With a new report from Europe’s leading background screening company revealing a 48 percent increase worldwide in the number of known diploma mills in the past year, some U.S. states have stepped up the fight against diploma mills defined in the report as “largely online entities whose degrees are worthless due to the lack of valid accreditation and recognition.”
According to the second annual Accredibase™ Report for 2011 from Verifile Limited, the United States was the world’s fake college capital and saw a 20 percent increase in known diploma mills, with the number rising from 810 to 1,008. More than 40 percent of U.S. diploma mills operated in four states: California, Hawaii, Washington, and Florida.
- California: 147 diploma mills
- Hawaii: 98 diploma mills
- Washington: 91 diploma mills
- Florida: 84 diploma mills
Several U.S. states have recently passed, or are in the process of passing, legislation to combat the use of diploma mills:
- Idaho: Lawmakers in Idaho recently approved an “anti-diploma mill” bill making it easier to target bogus education providers operating in the state.
- Missouri: The Governor of Missouri signed diploma mill legislation in February 2011 targeting those using faked certificates and credentials by making it illegal to use false academic credentials to apply for jobs, college, or in connection with business, employment, or public office.
- New York: A “diploma mills” bill – The Diploma and Accreditation Integrity Protection Act – was introduced in New York proposing to protect the integrity of bona fide qualifications by targeting the sale and use of fraudulent degrees.
- California: A haven for diploma mills due to the lack of regulation and a long period with no licensing, California finally reinstated a program of approval for higher education institutions.
While laws discouraging diploma mills are welcomed, the report states the challenges of dealing with diploma mills remain complicated due to the following factors:
- Diploma mill operators are more adept at covering their tracks on the Internet.
- Diploma mill operators often have no actual physical presence at their published location and can change their web sites in an instant if required.
- While Diploma mills can operate on the Internet with no geographical ties, judicial systems cannot.
Attorney Lester Rosen, founder and President of Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a background check provider accredited by the National Association of Background Screeners (NAPBS) – and author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual,’ the first comprehensive guide to background screening, says “genuine” fake diplomas are on the rise:
Getting a college diploma apparently no longer requires years of hard work, taking tests, paying tuition or even reading a book. Why bother going though the formalities when all a person needs is a credit card and a web browser in order to buy an authentic looking diploma that mimics real colleges, universities and even high schools across the U.S. Go to any search engine and run keywords such as “fake Diploma” and anyone can instantly “graduate” from nearly any school in America with a very handsome and authentic looking diploma suitable for hanging.
To recognize diploma mills and worthless degrees, Rosen suggests checking suspicious colleges and universities with the following websites:
- The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs from the U.S. Department of Education at http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/Search.aspx.
- The Database of Institutions and Programs Accredited by Recognized United States Accrediting Organizations from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) at http://www.chea.org/search/default.asp.
- Additional Education Verification links from the Resource Center at Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.esrcheck.com/services/resources.php.
Rosen has also written an article, ‘The Basics of Educational Verifications,’ to help employers better understand diploma mills. The article is available at http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/1090/the-basics-of-education-verifications.
Accredibase™, Verifile’s database of diploma mills, has identified approximately 5,000 suspect educational institutions and accreditors. In addition to the 2,615 confirmed diploma mills, more than 2,000 suspect institutions are currently under investigation.
About Employment Screening Resources (ESR): Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco Bay area with a mission to help employers and employees maintain safe workplaces, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. ESR is Accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) and is a Designated E-Verify Employer Agent helping U.S. businesses maintain legal workforces. For more information about Employment Screening Resources, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com or email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at tahearn@ESRcheck.com.