Professors with diploma mill degrees

Discussion in 'Accreditation Discussions (RA, DETC, state approva' started by Neuhaus, Feb 20, 2015.

  1. AuditGuy

    AuditGuy Member

    >>>"Is it really your contention that the respective hiring manager should need an HR person to tell them that degrees purchased for $500 on the internet aren't "real" degrees? Because honestly that doesn't sound "100% the domain of HR " it sounds like a sloppy excuse from a lazy hiring manager."

    Most hiring managers I've worked have no clue WHICH Universities are fake, especially with the proliferation of real and bogus online degrees. I think it is HR/Compliance job to identify these instances and educate the manager. If you have to say anything more than "it's a $500 degree bought off the internet with no work", then it's on the manager.
  2. AuditGuy

    AuditGuy Member

    >>>If you are an engineer and you need to hire someone who is PE eligible, you should know that person needs an ABET accredited degree.

    I'm rusty, but I would say that is incorrect. It is a state license. Last I knew, Washington, California, and New York, you could become a PE with enough experience and passing the exam.
  3. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    You make some excellent points in all of your other posts and gave me a tidbit or two to discuss with some of my colleagues. I just want to address the above quote.

    We have engineering departments which require PE licenses. We have engineering departments which do not. We have IT departments which require Microsoft certifications. We have IT departments which require Oracle. (IT is a division in our company with multiple departments therein)

    We also do quite a bit of hiring for accounting and corporate finance.

    HR doesn't have the resources to determine if a degree qualifies the holder to sit for the CPA exam. The accounting department, run by CPAs, does. They have the experience and the resources to determine if a degree is licensure qualifying or not.

    Likewise, we expect our engineers to do the same. They are PEs. They know what it takes to be licensed as PEs. Accordingly, we expect them to know those requirements and ensure their employers meet those requirements prior to hire.

    So the issue has largely been that we don't do the vetting for the non-licensed positions. So, marketing, some portions of engineering, logistics, procurement etc. The issue is of resources. We don't have enough HR personnel to review accreditation directly. When I'm doing interviews, I ask if the degree is accredited and by which entity. You'd be amazed at how many people go to B&M schools and have no idea who the institutional accreditor is (or maybe you wouldn't, I suppose most people don't think about this stuff like all of us).

    We outsource degree validation (which does not include accreditation check) because we don't have the available resources to do reference and background checks ourselves in-house. We pushed that responsibility to the managers. Those who manage licensed employees are exceptionally good at it. They, in fact, want that responsibility because they know what they need much better than us. The majority of non-licensed managers do a good job as well.

    But there are a few managers out there who live just to make life difficult. They are the ones who do don't care that a person bought their degree. If we had the authority to enforce our guideline by disciplining managers who didn't follow it, they would likely fall in line. But they recognize a toothless policy for what it is. I think at least a few of them break the rules just because they know they can get away with it.
  4. AuditGuy

    AuditGuy Member

    >>>We outsource degree validation (which does not include accreditation check) because we don't have the available resources to do reference and background checks ourselves in-house. We pushed that responsibility to the managers. Those who manage licensed employees are exceptionally good at it. They, in fact, want that responsibility because they know what they need much better than us. The majority of non-licensed managers do a good job as well.

    Keep this thread going, we've gone through this and I will write something a little longer tomorrow on how we got from nothing to where we are at.

    For degree validation, look at the National Student Clearing House

    National Student Clearinghouse - Main site here
    Degree & Enrollment Verifiers | National Student Clearinghouse - Pricing here - Our volume is high.
    Who We Are | National Student Clearinghouse! - Drop them a line and ask them to send you a sample Degree Verification report

    So, our HR folks have an account here. Prior to the "offer" stage, HR runs this validation from their desktop, instant turnaround, $10 a pop or less. Lists University, Degree Granted (Including Major), Date Conferrred

    -Instant turnaround from the desktop (no waiting for registrar offices or fake university call center registrars)
    -Only accredited universities can submit to the Clearinghouse - (in one step you've verified the degree and by proxy the accreditation)
    -Catches "degree fudging" - I'd have to look at one of the report, but I believe it lists the actual degree and catches people who modify their major to fit the job. Economics becomes Accounting, A minor becomes a major, etc. etc. This is surprisingly common.
    -Another common catch is those that attended, but never graduated.
  5. AuditGuy

    AuditGuy Member

    So, how we got to where we are, in regards to policies and procedures as it relates to questionable degrees. Some points here are purposely vague here.

