Diploma Mills Thriving in California Due to Laid Back Oversight

Unaccredited schools are thriving in California with approximately 147 known “diploma mills,” more than any other U.S. state and a 10 percent increase from the past year, according to the Accredibase™ Report for 2011 from Verifile Limited. The report found the United States to be the most popular location for known diploma mills in the world with roughly 1,008 operating in the country, an increase of 20 percent over the past year.

A recent article from The Bay Citizen reports several examples of how diploma mills are used in California. In one example, a man who needed a graduate business degree to advance his career but could not afford a two-year M.B.A. program at an accredited business school enrolled at an unaccredited – but “state-approved” – school in California and received his M.B.A. over the Internet in just a year for less than $5,000.

The Bay Citizen article found “state approval” is only a license to operate and that while regular inspections or evaluations of educational quality are required under a state law, that law is rarely enforced. This laid back oversight has allowed unaccredited and questionably accredited colleges and schools to operate in the state. The Bay Citizen article is available at: http://www.baycitizen.org/education/story/california-leads-nation-unaccredited/.

To combat diploma mills in the United States, schools are generally accredited by private organizations that are recognized as legitimate accreditors by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) at http://www.chea.org/. The U.S. Department of Education has also created a website with a Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs at http://www.ope.ed.gov/accreditation/search.aspx.   

Diploma mills are a problem outside of the United States as well. The Accredibase™ Report for 2011 revealed a 48 percent increase worldwide in the number of known diploma mills – described in the report as “largely online entities whose degrees are worthless due to the lack of valid accreditation and recognition” – in the past year. North America and Europe were the most popular locations for diploma mills worldwide.

The Accredibase™ report also revealed that the largest increase overall was in the number of diploma mills operating from “unknown locations,” up 170 percent from the previous year’s total: “By hiding their location, bogus universities make it more difficult for law enforcers to take action against them. If they do publish a location, the online nature of their operation makes it easy to relocate at the first sign of trouble.”

Accredibase™, Verifile’s proprietary database of diploma mills, has identified approximately 5,000 suspect educational institutions. In addition to the 2,615 confirmed diploma mills, more than 2,000 suspect institutions are currently under investigation. The Accredibase™ Report for 2011 from Verifile Limited, a London-based background screening and verificaiton service, is available at: http://www.accredibase.com/upload/documents/accredibase_accredibasereport.pdf.

The rise in diploma mills means that education verifications where employers verify the academic achievements and certifications claimed by job applicants have taken on an important role in employment background checks. In the current economy, the number of diploma mills is likely to increase as desperate job applicants knowingly or unknowingly do business with companies that offer fake degrees and false credentials for a price.

For information about diploma mills, read ESR News blogs tagged ‘diploma mills’ at http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/tag/diploma-mills/. To learn more about background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority’ and background screening provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) at http://www.esrcheck.com/.


About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):
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