Avoiding Diploma Mills and Fake Online Degrees

Former West Linn Mayor Patti Galle

West Linn’s Mayor, Patty Galle, resigned Friday after it was discovered that she lied about receiving a degree in English from a “diploma mill,” Redding University.  She claimed she received the degree in 1973, yet Redding University was not established until 2003.  Investigators have seized a receipt which shows she purchased the diploma on February 12 of this year.

A story like this brings to light some grave questions for both the people of Oregon and for employers everywhere.  How did the Mayor of West Linn get her job when she lied about her education?  How do I prevent something like this from happening within my company or organization? I did a background check, but how do I know if I did enough?

We hear these questions every day, and fraudulent degrees (and references) are a growing problem in this country.  What are diploma mills?  They are entities that sell degrees to individuals based on their “life experiences” and not based on actual academic achievements.  They require little or no actual course work to obtain a degree, and the degrees are not recognized by the US Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Here is a list of things to be wary of:

  • Any institution that offers degrees in a very short amount of time
  • Any institution that places their main emphasis on life or real world experience and not exams or attendance
  • Any institution that charges tuition for degrees rather than actual individual courses
  • Any institution that requires little or no admission criteria

You can check a school or university’s accreditation directly with the US Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.  Be wary of institutions accredited by other associations.

At Collective Intelligence, we verify degrees directly through the institution (when available), or through a diploma verification organization, which only verifies degrees from Title IV accredited institutions.  We recommend conducting education verifications whenever a person’s education is relevant to their position and/or job responsibilities.  Although it is not necessary for every applicant (volunteers, entry level positions, drivers, etc.) it is certainly recommended for Level II and higher background screening clearances.  We assist our clients in detecting false information from applicants in all areas of the background screening process.

For more information on diploma mills, please visit the following links:

US Department of Education

Council for Higher Education Accredidation

Wikipedia maintains a list of unaccredited institutions of higher learning.  Please be advised it does not contain all diploma mill schools since new ones are being created all the time.

For more information on how we can help you with your verifications, contact our office at 800.436.1969.

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