Alleged Diploma Mill May Have Helped High School Football Team Cheat


Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

An independent investigation by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) and the Bellevue School District claims a Seattle-area high school football team used ineligible players, falsified addresses, and let players who could not qualify academically to play sports take classes at an alleged “diploma mill” with their tuition paid by boosters, according to a report from Courthouse News Service.

Courthouse News Service reports that investigative stories from The Seattle Times in 2015 found that 17 Bellevue High football players attended a private school named Academic Institute that some former teachers called a diploma mill. Students attending a private school with no football team can play for a public school football team in their home district under WIAA rules. Bellevue is Seattle’s largest suburb with a population of 125,000.

The WIAA investigation found that coaches allegedly told players to attend the so-called diploma mill using false addresses to gain eligibility, boosters paid for their tuition, and coaches coordinated tuition payments for players. Penalties for these alleged violations could include probation and/or forfeiture of the 11 state championships that Bellevue High has won since 2001, Courthouse News Service reports.

The diploma mill problem is worldwide. A 2011 report from Verifile Accredibase defined diploma mill providers as “mostly online entities that offer substandard or bogus degrees in exchange for payment and not much else.” These degrees are often only based on life experience and little work. The report also found that the United States held “the dubious title of most popular location for diploma mill providers.”

Diploma mill providers that sell worthless degrees without requiring academic achievement are very profitable and make an estimated $200 million annually, according to information from College Choice, an independent online publication dedicated to helping students find the right college. The warning signs of a diploma mill include cold calls, spam, no exams, and instant degrees for money.

To combat diploma mill growth in the United States, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) created a Database of Institutions and Programs Accredited by Recognized United States Accrediting Organizations. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) Office of Post-Secondary Education (OPE) also provides a Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

“A diploma mill creates a danger to employers since educational achievements tell a great deal about a job applicant’s ability, qualifications, and motivation,” explains Attorney Lester Rosen, founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) and author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual.’ Rosen also wrote an article about education verifications to explain how employers can avoid being tricked by a diploma mill.

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