Jack Walker, the executive administrator of the North Carolina State Health Plan, lists on the SHP website that he has a PhD in “Administration and Management.” Walker lists PhD after his name on SHP handouts and on PowerPoint presentations. During presentations at the General Assembly legislators call him “Dr. Walker.”
But Walker’s doctorate is from Columbia Pacific University, and, no, that’s not the California branch of the Ivy League institution in New York City. Columbia Pacific University, or CPU, was a short-lived, never accredited correspondence school in California that was closed by court order in 2000. CPU operated legally for a time but then California adopted stricter standards for schools located within its borders and ordered CPU to close.
I doubt many people would actually include a CPU degree on their resume, but the school did appear in a U.S. General Accounting Office report entitled Diploma Mills: Federal Employees Have Obtained Degrees from Diploma Mills and Other Unaccredited Schools, Some at Government Expense. That report noted that a National Nuclear Security Administration employee:
received a PhD in engineering administration in 1985 from Columbia Pacific University, an unaccredited school. He performed course work required for a PhD at George Washington University, a fully accredited school, but did not complete a dissertation. Employee #3 claims to have completed a dissertation for Columbia Pacific University but did not attend classes or complete any coursework at that school. In December 1999, the Marin County Superior Court ordered Columbia Pacific University to cease operations within California. The court determined that Columbia Pacific failed to meet various requirements for issuing PhD degrees, awarded excessive credit based on life experience, and failed to employ duly qualified staff.
The state of Michigan includes CPU on its list of “colleges and universities from which degrees will not be accepted by the Michigan Civil Service Commission;” the state of Oregon does not allow the use of degrees from CPU; and the state of Texas puts CPU on its “fraudulent or substandard degree” list. In these three states improper use of a CPU degree is a misdemeanor. Several other states restrict the use of CPU degrees.
The fact that Walker advertises his “PhD” so liberally is important not only because he is misleading the state. A doctorate denotes some level of expertise in a topic and Walker uses the credential to imbue his opinions with added authority in front of the General Assembly.
Also, Walker’s degree from a school that some states label fraudulent raises the question of why North Carolina hired him out of retirement. By any measure his previous tenure at the State Health Plan was rocky. Now our state needs a long-term solution to help check rising costs at the State Health Plan without simply cutting benefits and we turn to a retired administrator with a “doctorate” from an unaccredited, shuttered school. Taxpayers, and especially current and former state employees, deserve better.
And North Carolina deserves better than a State Health Plan administrator who derives his authority from a fake degree.