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How Prevalent are Bogus Degrees?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the a-BS-from-Phony-U dept.

Education 141

Paul Townend asks: "The BBC are reporting that a US government investigation has found that 28 top federal employees possess bogus college degrees (usually based on 'life experience'), and the phenomenon may be much bigger. Have Slashdot readers come across or worked with people with such degrees? Does it give them an advantage? What happens when they're discovered?"

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Shows (3, Insightful)

u-238 (515248) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131274)

how much the actual acedemic drudgery is truly necessary for doing the job that requires the degree.

Re:Shows (1, Insightful)

BoomerSooner (308737) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131327)

Bullshit, it shows they are liars and will probably be fired and sued for the overcompensation they received. If they were qualified without the "fake" degree why didn't they apply that way?

Because you get paid based on your experience and education. It's simple fraud.

GW isn't a good example of a Yale education either.

Re:Shows (5, Insightful)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131417)

If they were qualified without the "fake" degree why didn't they apply that way?

Because a lot of jobs require degrees for no reason.

I don't see how you can call it "overcompensation".

If they weren't doing the job they were hired to do, then they should have been fired for poor performance.

If they were doing the job well enough to command their compensation without getting fired, then that proves the degree is bullshit, by your own argument.

Re:Shows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9132115)

Please mod this up. Most salient point yet in this thread.

Re:Shows (4, Insightful)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 10 years ago | (#9132253)

There is a signficant school of thought that believes that degrees (or any certification for that matter) is a signal to potential employeers that you have the determination to achive something difficult and the training invested in you will not go to waste. The hypothsis is also used to explain why bank signs and facades are quite expensive to produce. Since a sign is emblazened with a company's name it will not carry much use if the bank were to go under. Since the management team was willing to spend so much on a sign, they are capitalized well enough to be around for a while and not go under with your deposits (this was pre FDIC insurance). I think this is the vast majority of the extra value of an prestigous degree (let's face it if you try you can learn plenty from any undergraduate institution). Almost anyone can be trained to do most jobs (engineering, medical, and a few other no mistake jobs excluded) competently. The important part is the expense undertaken by the employeer to train someone. The degree shows that you are willing to endure some discomfort and effort to achive a long term goal. As such they are very, very costly signals, but no one has found a better method of sorting people.

Re:Shows (2, Interesting)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 10 years ago | (#9133345)

There are plenty of methods of sorting people that work better, but they have mostly become illegal in the past 50 years. Race and background are still reasonably good indicators. IQ testing is a tremendous indicator of future job performance -- far better than degrees -- but the Supreme Court made IQ testing for employment illegal 35 years ago.

What you have to understand is that the "signal to potential employeers that you have the determination to achive something difficult" speech is code. What college degrees actually do is tell employers that the person holding the degree is more likely to come from such and such an economic background (hence the outsized importance of ivy league diplomas) and is more likely to be white, Jewish, or Asian. It also tells employers that the holder of the diploma is likely have an IQ above some threshold.

Re:Shows (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 10 years ago | (#9134148)

There are plenty of methods of sorting people that work better .... Race and background are still reasonably good indicators.

Social background? Yeah, there's some correlation there.
Race? Not if the applicants are first matched for education, experience, and/or background. The reason it's no longer a legal criterion is because there are far better indicators available than fading stereotypes... and oh yeah: using race as a hiring criterion is socially corrosive, and individually unfair.

Re:Shows (0, Flamebait)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 10 years ago | (#9134235)

Did black America suddenly turn around and get its shit together while I wasn't looking? But I agree with you on the socially corrosive and individually unfair part. Unfortunately economically effective follows them on the list.

Re:Shows (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 10 years ago | (#9134324)

Did black America suddenly turn around and get its shit together while I wasn't looking?

Yes. Welcome to the late 20th Century. Please keep moving, and you'll catch up with reality pretty soon.

Re:Shows (0)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 10 years ago | (#9134379)

Really? They no longer commit half of America's violent crime (despite making up 10% of the population), no longer have stratospheric rates of out-of-wedlock birth, and no longer represent an out-sized portion of the welfare role? Thanks for clueing me in on that. Amazing news. Where can I subscribe to your newsletter?

Re:Shows (3, Insightful)

AlecC (512609) | more than 10 years ago | (#9137792)

Did black America suddenly turn around and get its shit together while I wasn't looking?

Yes. A lot, but not all, did. Social background and education are much more informative than skin colour. If you factor these two terms in, you have already used all the information given by skin colour; if you add skin colour in, you are effectively double counting. And these other measures are more efficient: they allow you to drop white dropouts and bring in brilliant blacks.

It is true that if you had no other information at all, skin colour would have some predictive value. But if you have the information available on any normal resume, skin colour tells you nothing more than you know already.

Statistics for black people only tell you an average for about 20 million people, exactly one of whome you are interviewing at this moment. They are about as useful as statistics for the 20 million people in the same height band.

Re:Shows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9138362)

Sure, you can find some statistical correlations between race and job performance, but those correlations are all based on sociological factors, not on race itself. By the same token, you can find a strong (approaching 1) statistical correlation between "argues that race is a good predictor of job performance" and "is an apologist for racism". Just so you know why nobody likes you.

