Clarifacts

Diploma Mills

Diploma Mills: A Growing Liability for Employers

Ah, the beginning of summer. A time when baseball season is in full swing, swimming pools open and, of course, graduation time – when 20-somethings to working adults who have spent the past several years studying so diligently finally reap the fruits of their labor. And then, conversely, there are those individuals that have purchased their degrees from a “diploma mill.”

As a human resource professional, if you are not familiar with that term, you ought to be. Why? Because the proliferation of these bogus degrees is increasingly penetrating the workplace and can have a significant impact on your company.

What is a “diploma mill”?

Simply put, diploma mills are substandard or fraudulent “colleges or universities” that offer students degrees with little or, oftentimes, no academic work. Some blatantly sell degrees and transcripts from known legitimate schools by forging authentic-looking documents. Others are clearly shams that will, for a fee, dispense degrees in a matter of days, or weeks, based on life experiences (read an amusing yet disturbing story about the pug with an MBA).

Many other diploma mills are less obvious. They may actually require an insignificant amount of effort from the student, such as submitting a paper or completing an assignment, but do not necessitate college-level course work that would otherwise be required to earn a valid degree.

The Impact on Employers

Many students who study online knowingly accept degrees from diploma mills, while others are lured into believing they are actually receiving a genuine degree of some sort. At some point, you may find yourself asking, “So was my applicant/employee duped or are they a fraud?” From the employer’s perspective, it doesn’t really matter – the effects are the same:

Woefully unqualified employees Like Apple states in its advertising “there’s an app for that,” in the world of diploma mills, “there’s a fake degree for that.” While humorous, the possible risk is anything but. No matter your industry, bogus degrees or credentialing means employees without the proper education or training can pose a risk to your company, your customers and the general public at large. Consider the healthcare worker whose lack of skills causes harm to a patient, or the incompetent accountant who creates huge tax liabilities, or the inept engineer who designs a piece of equipment that later fails. The scenarios are endless, but given that employers can be held liable for the actions of their employees, this type of carelessness can have serious implications such as a negligent hiring lawsuit or financial catastrophe.

Damage to reputation
Having an employee that possesses, and makes public, that they have a degree from one of these institutions is not only embarrassing, it can degrade your company’s reputation within your industry and your community. The number of people publicizing these degrees is hard to believe. What’s more unbelievable are the seemingly reputable companies for which these employees work or have worked. If you are intrigued enough, go on LinkedIn and conduct an advanced people search plugging in the name of a known diploma mill and see what you will find.

Wasted financial resources Educational achievement is commonly rewarded in the workplace. Many employers pay higher salaries to employees with advanced levels of education while others give greater consideration when deciding whom to promote. But what are you really paying for? If your decision is based on a degree from a diploma mill, the answer is nothing.

Do Your Homework (no pun intended)

Working with a knowledgeable employment screening company with proper procedures in place to combat this problem will generally prevent bogus degrees from falling through the cracks. If you choose to conduct education verifications yourself, understand the warning signs and utilize available resources. For example, when reviewing a resume or application form, any of the following should raise red flags:

When conducting the verification, these tips will help ensure the integrity of your screening process:

As the Internet continues to play a larger role in education with distance learning and online universities, diploma mills will continue to sprout up and with them, applicant and employees with phony degrees will continue to invade the workplace. Minimize the impact on your company by understanding how to spot them and keeping them out of your organization.

If you’d like to share your take on the subject, we would love to hear it. Contact us to let us know.

©2010 Clarifacts

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