    1. It started as part of an entity-wide risk assessment. Depending on your industry and structure, there is likely a requirement to perform a risk assessment (Sarbanes Oxley, HIPPA, State Requirements, Banking Regulations, etc), or may be a recurring duty of your Corporate Risk Manager or Corporate Compliance Officer.
    2. Get it on the risk assessment, then pointed out the risks associated with “academic fraud” or “Undertrained staff” however you want to phrase it and put examples in for each risk:
    a. Financial risk –
    b. Legal risk –
    c. PR / Reputation risk – it might not directly cost you something, but getting skewered by the media for a few months isn’t pleasant.
    d. Verification risk – Pointed out that calling a dubious school to verify a dubious applicant is inefficient and ineffective if you don’t vet the schools in the first place.
    e. You can find tons of examples to populate your presentation with. Fake doctors injuring people, dubious PHD’s as schools principals, etc.
    f. The Senate hearing on diploma mills is a little dated, but it still circulates to people on our personnel committee.
    g. We also went through our applicant tracking system and listed the high profile jobs in the organization that applicants with unaccredited degrees had applied for. Just looking for the most common ones via a keyword search. This got everyone’s attention.
    3. Presented the risks to the appropriate committee(s) - (audit, compliance, personnel, board of directors) and asked for policy changes
    4. New policy on unaccredited degrees and applicant verification was approved.
    5. New procedure with the National Student Clearing House process to verify applicants at the desktop (faster and cheaper than our old method)
  6. RAM PhD

    RAM PhD Member

    As long as mills exist, there will be those who buy the snake oil.

    If I worked as an HR person, I would not hire anyone touting a degree mill degree, even if their other degrees were legitimate. It's just a matter of ethics. If one is dishonest on their CV/resume (and yes, I know it happens all the time), that same dishonesty will usually appear somewhere else.
  7. Pugbelly2

    Pugbelly2 Member

    Define degree mill degree.
  8. John Bear

    John Bear Senior Member

    Pug: "Define degree mill degree."

    We spend many pages on this in our book. The most commonly accepted definition is what I think of as the Oregon definition (they were among the first to use it): a school that is not specifically permitted to grant degrees by the state in which it is located, or in a few specialized cases, by the Federal government, or an Indian tribe.

    It gets much murkier with schools that claim their licensing from another country, especially countries with rather minimal standards, and especially when, as with Rushmore, Ubiquity, and others, the school is apparently run from within the United States.
  9. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    A degree mill is a business that purports to be a school, but that sells credentials without requiring any academic work. I don't think that a government license (American or otherwise) should immunize anyone who does this from being considered a mill.
  10. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    I won't get the precise wording correct but Steve Levicoff once made a useful distinction between a degree mill and a diploma mill. He said that a "diploma mill" meant a seller of fake degrees, while "degree mill" meant a substandard (but usually legal, if not accredited) school. The former is easy to spot and generates no real controversy. The latter, however, prompts lots of conversation regarding the determination of "substandard."
  11. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Since he's the only person in the world who uses those terms that way, I'm not sure that trying to make that distinction using those terms does anything other than bring confusion. We already have the term "substandard" to refer to substandard schools, which isn't confusing at all.
  12. Pugbelly2

    Pugbelly2 Member

    I agree. I prefer to use degree mill and diploma mill interchangeably, each being defined as a business that sells degrees for little-or-no work.

    Substandard would refer to real schools that require real work, accredited and/or unaccredited, the value and rigor of which could be debated.
  13. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    It also calls into question the intent of the end user.

    If I log onto a website and pay $500 for a "degree" which arrived in the mail by this time next week, I intend to procure a degree for myself with little additional work. I might rationalize that choice by saying it was actually awarded on the basis of my "life experience" but the point remains.

    If I find an accredited school, enroll and complete my coursework as expected, it may be very difficult to determine if my program is substandard. I may have no idea. But I went out and found an accredited (thus presumably legitimate) program and completed it as required. I am inclined to say this person is much more likely to have less nefarious intent than the former example.

    It's one of the reasons why I really take alumni reviews of a school with a grain of salt when it comes to curriculum. I took business courses at an AACSB accredited university (University of Scranton). I also took business courses at an ACBSP accredited university (Colorado Technical University). Was UofS of glaringly higher quality than CTU? In some ways. And in other ways, I felt CTU did a better job. So, on that basis, I am comfortable with my CTU degree. However, I also audited a course at Cornell University's Dyson School of Management. It blew both UofS and CTU out of the water. It was a completely different caliber of professor and curriculum. This proved to me that not all degrees are created equal. But many people have a basis of comparison. They earn their BS/MBA from Kaplan University and tell me what a great education they received. OK, great compared to what? Maybe it was great. Maybe it wasn't.