Re:Shows (1)

Frizzle Fry (149026) | more than 10 years ago | (#9132666)

If they were doing the job well enough to command their compensation without getting fired, then that proves the degree is bullshit, by your own argument

If you really believe that they aren't overcompensated, then feel free to start your own company and hire these people at slightly less than the salaries they were previously getting. "By your own argument", if they weren't overcompensated before, you'll be getting a real bargain now and will be able to outcompete the companies that care about college degrees.

Re:Shows (2, Funny)

spectral (158121) | more than 10 years ago | (#9133307)

If they're NOT overcompensated, they're either compensated properly or undercompensated. Thus his new company won't work, because he's paying them less than they deserve. You seem to not understand what he's saying:

If they do the job good enough for what they're being paid for, even though they don't have a degree, then what's the problem.

if they're being paid more than their competence should allow, then the company is stupid for paying them that much.

Re:Shows (1)

Frizzle Fry (149026) | more than 10 years ago | (#9133435)

I understand what he is saying just fine. And if he were right that companies who care about degrees are doing a poor job of measuring competence then companies that don't would be able to outperform them. And that's not what happens. That's the only point I was trying to make.

It's all irrelevant anyway because even if they were as competent as the company thought when they hired them and set their salaries (unlikely), they are still liars and the kind of people who lie about something like this are probably not people you want working for you, even if they have technical skill.

Re:Shows (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 10 years ago | (#9134377)

And if he were right that companies who care about degrees are doing a poor job of measuring competence then companies that don't would be able to outperform them. And that's not what happens. That's the only point I was trying to make.

That argument is bogus, because of the perception of value in the degree.

Those with skills will be more likely to get a degree to ensure they can get a job fitting their skills, whether they wanted to get a degree or not.

Yes, this means the a lot of the most skilled people will have a degree, but the degree itself had nothing to do with it.

It's a sort of catch-22. The skilled get the degree because the employers think it is important. The employers won't drop the degree requirement because they get in general, more skilled people with it.

The only way I see to break this vicious cycle of unnecessary waste is when a degree becomes such a common thing that "everyone has one". Once it hits that level, it will cease to become perceived as a valuable thing, and finally break this cycle of stupidity.

Re:Shows (1)

Frizzle Fry (149026) | more than 10 years ago | (#9134861)

You call my argument "bogus", but then you don't say anything that disagrees with me. You are primarily saying that "a lot of the most skilled people will have a degree, but the degree itself had nothing to do with it." I agree with this. But I don't see where the problem is. The fact that you've gotten the degree shows that you can work hard and achieve goals and will likely be a good employee. The act of getting the degree serves as a sort of test to show employers that you are competent. Why is this bad? This seems to me to be a good system and is working quite well. The alternative is to hire people essentially at random and then fire them if it turns out that they are incompetent. But figuring this out can take a while, as you need to give them time to learn the job. The current system is more efficient for everyone.

Re:Shows (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 10 years ago | (#9135101)

You aren't understanding anything I'm saying, are you?

It's not a sort of test at all. It's something that pretty much anyone with two brain cells to rub together can get. It's bad because it isn't a valid test of anything.

Skilled people get it because they think they have to, due to the perceptions of employers. Employers require it because they think it indicates some skill.

Do you need me to draw you a Venn diagram?

Re:Shows (1)

Frizzle Fry (149026) | more than 10 years ago | (#9135520)

Skilled people get it because they think they have to, due to the perceptions of employers. Employers require it because they think it indicates some skill.

This is true, except that they are both right. It really does affect the perception of the employer, and it really does indicate skill. So, again, what's the problem? Obviously, going to a crappy school isn't going to require much skill, but guess what? That's why degrees from those schools aren't as helpful for getting good jobs or high salaries.

In Corporatist America (4, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131543)

Bullshit, it shows they are liars and will probably be fired and sued for the overcompensation they received.

In Corporatist America, being a liar means that you're better qualified to be a C-level executive.

Re:Shows (2, Insightful)

kabocox (199019) | more than 10 years ago | (#9132242)

Bullshit, it shows they are liars and will probably be fired and sued for the overcompensation they received. If they were qualified without the "fake" degree why didn't they apply that way?

You must be new to the US. The way things work are HR writes an impossible requirements page. Recent grads. with no work but lots of classroom experience, put as many buzz words in and get their resume padded that way. People that have been working for 10 years, but don't have anything other than a HS diploma if that just put down what they've done. Here is news for you: HS drop outs can make alot more money than PhD folks. On average they don't, but they can if they have the drive and skills. PhD folks rarely make good employees. They've just spent way too much time in school getting "educated" to be useful to society in anything but a research setting. HS drop outs are usually of no better use to society than janitors and min. wage employees. I'll let you in on a secret. There are people that have made millions without a degree of either HS or College.

Re:Shows (2, Insightful)

cmowire (254489) | more than 10 years ago | (#9132464)

See, there's a difference between "padding your resume with keywords" and a fake degree. One's trying to defeat the keyword filter in an HR system, the other is outright lying.

The problem with your opinion is that there are some folks who didn't graduate from HS, College, or both who have made millions. Bill Gates is one of them. But, on the average, a dropout isn't going to make as much money as somebody who got the BS. But that doesn't mean that the other 99.9% of folks who didn't "finish their education" are particularly brilliant.

By drawing a sharp line between a PhD and a grade school education, you are confusing the issue. Most businesses don't care about a PhD, they generally care about folks with a bachleurs or a masters and that's about it.

