The dangers of diploma mills
In April, Kansas High School principal Amy Robertson resigned after student journalists dug into the background of the private college where she obtained her master's and doctorate degrees.
The college, Corllins University, was uncovered by the students as a "diploma mill," defined as an unaccredited for-profit company that sells fake academic degrees and certificates. In light of Robertson's case, hiring managers must consider the myriad ways in which a bogus degree can have a negative impact on the workplace.
Not all diploma mills are the same: Some simply forge degrees and transcripts from accredited schools, while others dispense these papers based on a buyer's life or work experience. A 2009 case saw a pug dog named Chester "earn" an online MBA from a degree mill allegedly run by Axact, a Pakistani software company.
Though Chester's fake MBA is an extreme and perhaps amusing example of fraudulence, diploma mill degrees are almost always considered unacceptable by employers. No matter the job, candidates with phony credentialing pose a risk to your company and customers. Carelessness in such a hire could lead to a negligent hiring lawsuit or even pose a danger to the public if an unqualified worker is brought into a safety-related field. Diploma mill degrees are also illegal in some states.
Companies can protect themselves from risk by working with a knowledgeable employment screening company able to pick out discrepancies in a hire's education history. For instance, an applicant with missing degrees - such as a master's but no bachelor's - should raise the eyebrow of any inquisitive human resources professional.
During the verification process, check with the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to confirm a school's accreditation standing. Both sites have searchable databases that list accredited post-secondary institutions and programs.
Diploma mills will continue to be prevalent as long as the internet plays a role in education. A deep dive into a candidate's educational background will help keep counterfeit credentials out of your organization.
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