what they want they will give glowing reports and you will sell more product (in this case education). That may seem like merit, but begs the question of whether the student has really been prepared to thrive in the long run, have they gained all the skills they will need down the road? As we can not easily measure this, we rely somewhat on credentials and peer review. Some of those ‘traditional’ subjects and methods of learning do indeed tend to lag behind the times. However, they are not irrelevant. There is a reason that society respects time-honored traditions, often those reflect social knowledge gained over many years.

Entrepreneurism is a great thing, and all businesses started small initially. So I see nothing wrong at all with a new school that has big ideas about better serving customers. However, I also would expect that type of school to provide a plan for its eventual credentialing. Simply complaining that the creditials are irrelevant seems a bit sophomoric. When Rushmore presents a plan to obtain eventual credentials, either through traditional institutional peer review (accreditation) or through some other socially accepted mechanism, I believe it will be taken more seriourly. Other new start-up universities have obtained accreditation after a time, and Rushmore could do the same. There are distance learning accreditations that might be relevant, if traditional accreditation seems not to apply.


Kurt, I agree with your statement “Our established educational system has forgotten this point and has become a type of monopolistic entity relying on academic credential sometimes to the exclusion of practical merit.”. The problem with accreditation is that groups of universities (the monopoly) form associations that accredit the members of their group thus creating the monopoly problem. These associations do not accredit a new university unless it is doing things largely like the existing member schools. For Rushmore to become accredited would mean we would have to adopt the same failed curriculum and policy’s as these schools so our programs would become as irrelevant as these schools. We of course reject this option. Theses schools essentially accredit themselves with their “you scratch my back I will scratch your back” approach. See for links to how this all works. Imagine if General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler demanded that Toyota change its system and products so they did things just like the American car makers. This would not be socially acceptable. Rushmore is not looking for acceptance from society as a whole but instead from the companies that employ our students. We are getting that acceptance and we consider this to be a better form of accreditation than our competitors self-accreditation which combined with the practice of tenure for professors is creating the failures in higher education, especially in business schools. The companies that pay our students tuition do not respect the time honored traditions of its employees learning obsolete material from substandard self-accredited universities that will not help their students or their company succeed.

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