Re:Shows (2, Interesting)

kabocox (199019) | more than 10 years ago | (#9132726)

But, on the average, a dropout isn't going to make as much money as somebody who got the BS. But that doesn't mean that the other 99.9% of folks who didn't "finish their education" are particularly brilliant.

My thing is that I graduated with a BS from an state university. Both my brothers barely made it out of HS. Both my brothers make more than me. I know it averages and odd data points. I just hate seeing my brothers do better than me money wise when I was always ahead of them in grades in school.

Life teaches you that school doesn't matter. Work doesn't matter other than the money you earn. What really matters is that you are somewhat happy doing what you do. If the money is a limiting factor for you, because you don't make much, find a job that you can earn more at. (You may not like it as much though.)

Actually, both my brothers are slightly happier than I am. Ok. I have a wife and they don't so I am unhappy far more often than they are.

Re:Shows (4, Insightful)

cmowire (254489) | more than 10 years ago | (#9133062)

Don't know what your experience is, but life showed me that you can't quantify people.

I've seen folks with a BS or even an MS from great schools who couldn't code their way out of a box. I've seen bright folks who had such obnoxious personalities that nobody wants to work with them. I've seen folks with a PhD in random off-the-wall fields with no "useful" degrees who can both code well and manage people. I've seen grads from great schools with no common sense. I've seen folks who didn't graduate and got a plum job and then had problem years down the road when they were trying to find a new job and the market wasn't the same as before so they couldn't. I've torn apart folks in an interview because they didn't know anything about the words they stuffed in their resume. I've seen excellent artists getting in trouble in art schools because they didn't stretch their own canvas or used computers or such things.

There could be a variety of reasons why your brothers are doing better than you are other than education.

Re:Shows (1)

uncoveror (570620) | more than 10 years ago | (#9133952)

As long as a piece of paper is among the hoops we have to jump through in life, buying that peice of paper from a diploma mill is going to be common. If someone is doing their job well, then where they got their paper credentials should not matter.

Re:Shows (1)

Froggie (1154) | more than 10 years ago | (#9137341)

And as long as people are too stupid tell the difference between any piece of paper and the paper they're actually looking for, then they deserve the underqualified staff they'll inevitably employ.

Does an Economics degree count? (3, Interesting)

Simonetta (207550) | more than 10 years ago | (#9134953)

I sometimes wonder about the validity of my 'academic' degree in Economics (as opposed to my trade degree in Electronics).

Most US universities actually offer two Econ degrees: one in the liberal arts college and one in the business college. Generally the arts degree requires upper level language and literature study for a B.A. while the business college requires upper level marketing and accounting classes for a B.S.

Depending on the university, it is possible to get an Econ degree without writing a single paper in four years. Econ classes (at least the ones that I took) never required undergrads to write papers. For my upper-level arts classes, I ran the university film committee for three semesters. Got college credit and got paid for doing the projection work.

Generally Econ classes are not difficult if you accept the fact that what you're studying has little grounding in reality. For example, we were taught that high unemployment and high inflation would not happen at the same time, but that was exactly what was happening in the late 1970's when the deficits incurred as a result of losing the Vietnam War and the OPEC oil shocks were working their way through the economy after a few years delay. (Don't look now, but something similar will likely happen again in about five years).

Anyway, the classes were full of contradictory material, there were no papers due, and no seriously difficult material to master. So is an Economics degree bogus even when it's legit?

I might add that there is absolutely nothing that you can do with an Econ degree. If you are not making more money from student aid, Pell Grants, scholarships, and subsidized student services than you are paying for tution and opportunity cost of hanging out in Econ classes, then chose another major.

Nope (1)

Excen (686416) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131294)


I work at McDonalds, you insensitive clod!!!

Re:Nope (2, Funny)

metamatic (202216) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131495)

Actually, McDonalds have a "University of Hamburgerology" in Oak Brook IL, and it does issue degree certificates.

Not sure if they count as "bogus", though, and they're probably worth more than an MCSE.

Re:Nope (1)

toganet (176363) | more than 10 years ago | (#9137613)

It's called "Hamburger University".

equivalence systems (3, Insightful)

perlchild (582235) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131312)

Lots of universities have some kind of system to accreditate "life experience" when relevant, to pre-graduate students. There are also lots of "honorary" doctorates going around. But do degrees as job requirements fulfill their basic tenet: "Only let someone competent do a job?"

Even with a real degree, I'd certainly have doubts.

Re:equivalence systems (3, Insightful)

foidulus (743482) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131677)

Supposedly a degree shows a willingness to challenge oneself and the ability to expand ones mental horizons. Though with the number of "diploma mills" in the US(and elsewhere) parading around as accredited schools, I doubt that is true anymore.
An education isn't supposed to be a job training program, it's supposed to help you develop the skills needed to tackle any problem. This usually means doing more experimentation and research and less belching up whatever you crammed in last night on a test. Knowing where to look up obscure details is more important than memorizing them(because you will probably forget them anyway) However, that seems to no longer be the case in America's schools, and it is indeed sad.
Sayonara creative problem solving!

Re:equivalence systems (4, Insightful)

kabocox (199019) | more than 10 years ago | (#9132073)

I don't want a doctor that only knows how to expand his mental horizons and creatively problem solve. I want a doctor that can tell me what is wrong and if he determines that there is nothing wrong with me won't just give me drugs to make me happy and go away (otherwise known as creative problem solving.)

