Rushmore was started in 1996 in South Dakota by Michael Cox (professor) (1952-2006), whose credentials included a PhD in Accounting from Oklahoma State University and seven years' teaching at the University of Arkansas and Sam Houston State University.
As of June 4, 2006 Rushmore had a mailing address in the Cayman Islands. The Maine Department of Education formerly listed it as having been located in South Dakota and the Cayman Islands. As of August 2012, both the Maine Department of Education and Oregon Office of Degree Authorization identify Rushmore as operating in the Cayman Islands and the U.S. state of Georgia.
Students are encouraged to publish their student papers on the Internet, in conventional journals or magazines, or as self-published books. Editors are employed by the institution to help improve students' written work. Rushmore promotional materials state that the "status as an author" that results from these publications gives its alumni "greater recognition and credibility than [their] competitors". 
Formerly Rushmore's promotional material claimed that the conventionally recognized system of educational accreditation in the United States is irrelevant and that Rushmore had instead attained "independent accreditation," as measured solely by the success of its graduates. In the past, Rushmore claimed approval from a variety of agencies, none of them recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation(CHEA). The Oregon State Office of Degree Authorization has no evidence that this is an accredited or otherwise acceptable provider of postsecondary education meeting Oregon standards. Oregon employers should consider degrees from this supplier to be substandard unless each degree program is evaluated in detail by an external evaluator acceptable to ODA. The Maine Department of Education and State of Michigan also list Rushmore as non-accredited.
In August 2009, Rushmore announced that it was seeking accreditation from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). This was announced in the August 2009 Rushmore newsletter.  The Rushmore June 2012 newsletter reported that in April 2012 Rushmore had obtained CMI Recognised Center status, including approval for several Rushmore programs.
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- Louis M. Heyward American producer and film and television screenwriter
- Dan Poynter American author, consultant, publisher, professional speaker and parachute designer
- [[Hiroaki Kinoshita] (2001), CEO of Falcon Denshi K.K.
- Morten Middelfart (2004), Danish entrepreneur, inventor, and technologist
- Elijah Chingosho (2005), CEO of African Airlines Association
- List of unaccredited institutions of higher learning
- List of unrecognized accreditation associations of higher learning
- School accreditation
- Rushmore University: In Memoriam
- Contacts, Rushmore University website, archived June 4, 2006
- Maine Department of Education, Non-Accredited Colleges & Universities
- Maine Department of Education, Non-Accredited Colleges & Universities (accessed August 5, 2012)
- Rushmore Programs, Rushmore University website (accessed August 5, 2012)
- Editing Services, Rushmore University website (accessed August 5, 2012)
- Rushmore University: Accreditation (accessed June 20, 2007)
- Joseph Georges, Putting the 'Education' Back Into '.edu', The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 4, 2002. Article states that "until recently" Rushmore's website said "academic accreditors force those schools who seek their approval to work like a McDonald's fast-food franchise."
- John Bear, Guide to Earning Degrees by Distance Learning, Ten Speed Press, 2001
- CHEA website
- Oregon State Office of Degree Authorization, Unaccredited Colleges
- Maine Department of Education, Non-Accredited Colleges & Universities and State of Michigan, Colleges and universities not accredited by an accrediting body of the Council on Higher Education Accreditation
- Rushmore University Worldwide News, v. 6, no. 6, 1 August 2009. Page 12.
- Rushmore University Worldwide News, June 2012
- Rushmore University– Official website