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Texas shuts company for running online high school 'diploma mill'

By Lisa Maria Garza

DALLAS (Reuters) - Texas has won court approval to close a Houston-based company the state said ran a fraudulent online program that offered high school diplomas for a flat fee and no course work, state officials said on Wednesday.

Last week, a district judge ordered the company known as Lincoln Academy to stop accepting students, shut down its website and social media pages and phase out operations, the attorney general's office said. It released the agreement on Wednesday.

The company did not respond to a request for comment. Lincoln Academy, described as "a diploma mill" by the state, claimed its program was nationally accredited and its diplomas were accepted by colleges, employers and the U.S. military, the office said."In the end, consumers pay hundreds of dollars for a worthless piece of paper that provides none of the promised benefits of a legitimate high school education," the state said in its lawsuit.

To earn a diploma, students had to pay $299 in tuition to access online course work and pass a five-section test that could be taken without supervision, the company's website said.

On its Facebook page it said it has been running since 2010 and has nearly 10,000 "likes".

Fort Worth resident Chelsea Moon, 25, enrolled in the program in June and was told she needed to complete a course before graduating, but that turned out to be only a test.

"It took me like 20 minutes and that was it," Moon said.

Moon said she was prompted to pay an extra $100 to receive a hard copy of her diploma. She then asked for a refund, which did not come, and was later told she did not qualify for a diploma.

"It's frustrating and it's really cruel to do that to someone," Moon said.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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