I don't want emergency personnel that have to look up things in the big book what is wrong with me and how to treat it. It may take them 10-15 min. to look it up, but I want them acting on me to save my life in that 10-15 mins not looking up information that they should know!

Re:equivalence systems (2, Insightful)

V_M_Smith (186361) | more than 10 years ago | (#9132235)

I don't want a doctor that only knows how to expand his mental horizons and creatively problem solve. I want a doctor that can tell me what is wrong and if he determines that there is nothing wrong with me won't just give me drugs to make me happy and go away (otherwise known as creative problem solving.)

This is an entirely different situation. Medicine is considered a "professional school" (much like law, dentistry, etc.) in which the point is to learn the skills and background needed to do the job and not an academic pursuit like philosophy, history, mathematics or physics.

Re:equivalence systems (3, Insightful)

be951 (772934) | more than 10 years ago | (#9132317)

Apples and oranges. A masters bears little resemblance to an M.D. or nursing degree or even EMT certification. What is the point of comparing the vast majority of professions that can be successfully executed with OJT and minimal other training, with a select few that require highly specific training that can mean the difference between life and death? Besides, nearly all health care providers must be licensed in addition to their educational pedigree.

Re:equivalence systems (2, Insightful)

override11 (516715) | more than 10 years ago | (#9132175)

But above all, the main thing a degree shows is that someone had the time and the money to go through and get the degree. I am 25 years old, and have been working at this current job for 3 years as a network admin, and the past year more and more as a coldfusion coder. Prior to that, I did sysadmin work hourly for local business that couldnt afford a full time IT person. Would you rather hire someone fresh out of school, or someone with 6 years on the job experience that is still young enough to be somewhat cheap? =)

Re:equivalence systems (1)

kevin lyda (4803) | more than 10 years ago | (#9137206)

given that choice, i'd hire someone fresh out of school.

Re:equivalence systems (1)

cmowire (254489) | more than 10 years ago | (#9132439)

An accredited degree, in theory, has somebody checking up on them to make sure that the life experience is really valid if it's used. Generally most accredited schools will still make you pass tests to make sure that you know the stuff. Otherwise, they lose accreditation and nobody takes them seriously.

Honarary degrees are similarly interesting. It's usually a given that they require a lot of approval from the various professors, who are snooty enough to not give a degree to just anybody. And also, if a school gives out too many dumb honorary degrees, nobody takes them seriously.

So there's generally some sort of checks to make sure that this doesn't get majorly out of hand.

Re:equivalence systems (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 10 years ago | (#9133733)

Completely agree. Most of the people I meet who have degrees can barely carry on a conversation, much less be an effective employee. Just because you are capable of showing up on time doesn't mean you've learned anything. University curriculum is a joke for the majority of the departments and doesn't get even remotely rigorous until you've entered a graduate program. At least that is what my graduate degree and post doc friends tell me...

I don't even have an associate's degree, seemed like a big waste of time for the career I'm in and truthfully it would have been... though a master's in communication would eventually help me, after 10 years of ladder climbing, who knows if what I learned then would even be relevant though?

Re:equivalence systems (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 10 years ago | (#9134250)

University curriculum is a joke for the majority of the departments and doesn't get even remotely rigorous until you've entered a graduate program. At least that is what my graduate degree and post doc friends tell me...

Have you considered the obvious bias they have? I've been through two completely different undergrad programs (I'm a bachelor twice over) and I found plenty of rigor in both of them.

I don't even have an associate's degree, seemed like a big waste of time for the career I'm in and truthfully it would have been

That could very well be true. Not every job requires the same kind of education.

Re:equivalence systems (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 10 years ago | (#9136285)

Hmmm they may have a bias but there are a lot of them. I tend to agree with them but then again they are my friends and I most likely share the bias. To further explain my point:

Undergrad program curriculum seem to look a lot like a checklist and not a very deep one at that. I always thought that checklists were for Trade Schools, not Universities. So when did University curriculum switch to trade preparation? Are the jobs available so specialized now that even the Undergrads need such single-minded exam passing methods? I always thought you were there to learn how to learn, to receive the tools you would need to further your own education. Seems to me that what gets churned out are a lot of dead ends instead of a lot of open minds.

Re:equivalence systems (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 10 years ago | (#9137960)

Some colleges tend to focus a lot on job preparation, others focus on exposing students to a lot of different things. They pretty much all use checklists, because "take whatever you feel like taking" (especially in the hands of teenagers) is a recipe for a lot of wasted time and money.

My first bach degree, for example, was based on a checklist that required me to take classes in literature, economics, a foreign language, math, history, psychology, theatre, music, physics, philosophy, phys ed, and religion... as well as the comp sci program that was my major. And the comp sci classes, while they covered nuts-and-bolts topics, all stressed general problem-solving principles. e.g. I don't remember much about Pascal in particular from Intro to Programming, but I learned a lot about concepts like modularity, optimisation, recursion, etc.

My second bach degree was in digital media, but I had to take classes in life drawing, painting, sculpture, color theory, a bunch of art history, 30 credits from the humanities and sciences, and my choice of electives from other departments... again, using a checklist to ensure that my education included both breadth and depth.

