Two fantastic articles this morning that really have competing topics. One is on the validity or acceptability of legitimate online degrees. The other is an expose on diploma mills. I felt it was important to include both topics in this post because sometimes people don’t know the difference. As both concepts become more ubiquitous, performing a thorough background check and thoroughly screening the applicant’s claimed degree becomes that much more important. In today’s economy, professionals (and crooks) are looking for a way to stand out from the crowd. An upstanding citizen may decide to go back to school and get an advanced degree. In some scenarios, going to a traditional ‘brick and mortor’ school is not possible due to schedules, family, work, etc.. In those cases they may decide to go to an accreditated online university. There are many of them and they are reputable. However, some employers don’t feel they carry the same weight as a traditional degree. This is a debatable topic but ultimately that decision is up to the employer. According to a recent CNN article:
To many people, a degree is a degree — but to others, there can be an issue of trust, or lack of reputation and familiarity, says Marc Scheer, a career counselor and educational consultant based in New York City.
“Traditional programs have been around for hundreds of years, but online programs are relatively new [and] employers tend to be less familiar with them,” he says.
Employers are getting there, however. In a survey done by online institution Excelsior College and Zogby International, 61 percent of CEOs and small business owners nationwide said they were familiar with online or distance learning programs.
Not only are they familiar with them, but 83 percent of executives in the survey say that an online degree is as credible as one earned through a traditional campus-based program. Employers said such factors as the accreditation of the college or university, the quality of its graduates and the name of the institution awarding the degree were among other things they considered to make an online degree more credible.
Other more ‘creative’ individuals (crooks) chose an even easier route. Buy your degree online! I did it. In fact I now hold a Masters and PhD from Gordon University, which were bought online for $295.00. I hang them both proudly on my office wall, simply to make a point. They are fake, yet fully verifiable. Gordon University is a diploma mill. Want to see something even scarier? Put ‘Gordon University’ into the search criteria of LinkedIn and see how many executives tout this fake degree. Its pretty scary actually! (Shameless plug: I will be traveling the USA this year speaking about Web 2.0 and Recruiting. One of the main topics is Diploma Mills. Click here for dates and places). A thorough review of every degree by a professional employment screening company is critical.
In the story below you will see that consumers are buying misleading degrees online. Having a few good friends that graduated from Cornell, I am sure they would be happy to know others are paying for a similar degree from Cormell (Notice the ‘m’). Now that would have saved their parents a lot of money! According to this article:
It may be harder than ever to attend Cornell, but — through a billion dollar industry some experts have labelled a growing “national security threat” — it is may be easier than ever to pretend you did.
Phony diploma companies, known as “degree mills,” sell a dizzying variety of bogus products — fake degrees from real colleges, real degrees from fake colleges, and fake degrees from real-sounding but fake colleges, prominent among them “Stamford,” “Berkley,” and even, “Cormell” University.
Merchandise ranges from High School G.E.D.’s to P.H.D.’s and includes everything from honors degrees to transcripts to letters of recommendation. It can even be delivered overnight.
“[Fake Diplomas are] so widespread it’s hard for any of us to believe [the] numbers are actually as [high as they are] certain to be,” said Prof. George Gollin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, physics, who has done extensive research on fake degrees.
Gollin speculated that upwards of 100,000 fake diplomas are in use — including, until recently, those of several NASA scientists, a few two-star Army Generals and 463 employees within the federal government.
What is the moral of these two stories? Employers…..be careful. No two degrees are the same, be sure your screening provider is checking your searches against known diploma mills and accreditation lists. For more on this, see our recent white paper on diploma mills.