Oops! N.C. GOP Senate Candidate Inflates His College Credentials

March 20, 2014 10:36 a.m.

Updated: March 20, 2014, 3:41 PM

North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-NC) has listed two different colleges as his alma mater. Tillis, who’s running in the GOP primary to face Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), is a graduate of the University of Maryland but he actually went to the independent online school University of Maryland University College.

Tillis’ LinkedIn page listed the University of Maryland at College Park as where he got a Bachelor of Science Degree in Technology Management, Technology & Project Management. Similarly on Tillis’s biography page on his House Speaker website, Tillis listed the University of Maryland as his alma matter and links to College Park’s website. But according to officials contacted at both the University of Maryland at College Park and the University of Maryland University College, Tillis graduated from the University of Maryland at University College. Tillis is also listed as an alumnus in the University College alumni magazine (page 71).

“We have no graduate by that name on file,” University of Maryland at College Park Assistant Vice President Brian Ullmann told TPM. Ullman first checked with the donor database and then with the university registrar. In both cases Tillis’ name did not come up as a graduate of College Park.

But University of Maryland University College Assistant Vice President Bob Ludwig confirmed that a Thomas Roland Tillis graduated from there with a degree in Management Studies and a Minor in Computer Studies.

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“A Thomas Roland Tillis has a degree from UMUC and he got it in 1997,” Ludwig told TPM.

Ludwig said UMUC and College Park often get confused.

“We get confused all the time,” Ludwig said. Ludwig noted that UMUC started as part of the Continuing Studies program at the University of Maryland in 1947 and said it completely separated in the 1970s.

It primarily exists as a career-oriented distance-learning institution today that gets most of its students through online enrollment, much like the private for-profit University of Phoenix. According to a November 2013 article in the Washington Post, about a third of its students are stationed on overseas military bases. According to statistics collected by the Department of Education, College Park has a graduation rate of 82 percent while UMUC has a six-year graduation rate of 4 percent.

Reached for comment, Tillis spokesman and campaign manager Jordan Shaw said that Tillis graduated from University College and the people who created the pages made a mistake.

“Looks like some of the folks who created some of those sites probably din’t know the difference between the two schools,” Shaw told TPM. “We’ll change it where necessary.”

The websites were changed since TPM reached the Tillis campaign but we also took screenshots. They are below:

Tillis’s LinkedIn page

The About Thom Tillis page on his website. The link for the University of Maryland went to the University of Maryland College Park website.

In different interviews Tillis has sometimes just said he graduated from the University of Maryland while in others he’s said he graduated from the University of Maryland University College. In a radio interview in April 2012 Tillis said he graduated from the University of Maryland, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.

“I graduated from University of Maryland, 1996, or ’97 actually,” Tillis said.

The News & Observer also noted that Tillis listed the University of Maryland as his alma mater in the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research guidebooks since he was first elected. A copy of each profile is shown to the lawmaker for review before the guidebooks are published.

“We ask them to make any corrections and that’s the fail-safe in the end,” Ran Coble, who compiles the guidebooks, said.

In a separate interview with the Rothenberg Political Report in October 2013 (not available online) Tillis said he graduated from the University of Maryland University College.

Old campaign websites also list Tillis as a graduate of the University of Maryland but they don’t say whether it’s College Park or University College.

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