    We can quibble over what makes a school substandard. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure we just quibbled over this fact when discussing Trinity College and Seminary. And we can carry that quibbling into accredited programs as well, if we felt so inclined. But to me, if you are employed as a professor (say you get the job with a Masters) and then decide you need/want a doctorate, you have plenty of options. If there isn't a U.S. based degree program for you, there are a number of foreign options with research only pathways. In another thread, I identified a professor at Iona College who had a doctorate from Northcentral. His BS/MS were both from Iona. I think it fair to say that he was likely tied to that particular geography. I can respect that. But it's much harder to respect someone who pays for a doctorate with their mastercard, receives it in the mail the following week, and then claims to have "earned" anything.

    And again, I'm not actually looking for advice on how I should personally handle this situation, I'm just trying to encourage a discussion on the matter.
  14. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    Yeah, you boys are so busy trying to reinvent a hypothetical wheel, I wouldn't want to confuse you.:lmao:
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2015
  15. AuditGuy

    AuditGuy Member

    "We can quibble over what makes a school substandard."

    I like to keep things simple.

    Substandard - The degree is not accredited by an agency recognized by our company, therefore the employee is not qualified for the position posted.
  16. AuditGuy

    AuditGuy Member

    If I wanted to make it complicated, there are two factors to any degree, a) realness b) quality/prestige

    A) Real or Substandard, period.
    B) Quality/Prestige - Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
  17. Pugbelly2

    Pugbelly2 Member

    You are of course entitled to apply whatever definition you wish, but substandard and lacking company approval seem to me to be very different animals. Many companies would not accept degrees from foreign or nationally accredited institutions, but that in no way makes them substandard. To me, substandard applies to a lack of rigor, not to a lack of accreditation or utility.
  18. Pugbelly2

    Pugbelly2 Member

    I have to completely disagree with you here. First, what do you mean by realness? What makes a school real in your mind? Regional accreditation? National accreditation? Foreign schools with appropriate accreditation? Accredited schools, either RA or NA, with a brick and mortar campus? Some other standard?

    Secondly, you list quality/prestige together as if they are the same thing. They are not. There are some quality schools with no prestige at all. There are schools with prestige that lack quality. There are some extremely prestigious schools that have earned prestige in one area of academia, say medicine, but their business offerings may be quite ordinary.
  19. Pugbelly2

    Pugbelly2 Member


    There are several properly accredited schools out there that offer, IMO, substandard education. I've seen it with my own eyes. That is why I make a distinction between utility and quality, and why the term substandard, in my definition, can be applied to schools with or without accreditation. A substandard, accredited degree will have far more utility than a quality, unaccredited degree. One might earn a great education at an unaccredited school, but a degree earned from Kaplan or UoP will open more doors.
  20. AuditGuy

    AuditGuy Member

    I am joking of course with the term "realness". And don't get me wrong, I personally agree with a lot of what you are saying, but I am talking about a process for hundreds of applicants a week from around the US and world.

    "What makes a school real in your mind?" - Generally speaking, we require regional accreditation. We do accept national accreditation for some positions. Foreign degrees are no problem, research and determine an equivalency.

    "Secondly, you list quality/prestige together as if they are the same thing." Yes, they are, because they are both unmeasurable to a large degree and depend on a multitude of variables, including the one you mention - "some extremely prestigious schools that have earned prestige in one area of academia, say medicine, but their business offerings may be quite ordinary." Plus that changes over time even within the school. Depending on the manager, personal biases play a huge part, and other managers have no interest in where the degree is from, especially in more technical areas.

    The 2 most common things I hear from hiring managers on why they hire more from certain schools are: 1. I went to Iowa State and it was a great school. 2. We've always had good luck with new graduates from X State.

    So, what I am saying is that our job at compliance/audit/HR is to validate that the applicant has a valid degree. All the quality/prestige discussions are left to the hiring manager, and frankly very rarely come up or make a difference.

    "There are some quality schools with no prestige at all. There are schools with prestige that lack quality. There are some extremely prestigious schools that have earned prestige in one area of academia,"

    I'm all ears if there is some streamlined way to validate a degree then assign it some type of one-stop quality ranking for a few hundred applicants a week.

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