Golden State College is fools gold for education in Visalia

After further investigation, Golden State College does not reflect signs of being a legitimate educational establishment, including plagiarized web pages, false information and no returned communication

VISALIA – If you’re looking to further your education locally, whether it be a bachelors, masters or doctorate degree, perhaps steer clear of Golden State College in downtown Visalia. 

Based on the Golden State College (GSC) website, the school appears to be like any other college. Upon a closer look, some parts look out of place. In fact some pages appear as if they have been copied and pasted from a different website. And that’s because they have.

However, as concerning as the website may be, by legal standards GSC has filed all the proper paperwork with the state of California and is therefore a legitimate business. But if someone were to try and attend one class, they wouldn’t be amongst classmates, teachers or even in a classroom.

In spite of their legal legitimacy, according to the website the school’s campus is located on main street in Visalia at 525 W Main St. The problem is, the school’s location is actually only a virtual office space. Suspicious still, nothing on their website specifically states they’re an online university, nor open for in-person instruction.  

The District Attorney’s office warns individuals that scams are everywhere and to always trust your gut if something seems uneasy. They see scams on all levels from social security, IRS, immigration as well as others. The DA’s office has people who are actively handling scams and encourages communication with their office.

“It’s important to do your homework and if it doesn’t feel right, in any instance, if something doesn’t seem right, then we always advocate they don’t engage,” Stuart Anderson with the district attorney’s office said. 

On the main page of GSC’s website, the header is what appears to be a nondescript image found online for universal use, also known as a stock photo, of a podium. Inside that image is their mission statement

“As one of the most transformative universities in the nation, Golden State College is ready for big change. As part of Transformation 2030, GSC’s strategic plan, the campus community is dedicated to realizing the university’s potential as a nationally prominent urban university,” the mission statement reads.

This direct quote can be found on San Jose State University’s (SJSU) About Us page on their website.  

GSC’s website is loaded with information that seems to take inquirers in circles and never lead to answers. One large issue with the site is that several bits of text and entire pages appear to be direct word for word from other college websites, like their mission statement. The only difference being GSC replaces the previous college’s name. 

Though GSC’s site does appear to contain original text, the majority of the website appears to be directly from the SJSU website with additional pages taken from other schools. The entire “Degrees” page on GSC’s website is a copy from the University of Commonwealth Caribbean Global “Degree Finder” page. Several other portions are taken from the University of Arizona Global Campus’ website as well as others.

GSC’s website offers many different options of classes and courses that are available, but shows no course catalog or a way to enroll. Lost in the pages of the website, there is a button to apply. Once clicked on, it then prompts the user to make an account. Later when trying to log in, the message “unable to log in. Your member request is pending approval” appears with no way around it.

Prospective students have the opportunity to choose from degrees in business administration, child development, project management, nursing and several others. Yet again, there is no place to see the types of classes available or even required. All course explanations appear to be direct copies from other schools’ websites, again mostly SJSU.

GSC’s website also offers an array of student life activities ranging from transit, to international programs, to an elaborate food court and professors from “top universities in California and senior executives,” but shows no proof or further explanation. The home page also claims the school is “named one the Best Valued College by the State Economic Development Department. [And] Received ‘High Employment and Graduation Rate’ Award from the Employment Committee.” Which again, there is no proof or explanation. Throughout the different pages of the website are what appears to be more stock photos showing many different facades of school grounds alluding to having an elaborate campus with several opportunities for students.

Despite showing different facades of their campus, Golden State College’s main street campus is located in Main Street Office Suites, in a virtual office. According to the Main Street Office Suites website, a virtual office is used for individuals who want a professional address for their mail, or temporary use of an office, conference room or business support services. Anyone can use these services from anywhere and in turn get their name on a sign. 

Golden State College has had a space with Main Street Office Suites since 2018, and most recently renewed in March of this year, according to Main Street Office Suites’ office staff. The company receives minimum amounts of mail which is then forwarded elsewhere.

Aside from the school’s address, the only mention of Visalia on their webpage is in the history portion. Notwithstanding that minor mention, interested parties who might assume the college is located in Silicon Valley. The majority of the website’s language is geared toward the areas in and around Silicon Valley, which would make sense for schools like Cal and SJSU.

As Golden State College explains the history of the school, they claim to have an affiliation with the University of California Berkeley, Cal. 

“The history of the Golden State College (GSC) can be traced back to the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), which started in 1868. A group of UCB people moved to Center California to plan the establishment of a college,” the website claims. 

When contacted, Cal gave no notice of knowing anything about this school. The senior director of strategic communications with Cal said she is not aware of any affiliation. GSC also claims to host graduation ceremonies and hold a dissertation examination process at Cal. None of this information could be verified by Cal’s campus staff.

The phone number on the GSC’s website leads individuals to an additional dead end. After reaching a generic robotic google telephone message, the caller is brought to a voicemail box where a man then explains that administration is out of the office due to COVID-19. The message also suggests emailing the office with inquiries is the best way to contact the school, but following this advice, still no answer is given. 

Despite GSC’s website looking suspicious, the business has legally filed Articles of Incorporation papers with the California Secretary of State’s office. The address for the chief executive officer leads to a UPS store with a box number in Santa Clara, while an additional address listed leads to a Montesori school in Cupertino. No answers were given at either location. 

After contacting the District Attorney’s office in Santa Clara County, the communications officer, Sean Webby inquired about the school and said they had never heard of the establishment and it “looked dicey.”

As far as accreditation goes, Golden State College does not appear on anyone’s list of accredited public or private schools. GSC does not appear on Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE), Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) or the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. 

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the definition of accreditation is the recognition that an institution is able to maintain a certain level of educational standards. It is possible for a school to exist and teach students without accreditation, but there is not much point for any party involved.

According to Accredited Schools Online, “If a student attends a school that’s not accredited, they will miss out on certain advantages and face the possibility of graduating with a degree, diploma or certificate that is practically worthless beyond any personal satisfaction the student may garner from the accomplishment.”

GSC is not listed on the Better Business Bureau website, so there has not been any official claims of fraud against the school. Nowhere on the college’s website does it ask for personal information aside from name, email and password.

After several attempts to contact someone at Golden State College, no calls or emails were returned by press time. 

Anderson said the District Attorney’s office is dedicated to protecting consumers in a variety of different areas. If an individual feels they have been taken advantage of they should report it immediately, https://tulareda.org/fraud-2/

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