Does Your Doctor Have a Fake Degree? The Billion-Dollar Industry That Has Sold Over a Million Fake Diplomas
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b. How much credit is given for prior learning, and how is that decision made?
It is an academically valid and well-accepted practice to give credit for learning experiences that took place prior to enrollment. A typical example is skill in a second language. If an American student takes four years of French in college, she will earn about twenty-four semester units and achieve a certain level of competency in the language. But what if she reached exactly the same level of competency on her own, whether through taking a Rosetta Stone course, living in that country, or learning from her grandmother? Many schools will award credit, although not necessarily those twenty-four units, once the competency has been demonstrated on a meaningful written and/or oral examination.
Credit is responsibly given for a wide range of prior learning, ranging from an Army map-reading course, to an IBM in-house training program, to earning a multiengine pilot’s license, to extensive independent study in Buddhist philosophy, to achieving a high score on the Graduate Record Examination in math.
While each school makes its own decision on how much credit to give, many rely on recommendations made by the American Council on Education’s (ACE) College Credit Recommendation Service, described at http://www.acenet.edu/calec/corporate. ACE evaluates thousands of learning experiences and publishes its recommendations on how much credit to give for each experience in several large volumes each year.
While there can be a considerable range in the amount of credit given for the same experience, the bad and fake schools regularly abuse this process by making outrageous credit awards. For instance, a good score on the ninety-minute College Level Evaluation Program (CLEP) test in history is worth one or two semester units at many schools and as much as five or six at a few. But degree mills have been known to give forty or fifty semester units, or even the entire bachelor’s (typically 120 units), master’s, or doctorate degree, for one CLEP test.
Again, we have a continuum, with the least-generous legitimate school at one end and the degree mills at the other. If the amount of credit awarded for a Navy music course ranges from three units at School A to one hundred twenty units at School Z, where does one draw the line between “good school” and “bad school” and perhaps another line between “bad school” and “degree mill”? And, most significantly, who draws that line?
c. How much new work is required to earn the degree?
While there are three regionally accredited US schools that will consider awarding their bachelor’s degree totally based on prior learning (if there is a great deal of it), the vast majority of schools require at least one year of new work, no matter what the student has done before.12
At the master’s and doctoral level, giving credit for prior learning is minimal and rare. We know of no school with recognized accreditation that will award its master’s degree for anything less than one academic year (eight or nine months) of new work. The doctorate typically requires at least two years of new work, but usually three to five.
It is a common approach for degree mills to look at an applicant’s CV or resume and say, “Ah, yes, you’ve been selling life insurance for three years. That is the equivalent of an MBA,” or “We have determined that your five years of teaching Sunday school can earn you a Doctor of Divinity degree.”
Once again we have a continuum. At one end are the schools that require a great deal of new work after enrollment, and at the other end are the degree mills that offer any degree, including the master’s or doctorate, entirely or almost entirely based on the resume.