Are there by-the-numbers undergrad programs that are little more than glorified trade schools? Sure. In some cases that's because they're trade schools whose programs have "grown up" to become four-year colleges. In others it's becase they're simply not very good colleges. But those same colleges' grad programs are probably just as uninspired and uninspiring. Elsewhere there are undergrad programs where the grapes simply aren't that sour.

Re:equivalence systems (1)

whorfin (686885) | more than 10 years ago | (#9136498)

University curriculum is a joke for the majority of the departments and doesn't get even remotely rigorous until you've entered a graduate program.

My personal experience is that after finishing my undergrad degree at a not-too-highly-respected public university, I then applied and got accepted into graduate school at a 'prestigous' private university. I quit after one semester because I found that the material we were covering was farly obviously remedial (even using the same books I'd used in lower-level undergrad classes), yet over half the students in each class were getting flushed because it was 'too hard'.

So perhaps some undergrad programs are weak, and the result is that even the graduate programs that cater to those weak graduates are as well. Trouble is...how do you tell which is which?

Does it give them an advantage? (-1, Troll)

Elwood P Dowd (16933) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131322)

Does it give them an advantage?

It probably gives them an advantage in applying to federal jobs that require a college degree for no good reason. Dumbass.

What do you expect? (-1, Flamebait)

ka9dgx (72702) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131379)

Does it really matter when you have a functionally iliterate President with a Harvard MBA? It's just cheaper to lie about it, rather than to count on Daddy's influence.

I might as well tell people I have a PhD in Thermonuclear Urban Renewal from the U of C in this climate.

--Mike--

Re:What do you expect? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9131493)

Dude, I'm not one for spelling flames but there are certain words you always need to spell correctly -- for example, when you're calling someone an "iliterate".

Re:What do you expect? (2, Funny)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131589)

Thermonuclear Urban Renewal

I assume you studied under Edward Teller [dhushara.com] ?

Can a post be both flamebait AND troll? (-1, Troll)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131857)

Because if it can, you've pulled it off.

"Does it really matter when you have a functionally iliterate President with a Harvard MBA?"

What an absolute crock of shit. Bush may not be a genius by any means, and he's not particularly elegant, but saying the guy can't read? Where did you get this bit of insight? Any President, whether he likes it or not, has a lot to read, mostly intelligence summaries. Bush reads the Bible most nights, and plenty of smart, accomplished people aren't particularly elegant. St. Augustine was called "The Ox" by his fellow seminary students, because he was big and quiet, and when he did speak, it didn't set the world on fire. Again, I'm not saying Bush is the sharpest tack on the board, but your little cutdown would almost be at home on an elementary school playground.

Re:Can a post be both flamebait AND troll? (0, Flamebait)

danbeck (5706) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131961)

Geez, talk about opening yourself up to flames of hell here at slashdot. You just confirmed their hatred with that Bible remark. Not only is he st00pid, but now he's a Bible reading hayseed.

Re:What do you expect? (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131957)

I might as well tell people I have a PhD in Thermonuclear Urban Renewal from the U of C in this climate.

Ah, the Harry S. Truman Scholarship I suppose?

Call me Dr. $99 (4, Interesting)

Conesus (148179) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131426)

That's right. You can actually buy a doctorate for only $99 smackers. Amazing, isn't it? To think, that a non-accredited "university" would dish out meaningless degrees.

Of course, forget about those 'honorary' degrees, or non-accredited but soon-to-be universities such as the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering [olin.edu] .

This story runs into a pet peeve of mine. When people are caught with fake degrees, their employers usually say "Oh, it's okay, we didn't hire him for his education anyway. Just his experience and background." My reply is, did you hire him for his integrity and honesty? Cause you sure didn't get what you paid for. And it's not the foreigners doing it. It's American citizens.

Conesus

Re:Call me Dr. $99 (2, Interesting)

LinuxWeenie (614599) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131720)

I work for a defense contractor and we check up on all degrees. I have worked for this company for almost 10 years and yes there has been more than one time that a newly hired person was sent packing for having "faked" his/her degree. We can't afford it in our business - and believe it or not the government checks up on the degrees and their accreditability in some of our contracts.

Re:Call me Dr. $99 (4, Interesting)

NearlyHeadless (110901) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131851)

There's an interesting presentation (8 MB PDF) from George Gollin [uiuc.edu] , who researched (mostly on the Internet) these diploma mills. There are a few players who operate under a lot of different names. It's 123 pages, but basically a slide show, so it goes really fast.

Re:Call me Dr. $99 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9132582)

Read through the entire presentation and they will send you a Degree.

Re:Call me Dr. $99 (1)

sfjoe (470510) | more than 10 years ago | (#9132661)

When people are caught with fake degrees, their employers usually say "Oh, it's okay, we didn't hire him for his education anyway. Just his experience and background.

I have had an exact opposite experience. I once had an interviewer actually ask me if my degree was from a real school or if it was a diploma-by-mail degree. Now, my school may not be widely known but it is fairly highly respected.
I did get even, though. About a year later, my current employer asked me to evaluate several products. One of which was the company that the asshole worked at. Needless to say, they didn't stand a chance in hell of landing our business.

Re:Call me Dr. $99 (1)

yuri benjamin (222127) | more than 10 years ago | (#9135668)

Now, my school may not be widely known but it is fairly highly respected.

How can someone be expected to respect a school they don't know. I don't think the interviewer was trying to be an asshole - he was probably just being thorough. Don't take these sorts of questions personally.

