Does Your Doctor Have a Fake Degree? The Billion-Dollar Industry That Has Sold Over a Million Fake Diplomas
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Is a three-page paper and one short open-book quiz sufficient for a master’s degree? A thirty-page paper and a one-hour unproctored exam? Ten thirty-page papers and five two-hour proctored exams? Where does one draw the line, and, again significantly, who draws it?
d. How does one judge the quality of the work done?
Even more complicated than evaluating the quantity of work done to earn any given degree is the quality of that work. A brilliant thirty-page thesis might be considered more worthy of a master’s degree than an ordinary hundred-page one or a poorly done three-hundred-page one.
Once again we have a continuum from A to F (or 4.0 to 0.0) grades, and we have the complicated issue of who makes those grading decisions and on what basis.
The quality of work done has been used in courtroom trials and other public situations to help prove that a given school is a degree mill. A high school teacher with a dubious PhD sued his school district, which had refused to pay him at the doctoral scale as the union contract required. The district had acquired a copy of this man’s seventeen-page doctoral “dissertation” directly from his alma mater, an unaccredited California university. The arbitration committee was clearly not impressed with this work, which the committee said was nothing more than a book report, and denied the claim.
That situation turned out well. But what if the three arbitrators had “voted” two to one? What if the lawyer for the defendant had found three professors who said that the work was adequate? What if the degree holder had hired an academic writing service (and there are plenty of them) to write a good dissertation for him, after his degree was challenged?
e. Who makes these decisions? How do they do so?
Gatekeepers and decision makers must decide where to draw all these crucial lines: how much credit for life experience, how much work to earn a degree, and what quality of work. Whenever possible, they will make use of external examiners: scholars from other schools and agencies, who will review the processes and determine that they are valid and equivalent to what their own institutions do.
All of this means that there is no short, simple, universally accepted definition of a degree mill. The complexity of the current educational situation precludes that.
Allen Ezell is the founder and former head of the FBI's DipScam diploma-mill task force, and author of "Counterfeit Diplomas and Transcripts" and "Accreditation Mills." John Bear, PhD. is the former head of new business development for Pearson's educational division and is the author of the bestselling Bears' Guide series of educational books, plus numerous books on consumerism, computers, and other topics. Ezell and Bear are co-authors of "Degree Mills: The Billion-Dollar Industry That Has Sold Over a Million Fake Diplomas" (Prometheus Books, 2012).