Background Checks


Every now and then, the news uncovers a newly hired professor or coach (or other professional) who claims he or she earned a degree from a school that really doesn’t exist.  Instead of an accredited college or university, the degree is from a diploma mill that, for a few hundred dollars, will produce a diploma that looks real, but really isn’t from a school that actually exists.

While this article is a little off the usual topic of reference checking, it’s a topic about which readers should be aware.  How can an employer be sure that the candidate really has earned a genuine diploma from an accredited college or university?  Sometimes it’s easy to be fooled.  There are all sorts of websites that offer a snazzy-looking diploma for a few hundred dollars from, let’s say, Milroy University, located in Milroy, Indiana.

So, you as the employer, decide to call the number for Milroy University to verify that your candidate really has the 4-year degree from dear old Milroy U.  Someone answers who says she can check out the validity of the degree for you; and, surprise, she says your candidate is one of their alumni.  What you don’t know is that the person with whom you’re speaking is operating out of her living room and has a record of everyone who’s purchased a diploma from their non-existent university.

To be safe, you decide to check to see if Milroy University is an accredited institution of higher learning.  So you call the number for the accrediting body listed on Milroy U’s website.  Surprise, again!  Whoever answers the phone says that, yes, Milroy U. is accredited by the Midwest Association of Colleges and Universities – a totally fictitious agency.  So, having done all that one could seemingly do, you hire the candidate only to learn that he can’t do half the things you would expect someone with a four-year degree to be able to do.

How could this situation have been prevented?  Happily, there is a simple solution.  First, if you’ve never heard of the institution of higher learning from which the candidate claims to have earned a degree, the easiest thing to do is check The Data Base of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs provided by the U.S. Department of Education.  If the accrediting agency is listed there, then you’ll know that any college or university that claims to be accredited by that agency really exists and isn’t a diploma mill!

The ultimate point is it’s possible to uncover the deception that is becoming more and more prevalent – candidates claiming to have earned a degree from an institution from which they never graduated or, in some instances, never even attended.  And, by following up through an accrediting agency listed by the U.S. Department of Education, it is possible to uncover the deception of pretending to have earned a degree from a college or university that doesn’t even exist!