About a year later, my current employer asked me to evaluate several products. One of which was the company that the asshole worked at. Needless to say, they didn't stand a chance in hell of landing our business.

I sure hope for your current employer's sake the the vendor you chose had a superior product to the one you rejected for personal reasons.

I'm unimpressed (2, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131451)

I'd be curious to see this report -- who are these "28 top federal employees"? From that description, I'd expect people one or two notches below Cabinet level jobs, not "including nuclear monitors". If they found a total of 28 white collar workers in the entire US government with sketchy degrees. I'd say the practice isn't too prevalent.

In any case, if you have a degree from something like that "Capella University" that advertises in banner ads here, it's not like you're reaping huge benefits from it. The biggest is probably in union jobs or whatever where a degree automatically gets you a higher pay scale.

Re:I'm unimpressed (4, Informative)

michaelggreer (612022) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131594)

From the CBS story [cbsnews.com] :

"Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles Abell has a master's from Columbus University, a diploma mill Louisiana shut down. Deputy Assistant Secretary Patricia Walker lists among her degrees, a bachelor's from Pacific Western, a diploma mill banned in Oregon and under investigation in Hawaii"

These two, at least, are indeed just below cabinet level

Not exactly an administration official... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9132456)

But John Gray of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus fame bought his PhD at Pacific Columbia University. She he also so sells easy answers and bullshit in equal helpings, but that "authority" gets him in the door to make his pitch.

Re:I'm unimpressed (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 10 years ago | (#9132775)

Ahh, thanks! Yes, that's much more in line with "top federal employees" than the way the BBC made it sound.

And, as the AC points out -- Pacific Western is one of John Gray's alma maters, along with some University of Transcendental Meditation in Europe.

Re:I'm unimpressed (3, Informative)

RyanGWU82 (19872) | more than 10 years ago | (#9132977)

Mr. Abell is not "Assistant Secretary of Defense" as the article claims. His actual title is Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness [defenselink.mil] which puts him three levels below Rumsfeld.

Likewise, Ms. Walker's actual title is Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Material and Facilities) [dod.gov] (PDF), but even that's misleading because it's only for Reserve Affairs. In other words, she's 4-5 levels below Rumsfeld, as this PDF indicates.

In the big scheme of the federal government, those people are high, but not unreasonably so. There are thousands of employees at their level.

It's strange that they're in the Department of Defense, though. You'd think that a significant security clearance would be required for that kind of job. On the other hand, having a worthless master's degree wouldn't necessarily disqualify them from the job.

Ryan

Re:I'm unimpressed (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9133468)

In any case, if you have a degree from something like that "Capella University" that advertises in banner ads here, it's not like you're reaping huge benefits from it. The biggest is probably in union jobs or whatever where a degree automatically gets you a higher pay scale.


Actually, that's incorrect. Of all the students at Capella, the majority are working on their PhD's, second largest group are working on their Majors, then Bachelors, then Undergraduate work.

I don't know about you - but I don't know of an carpenters with a Doctorate, do you? Just because it's not a brick and mortar university, doesn't mean it's a diploma mill by any means.

Full Disclosure: I work for Capella

Re:I'm unimpressed (1)

gerbilfood (779260) | more than 10 years ago | (#9133480)

I would look closer at sites like Capella. One of the biggest reasons you do not see higher ed advertising more often is because of regionalized marketing. Would a /.'er from Alaska reap the benefits from banner ads from Penn State? Prolly not. Capella, Phoenix, and the like have a national, if not international, base of potential students. I totally dig that they advertise. Being myself interested in adult education, I have looked into Capella. I found them to be strong educators... defnitely the real deal. Plus, where else can you go to class at 2am? I have found out as well that Capella is an accredited university. That is huge.

Classify Bogus degree (3, Insightful)

MerlynEmrys67 (583469) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131467)

Shouldn't be a problem if they say they have a degree from Ajax school of blundering idiots, and indeed they do have that degree from Ajax.

I would be much more concerned with individuals in government that claim to have degrees from the University of Texas (graduating with honors) when in fact they flunked out after their freshman year. ( I know this one happened when said in-duh-vidual came to speak at a commencement at my college and ended up getting exposed ).

The problem as I see it is that a lot of "automatic" extra money comes along with saying I have an additional degree - there needs to be limits on this "automatic" money, to include things like "from an accredited source". The government is just a bunch of idiots if they accept degrees from non-accredited sources

Let me re-phrase (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9131485)

Let me re-phrase your question:

Am I a huge smelly nerd?

The answer is "yes".

An excoworker had one (3, Funny)

SoCalChris (573049) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131529)

About a year ago, we found a bunch of an old coworker's newsgroup postings.

One of them was looking to buy a forged degree from the California State University system. The posting was from a few months before he got the job with us, and of course, when he applied he said he had a degree from Cal State Long Beach.

All of the others postings of his were personal ads of him looking for someone to kidnap and anally torture him, or for someone to dress up like a super hero in spandex with him. The day we found all of those was the day I laughed the hardest I ever have in my life.

The guy wasn't well liked to begin with, but all of his old newsgroup postings made it so we couldn't even look at the guy without laughing.

Re:An excoworker had one (1)

raider_red (156642) | more than 10 years ago | (#9132906)

So basically what you're implying is that everyone with a fake degree is probably also a dirty sex-pervert. At least he was good for some entertainment at the end of his career.

