Recent Posts

diploma mills

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

A verification of educational credentials and achievements is an important part of the hiring process since it “tells an employer a great deal about an applicant’s ability, qualifications, and motivation,” according to a background check expert interviewed for an article posted on the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM®) website.

“The verification of educational credentials is an important part of an employer’s decision-making process in hiring,” said Attorney Lester Rosen, founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), a global background screening firm headquartered in the San Francisco Bay area, and author of The Safe Hiring Manual.

“Educational achievement tells an employer a great deal about an applicant’s ability, qualifications, and motivation. Many employers feel that educational qualifications are a critical factor in predicting success on the job,” said Rosen, who explained in the SHRM article that educational falsifications generally fall under one of three categories:

  • Outright fabrications such as making up degrees from schools the applicant never attended.
  • Reporting that a degree was earned from a school the applicant attended, though the applicant never completed the course work for the degree.
  • Reporting meaningless degrees of no value from nonaccredited schools, often referred to as “diploma mills.” “Diploma mills are generally defined as substandard or fraudulent colleges that offer potential students degrees with little or no serious work,” Rosen said. “Some are simple frauds, a mailbox to which people send money in exchange for paper that purports to be a college degree. Others require some nominal work from the student or a validation of life experience but do not require college-level course work that is normally required for a degree. The common denominator is that degree mills lack accreditation and therefore are not recognized as a legitimate provider of post-secondary education.”

Rosen also outlined in the SHRM article the four primary pieces of information needed to verify education history and qualifications: the school exists, the school is accredited by an approved accrediting body, the candidate attended the school during the time period claimed, and a degree was actually granted to the candidate as claimed.

The complete article entitled “Verify Degrees and Protect the Company from Resume Fraud” written by SHRM Online Manager/Editor Roy Maurer is available on the SHRM website at

Cases of educational verifications uncovering diploma mills can happen anywhere. As reported by ESR News in April 2017, a newly hired principal at a High School in Kansas resigned from her job after student journalists uncovered questionable credentials from an alleged “diploma mill” where people could purchase a degree, diploma, or certificates.

In February 2017, ESR News also reported that operators of two online “high schools” agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that they misled tens of thousands of consumers by falsely claiming to be accredited schools while actually being alleged diploma mills that sold worthless fake diplomas.

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

More Information about Educational Verifications from ESR

Attorney Lester Rosen, founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) and author of The Safe Hiring Manual, wrote an article about education verifications to explain how employers can avoid being tricked by a diploma mills. The article is available at

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

© 2017 Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – Making copies or using of any part of the ESR News Blog or ESR website for any purpose other than your own personal use is prohibited unless written authorization is first obtained from ESR.