Kong Hee’s Unaccredited Educational Institutes
Pastor Kong Hee of City Harvest Church (CHC) returns to court on Friday (April 7) to hear the outcome of the appeal filed by him and 5 other church members against their conviction for misappropriating millions in church funds.
Let’s find out more about the man and the path he took that put him in the position to misappropriate millions in the first place.
Called Into Question
Ever since Kong Hee was arrested for the misappropriation of over $50m in church funds, his academic qualifications have been called into question by the public, most notably by disillusioned former members of his organisation like this one:
Looks Good On Paper
Before embarking on his pastoral career, Kong Hee actually boasted a great academic record on paper.
He studied at Raffles Institution and Raffles Junior College from 1977 to 1982, before obtaining a Computer Information Sciences degree from the National University of Singapore (NUS).
According to a report by Today, he was in both RI’s swimming and water polo team, and was described as “easygoing and playful” by his former classmates.
Ironically, Kong Hee had previously labelled himself as “short, fat, and ugly” during his secondary school years.
A Quick Degree
After graduating from NUS in 1988, Kong Hee then went to the United States to study at the New Covenant International University and Theological Seminary (NCIU). In two spans of two years each (1989-1991, 1993-1995), he managed to secure not only a Masters in Divinity, but a Doctorate in Theology as well, according to his online biography.
What? He finished his Masters and Doctoral studies in just four years?! Is Kong Hee a genius?
Not only that, Kong Hee started CHC in 1989 – yes, before he even obtained his NCIU qualifications.
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
NCIU has no physical campus — it uses the mailing address of a separate organisation called Trinity Church International, located in Lake Worth, Florida — and its degrees are not accredited by the relevant education department.
So, if someone feels like opening an institute where students worship him/her in exchange for a doctorate, they are technically allowed to do so if they follow “fair consumer practices”.
However, they wouldn’t be legally allowed to affix a Dr. in front of their names, since their certifications aren’t accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the educational body responsible for validating higher education qualifications in Florida. It is also one of the six regional accreditation organisations recognised by the United States Department of Education.
We decided to pose as a prospective student and get in touch with NCIU. Unsurprisingly, the following correspondence with the varsity would only raise more red flags.
Not only did they take nearly a week to reply, they did so with a generic Outlook.com email address instead of one ending in .edu.
They also confirmed that NCIU doesn’t offer on-campus programmes.
Here’s the best part. The folks at NCIU sent us an application form for enrolment — see if you can spot anything funny with it:
Because nothing screams professional like the Comic Sans font.
Furthermore, the superimposed graphic of their own logo on their cover page had colour defects.
How Much Is That Degree In The Window?
We went way back into the 20th-century archives of the NCIU website and dug up some interesting figures.
On the left is how much a degree costs per unit. On the right is the credit requirements for each course.
Since Kong Hee already had a degree from NUS, he would have had to pay from US$1,280 (US$20 x 64 credits) to US$3,840 (US$30 x 64 credits) in tuition fees for a Masters of Divinity, while his subsequent Doctorate in Theology would have set him back by US$1,080 (US$30 x 36 credits) – US$2,700 (US$75 x 36 credits).
The figures exclude the US$500 in payments for assessment, registration, filing, validation and transcripts for each degree.
Including the US$500, he could have paid anywhere between US$3,360 and US$7,540 for his Masters and Doctorate.
To put things into perspective, an academic year alone in Singapore Polytechnic costs upwards of $20,000 for Singaporeans (without tuition grants).
Who Is Behind NCIU?
Things are about to get even more interesting in the form of Kevin Dyson.
The pastor, who hails from New Zealand, is the founder of NCIU. Dyson’s own academic qualifications are as dubious — if not more — than Kong Hee’s.
According to NCIU’s latest catalogue, he has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology from Jubilee International Bible College, California, a Masters degree in Religious Education from Jubilee International Bible Institute, California, and a Doctorate in Bible Counselling from Evangelical Theology Seminary, Missouri.
We dug into the NCIU’s archives and this time, it states that Dyson also achieved a Doctor of Divinity (Restoration Church History) from Jubilee International Bible Institute.
The problem is, there has never been a “Jubilee International Bible College” nor a “Jubilee International Bible Institute” in California. A quick search on California’s Business Filings site failed to confirm the existence of these two schools.
Confused, we turned to Google and finally got a hit on “Jubilee International Bible College” — in the Land Down Under.
Records by the Australian Business Registrar revealed that the school was initially registered as “Jubilee International Christian College”. However, from May 1995 to 2001, it was renamed as Jubliee International Bible College.
A search with Florida’s Division of Corporations showed that Dyson once had a registered residence in Australia, one that he used to incorporate NCIU with.
In 1998, the pastor is believed to have moved back to a suburb in Florida, based on a series of annual reports we retrieved.
Then Jubliee International Christian College president Tony Keys described the school on his LinkedIn profile as a college with over 230 students and nine staff members:
We were surprised — for a school with just nine staff members to be able to issue the highest qualification in academia is certainly no mean feat.
As for the Evangelical Theology Seminary (ETS) — the institute where he scored his Doctorate in Divinity — appears to be a degree mill as well.
NTS boasts that one could earn their qualifications “without any on-campus attendance”, but that seems more of a necessity given the absence of a proper campus — the address they provided leads to a P.O. box.
It appears that the founder of NTS, Nathan Killian, once had lofty plans for his institute, but his grand expansion failed to materialise. 13 years after he first drafted his plans for a new facility, the ‘campus’ remains a residential property, according to Google’s listings.
But hang on, what has Dyson got to do with Kong Hee, besides founding the dubious school he got degrees from? His choices aren’t reflective of the Lord Almight-Hee — surely the former isn’t responsible for the actions of the latter, right?
Well, here’s the issue. In a church service on September 23, 2010, it was revealed that Dyson had been an advisor to City Harvest Church for the past few years, holding talks and conducting training sessions for members.
In a Q&A session on relationships, Dyson shared his thoughts on difficult marriage-related issues such as adultery and divorce. He had some choice advice, one of which some women might not take kindly to:
Men, in particular ought to honour their spouse as the weaker vessel, and regard her spiritual growth and maturity as his utmost priority.
He and his wife, Joy, also oversaw the training of about 150 counsellors from CHC, enabling them to “provide pastoral and practical guidance to those in the church who need help”.
Additionally, after digging through NCIU’s pre-2014 archives, we can see that Kong Hee was on the NCIU’s International Board of Reference.
Seems like those two have a little something going on.
In short, Kong Hee got his Masters and Doctorate from a suspicious source, and managed to find someone with an even more dubious CV to help him with his church.
While his history has caught on with some amused netizens, we do wonder if his loyal followers and churchgoers are aware of the controversial pastor’s educational background.
When the result of his appeal is (finally) out, many Singaporeans who are sick and tired of the case will probably be hoping for the prosecution’s eight-year-sentence to stand.
But we won’t be surprised if something miraculous happens and his sentence even gets reduced — After all, he is the man whom God apologised to. Read our story on 10 life lessons from Kong Hee.
Featured image from chc.org.sg