Re:An excoworker had one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9133567)

No, he's not implying that. Apply some logic to your thinking before you post next time.

(Hint: one != all)

Re:An excoworker had one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9134009)

My my... a little defensive aren't we? I'm sure your diploma is completely legit. Just make sure to be careful where you post your gay sex want ads :)

Re:An excoworker had one (1)

UnrefinedLayman (185512) | more than 10 years ago | (#9133619)

Well... what happened with the coworker?

Re:An excoworker had one (1)

SoCalChris (573049) | more than 10 years ago | (#9136270)

He's still there. The company is afraid of firing him. They think he would sue them for discrimination if they fire him, and basically claim he was fired because of the personals he had placed.

Luckily, I got out of that company a few weeks after the posts were found. I'm at a much better job now. I've still got friends at the company though.

YES. (3, Interesting)

Neck_of_the_Woods (305788) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131558)

Not only did the guy have a bogus degree. He claimed to have a MCSE, CCNA, and RHCE. Retired from the Military with 8 years in as well as 8+ years of Solaris, +2 linux, +4 SQL/MySQL. Turns out when I asked him what to expect from "ps-e | grep sendmail" on our solaris box he kind of just blinked and said "I did more coding on it than anything".

Turns out he has +3 years of C. Which he can't code in, no solaris exp, no linux exp, no SQL exp, and did not know how to put together a computer from scratch. Let alone, no Certs at all and a bogus degree.

The kicker? They hired him, then found all this out. Did they fire him? Nope cut his pay in 1/2 and put him in customer service.....I am amazed to this day.

The justification quote "We could get him for 1/2 of what we pay you."

Classic, just classic.

Re:YES. (3, Funny)

kabocox (199019) | more than 10 years ago | (#9132120)

I have 3 questions for you. Where did you work, how much was half what you are paid, and are those managers still there?

Re:YES. (1)

/dev/trash (182850) | more than 10 years ago | (#9135752)

This explains why my calls to customer support are answered by idiots.

Read "Art of Deception" by Mitnick (2, Interesting)

foidulus (743482) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131600)

He writes a story "fake" degrees in the Michael Parker story(though the degree is real, but the person in question didn't earn it, but used it to get a job anyway)
Offtopic, but interesting.

Re:Read "Art of Deception" by Mitnick (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9133549)

That was just noise.

I guess your degree wasn't English, so you're only qualified to edit /.

There are a lot of "fraulleges" out there.. (3, Informative)

RainbearNJ (198510) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131644)

But then there are at least a few that do help you do things like CLEP out of classes based on life experience. And they are acredited, like the Thomas Edison State College [tesc.edu] in New Jersey.

Then again, they're not a "Send us $99 and we'll give you an MBA" type of school, either.

Yeah, TESC is good. (1)

dbirchall (191839) | more than 10 years ago | (#9136474)

Thomas Edison State College is part of New Jersey's state college/university system, and it's all legit and accredited and all that stuff.

An aunt [osint.org] of mine got a degree (not sure whether it was a bachelor's or a master's) there after a fair amount of work experience. I don't think there's any doubt in anyone's mind (including the state AG she works for) that she's qualified to do the job(s) she does - criminal analysis, anti-fraud, anti-terror, you name it. Honestly, she'd probably be qualified based on experience alone, degree or no.

TESC is probably the first place I'd ever consider getting a degree, since I've got ~15 years work experience and really do not like the idea of taking 2 years of "core courses" that I probably know enough to be teaching by now. :)

Bogus Resumes (1)

jmpoast (736629) | more than 10 years ago | (#9131670)

I don't know anyone personally who have claimed bogus degrees, but several people I work with flat out made up stuff on their resume. Claiming they know languages they couldn't program in if their life depended on it. Unfortunately the boss either hasn't noticed or is too scared to do something about it.

Re:Bogus Resumes (3, Interesting)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 10 years ago | (#9132024)

I've seen people with real CS degrees who one year out of college couldn't code more than 5 lines in their favorite language. They're most likely to become managers, which ironically pays more than if they had to program.

Re:Bogus Resumes (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 10 years ago | (#9133294)

Claiming they know languages they couldn't program in if their life depended on it.

At my college, this was fairly common practice. Then again, the software engineering program was rigourous enough, and covered 26 different compilers, that anybody actually *graduating* with a BSET could pick up any computer language in a weekend well enough to debug and in a week well enough to write a text editor.

Picking up languages after you've scheduled the interview isn't that hard.

Why not ask Derek Smart? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9131934)

Ask Dr. Derek Smart, PHD, Esq. He's on expert on bogus dimplomas.

Re:Why not ask Derek Smart? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9132050)

Wow, I spel gud. Just imagine that I proof-read the posting before brainlessly mashing down the Submit-button.

G.R@DU4TE N0W (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9132276)

G.R@DU4TE N0W And Earn The Degree You Deserve. New Future with Increased Money Earning Power. No Testing or Coursework Required. Your Accomplishments CAN Be Recognized

Seriously though, I wonder how many of these people got their fake degrees by responding to spam e-mails? That, more than the absence of a real degree, definitely proves that they're not suitable for a top Government job.

Re:G.R@DU4TE N0W (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 10 years ago | (#9133331)

As opposed to a shrub who needed daddy's contacts to get a Harvard MBA and get elected to a top Government job with only a 2.0 GPA?

