“Get Educated” about online degrees

Kevin Bachman

 Workers need to check out online schools before enrolling: Help Wanted

by Edith Starzyk/Plain Dealer Reporter

Sunday July 05, 2009, 2:36 AM


For Willette Crawford, online seems to be the best route to the bachelor’s degree she has been working on for the past 10 years.

The 46-year-old Cleveland resident — one of the laid-off workers in The Plain Dealer’s “Help Wanted” series — has aced the first three online courses she has taken through Ashford University in Iowa.

“It’s very intense, a lot of work, a lot of reading,” she said. “But it gives you a real sense of accomplishment.”

Crawford, who lost her job as a secretary last summer, decided to go to class via computer because she thought the logistics would be easier to manage as she continues to look for work and raise the two sons who are still at home.

The boys, age 8 and 13, know not to bother her when they see the Ashford colors on the computer screen. And she has felt connected to professors, helpful writing assistants and fellow students through postings and e-mails.

Crawford is satisfied with her choice so far, but others have found out too late that their online school wasn’t as advertised.

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization recently issued a statement on the need to discourage what are known as degree mills or diploma mills. Now an international phenomenon, these bogus schools issue diplomas that will not be recognized by legitimate schools or savvy employers.

So, how do you tell if a school is the genuine article? Vicky Phillips created a Web site called GetEducated.com to help prospective students inform themselves before investing time and money — basically their first homework assignment.

When she started the site 20 years ago, only five degrees were available online. Now, 12,000 degrees and certificates are offered by various online schools, said Phillips, who is based in Vermont.

Click here to read the full story.

I have to be honest. When I read this yesterday, my first instinct was “diploma mill.” At EmployeeScreenIQ, we cross check education verifications against a list of hundreds of known, bogus “degree for a fee” clearinghouses. And that’s unfortunate, because a lot of smart people see a lot of value in an online, distance learning curriculum.

But my instinct is also shaped by the 15 spam e-mails I get every day, offering me everything from a high school diploma to a Ph.D in exchange for little effort beyond reaching for my wallet. It’s a shame those who are truly trying to provide a better life for themselves and their family may have their accomplishments viewed with raised eyebrows. Even more so when it’s a prospective employer doing it.

So I think geteducated.com is a nice, necessary resource. It can help well intentioned students avoid getting scammed and find a learning program that is right for them. And it can help lower my already healthy dose of daily skepticism!

Kevin Bachman
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Kevin Bachman

Senior Vice President of Operations at EmployeeScreenIQ
Kevin is responsible for creating strategy and setting long term goals to manage and optimize organizational workflow. Kevin ensures the company exceeds performance benchmarks by designing and implementing a robust set of analytics and metrics. As a member of the executive committee, he helps shape corporate strategy and sets the direction of key client initiatives. With 13 years industry experience, Kevin is a member of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), previously serving on the best practices committee and co-chairing the Litigation Avoidance sub-committee.
Kevin Bachman
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