Maxine Klein Asher established ‘American World University’, generally considered to be a diploma mill. She founded the organization in 1990 as a distance learning institution for post-secondary education. Her so-called ‘school’ did not require fluency in English and was awarding credits for students’ life experience as well.
American World University’s student body, estimated at some 7,000 at the time, consisted of over 90 percent foreign students, and tuition fees were varying by country. Most international students were recruited through local administrators who were advertising regionally while getting some 50 percent of the revenue they brought in as a reward for their efforts.
Asher, who died in 2015, was raised in California, and she was in certain circles known for her Atlantis research in Spain. She had earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology (University of California, LA), after which she was working for several years as a teacher in public education. Later she went on to earn her master’s degree in ancient history (CalState, Northridge), a doctorate in education (Walden University), and a doctorate in linguistics (University of Granada, Spain)
The American World University, founded by Asher in 1990, was an institution that sold academic degrees. The school was so-called ‘accredited’ by another institution founded by Asher, the World Association of Universities and Colleges (WAUC). This fake accrediting institution was also ‘accrediting’ other paper mill universities that were selling mail-order degrees. These institutions paid for accreditation by WAUC.
Asher’s American World University had no physical campus. The diploma mill was headquartered in Iowa City, Iowa until 2000. In that year, the fake school was driven out of Iowa as the state passed new legislation to govern and protect legitimate post-secondary institutions. After the diploma mill had relocated to Rapid City, South Dakota, it was also forced out of that state due to similar legislation to end up in Pascagoula, Mississippi, while some activities like grading of papers also took place in California, at Asher’s home in Los Angeles.
American World University was also active in Brazil where it was operating a branch. Brazilian education officials are estimating that these operations have generated more than 4 million dollars in revenues during the first two years the organization was active there.
AWU’s accrediting body, Asher’s own World Association of Universities and Colleges, never received recognition from the U.S. Department of Education. The WAUC was founded in 1993, and it granted ‘accreditation’ to various fake institutions that were classified as ‘diploma mills’ by state and federal governments. The fake educational institutions include Madison University, Lacrosse University, and Columbus University. Both AWU and the WAUC were never recognized by the American Council on Higher Education Accreditation or by the United States Department of Education.
Asher’s so-called ‘school’ awarded Ph.D. diplomas to a number of people who at a later moment were recommending Asher’s diploma mill in their academic ‘publications’ and in AWU’s brochures. To give you example, part-time Nihon University tutor Dr. Adrian Waller wrote commending statements praising Dr. Asher for her high morale and integrity, and her commitment to the highest possible standards of post-secondary education in distance learning.
A former AWU employee described the so-called ‘school’ as a complete fraud and stated that Asher was instructing her to jot down comments on the papers of students to give them the impression that their papers were actually being read. An FBI expert on degree fraud described AWU’s activities as ‘useless, terrible, and dreadful, a total fraud’, while John Bear, a professor at the University of California in Berkeley, and a highly experienced diploma mill expert describes AWU as merely a ‘maildrop’.
Maxine Klein Asher has tried to cover up the scheme and lauded the academic quality and rigor of AWU’s curriculum, She said that the school indeed wasn’t resembling Princeton or Harvard, but that they were doing a credible job when it comes to educating students. She was claiming AWU’s educational model was based on both European and American approaches to providing the best possible post-secondary education.
Asher had also founded the World University of Iowa (WUI), a fake educational institution based in Hawaii, that was in the same way structured as her AWU, but in 2004, she was forced to end these activities. She had to repay all students their tuition fees and pay almost $250,000 in fines.