Sound-alikes schools (2, Informative)

breon.halling (235909) | more than 10 years ago | (#9132328)

Let's not forget degrees form sound-alike schools; such as MIT -- the Miami Institute of Technology.

And yes, such a place actually exists. I think it's above a convenience store.

Re:Sound-alikes schools (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9137000)

I'm not from the US so I'm curious as to what your sig means.

You'd be surprised if I told you where in the UK.. (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9132573)

...you can get a bogus degree. The University of Cambridge. After you get a BA you wait a few years (that's the 'life experience' bit) and you can then buy an MA. I keep meaning to send them my money to upgrade my BA.

Re:You'd be surprised if I told you where in the U (2, Interesting)

cperciva (102828) | more than 10 years ago | (#9133836)

The University of Cambridge. After you get a BA you wait a few years (that's the 'life experience' bit) and you can then buy an MA.

While you're right that they hand out bogus degrees, the MA isn't the bogus one. The BA is bogus.

When you enter Oxford or Cambridge as an undergraduate, you're studying for the degree of MA. The MA is a seven-year course, just as it has been for the past eight hundred years.

After three years, you've finished your lectures, and you get a certificate saying that. This certificate is called a BA. It's not a degree, and it doesn't give you any of the privileges of having a degree (eg, being allowed to mark exams); it's just an affirmation that you've studied for three years and passed some exams.

Re:You'd be surprised if I told you where in the U (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9133866)

Damn! Now I really do have to hand over my money to get an MA. Thanks for the info.

Re:You'd be surprised if I told you where in the U (2, Interesting)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9133887)

More info [iankitching.me.uk]

Re:You'd be surprised if I told you where in the U (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9138182)

You do work for the degree though- Im a cambridge undergrad right now, and I doubt it is possible for them to make the course any harder

Re:You'd be surprised if I told you where in the U (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9137852)

I've managed to get three degrees by similar means. I took a BA at Cambridge, then moved to Oxford. Oxford theoretically doesn't recognise degrees from other universities, but awards a BA to graduates of Cambridge or Trinity College, Dublin, in order that they not be in statu pupillari, i.e. of the status of an undergraduate (which mainly has implications for how far out from the Carfax one can live). Then I collected the MA from Cambridge, having remained solvent and free of criminal convictions for the required time, and a DPhil (i.e. a doctorate) from Oxford. Finally I went to Imperial and collected an MBA for which I had worked, and DIC (Diploma of Imperial College) for which I had not.


In all, six degrees after working for three - not really a problem as such, just funny.

Bogus Degrees... My Experience (4, Interesting)

MrIcee (550834) | more than 10 years ago | (#9132988)

Way back when, in junior high school (and I'm currently 46 - so Wayyyyyy back when) - my math teacher, a jovial, portly, good natured woman, always had us do assignments that were strangly non-math related.

Among the projects were memorial things like sticking colored beads to styrofoam spheres with pins (very attractive), drawing, and other things that struck me more as being "arts and craft" than math.

About two years after I was out of junior high, she was arrested on the basis that her teaching degrees were completely fictious. She was sent to jail for a few years.

The irony was, that after she got out of jail the city hired her as an accountant. Go figure. And I suck at math and blame it on her (but you should see my beaded styrofoam sphere collection :).

Degrees (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9133184)

I think it's a bit of a shame that so many jobs have degrees as a requirement. I dropped out of university and have never looked back and know plenty of people without degrees who are way more capable and higher quality than many who did complete university. Seems to me that every job requires a degree partly because so many people have them. University has become almost a baby-sitting process for a lot of people: a time to drink and party. Not that I'm against that sort of thing - I just dont see it as a huge enabler once you enter the workforce.

Bogus how? (3, Interesting)

clambake (37702) | more than 10 years ago | (#9133386)

I went to one of those real expensive accredited schools, but I was essentially a retard for four years and scraped by just enough to get my piece of paper without a shred of new knowledge (in class, that is... Oh boy did I learn a lot of new extra curricular knowledge) that I didn't already possess when I went in.

How is my degree more valid than a $99 WalMart degree? Because I paid more money for it?

Wired News coverage about diploma mills. (3, Informative)

KevinDumpsCore (127671) | more than 10 years ago | (#9133922)

Check out Wired New's coverage of diploma mills:
http://www.wired.com/news/school/0,1383,54596,00.h tml [wired.com]

They note that US colleges should be accredited by either the Department of Education [ed.gov] or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation [chea.org] .

one important factor (1)

AarghVark (772183) | more than 10 years ago | (#9135279)

Anyone who has either worked for or contracted to the government will be able to tell you that the government writes a lot of its contracts and hiring standards based off years of experience and years of degree/school combined.
In plain english, this means if you ignore veterans preference that someone with only 1 year experience and a bogus Masters degree can be hired in preference over someone with no degree but 5 years experience.
I know it sounds insane, but keep in mind this is the government and it actually does happen like that.

They won't get discovered ... (1)

bergeron76 (176351) | more than 10 years ago | (#9135720)

... because they have a degree! They're too smart to get caught!

Engineering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9136368)

At my Univeristy they dispensed free Bachelor of Arts degrees from most toilet paper dispensors in toilets around the uni.


And all you had to do was wipe to get honours.

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