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May 11, 2004

How to be topp. As some of you are aware, I have basically no educational credentials. I stopped attending high school before my senior year, and I never went to college. I’ve done all right with my life anyway. I have no real complaints.

Still, I have to wonder: if I’d actually fitted myself out with a degree from a diploma mill, could I, too, have become an Assistant Secretary of Defense?

UPDATE: Mark Kleiman points out that it’s not like Assistant Secretary Abell is in charge of anything important. [04:14 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on How to be topp.:

Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2004, 04:29 PM:

I was spammed by one of these outfits as I was checking your web-page.

Lets you chose the field of the degree too.

Probably too expensive for a joke, but what would be a suitably high-falutin name for a degree in cat-herding?

"Field-Scale Bio-Systems Engineering" would be maybe OK for farming.

Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2004, 04:35 PM:

I have no doubt that you would have the moral and intellectual capacity to undertake the heavy responsibilities of high political office.

Unfortunately, these qualities appear to be considered a negative factor in the selection process.

Stephan Wehner ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2004, 04:44 PM:

Holding a Ph.D. in mathematics I was pretty amused by one spam email with subject "Get another Ph.D."

Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2004, 08:24 PM:

Hell, why stop at Assistant...?

Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2004, 09:28 PM:

This reminds me of a conversation I had sophomore year. I pointed out to my friend Mike that since he didn't go to classes, and he learned everything by working problems from his textbooks, that he probably didn't need to pay $xx,xxx/year to get a degree. Why not just buy some textbooks? He replied that it was a truth universally acknowledged that a student in good fortune must be in want of a diploma. (This is the line of BS fed to us as high school students. Mike was, of course, being ironic.)

But neither of us would have considered leaving school.

Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2004, 09:34 PM:

To clarify my last post:

We were in sophomore year of college, not high school.

Cathy ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2004, 09:40 PM:

Why just the other week a friend was telling me the sad tale of a person long out of work who got a job offer from a Major Defense Contractor (no, not in Iraq). Said Contractor checked what he had placed on his resume and found out that he was 15 credit hours short of the college degree he claimed he had. So the guy went to a diploma mill, paid the money, got the paper and was hired in due course. Wish I had known about these things when I was going to grad school!

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2004, 11:13 PM:

Seems like, in order to really determine the damage, you'd have to look case-by-case.

One guy apparently got a PhD in Computer Information Systems from a mill.

Now, if the guy knows *nothing* about CIS other than how to launch Solitaire, that's real bad.

On the other hand, there *are* people without formal education who could probably be in the ballpark for a PhD in CIS, just from experience. For example, Clifford Stoll, who's an astrophysicist by trade, but wound up as "Systems Manager" in his lab, wound up tracking down a German hacker who was getting into all sorts of government computers, and later was testifying to Congress about computer security.

On the one hand, a bogus CIS degree for Stoll would be a pointless smirch on his reputation. On the other hand, one can certainly imagine a bureaucracy which either fired him or didn't hire him because he didn't have that all-important graduate degree credential providing evidence of his skill and experience.

Abell has a BS that looks legit, in Poli Sci, but his bogus degree is in Human Resource Management. On the other hand, he spent 25 years or so in the Army, in some positions of leadership, so may know more about military Human Resource Management than he would learn in a university. (ie, Domestic Partner Benefits 101 would not apply; HRM courses probably don't get much into how you handle when 100 employees lose limbs and need to be airlifted to Germany).

So I'm not sure his bogus degree represents a *real* deficit in his ability, as opposed to a way to wrap the experience he has in a simple, phrase easily digested by the average Human Resources pod person.

He's not quite like a guy walking into a hospital and scrubbing up for surgery without knowing anything about anatomy other than what he's seen on CSI.

And, as Mark Kleiman points out, it's not like Bush's legitimate degrees from Yale and Harvard did him (or us) any good.

Peter ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 03:16 AM:

Having a degree from a mill (especially a PO box where all you get is a piece of paper) is fraud, plain and simple. You're passing yourself off as something you're not. This is illegal in several states (Oregon comes to mind.) People do sometimes get fired when discovered with mill diplomas. I was under the impression that U.S. civil service positions which required a degree always required a regionally accredited one.

It should also be noted that there is a whole bizzare tangle of accreditation in the U.S. At the top is regional accreditation, like WASC for my region. There are six regions. That covers what most of us think of as legitimate universities--all state universities, almost all name-brand private ones. Generally a regionally-accredited graduate school will not accept anything but a regionally-accredited undergraduate degree (or foreign equivalent, which is simpler most places because the government does the accreditation). Then there are the "state licensed" schools, which are not accredited, but merely allowed to operate in a state. California has quite a few of these that actually attempt to teach something. I think technically a state licensed school can't be a mill--it actually has to attempt to teach something. You can become a licensed therapist in some states with one of these degrees, so a lot of these schools are, like, "The Alhambra School of Trans-Spiritual Therapy" or whatever. Then there are the national accreditors, like the DETC (www.detc.com) who do legitimate accreditation of mostly vocational distance education programs. Then there are some specifially religious accreditation bodies, some of which are wholly owned legitimacy-laundering operations for degree mills, while others accredit the various bible colleges. Finally, there are some subject-specific accreditors, such as for MBA programs, and these will usually be done on top of a regional accreditation.

Never ever start a degree program unless you understand and are comfortable with the accreditation of the institution.

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 04:14 AM:

When I was an undergrad, my alma mater granted Bachelor of Science degrees in English and History, because they weren't accredited to grant Bachelor of Arts degrees. I knew several students who started out double-majoring in, say, Physics and English, then got bogged down on the science side, and ended up escaping with a BS in English.

Not really relevant to the mill topic, just an interesting bit of trivia regarding accreditation.

bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 06:00 AM:

well as I don't really have any respect for the American Educational system or a number of its legitimate 'successes' I don't really care except where the educational discipline in question is one that traditionally requires a long internship with professionals, this to forestall people asking if i would want to be operated on for disease X by someone with a diploma mill degree.

actually it just struck me as I was writing this that one reason for the existence of diploma mills is that the provisions for life experience credits at most universities are very arbitrary and useless.

Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 07:47 AM:

Much missing of point on this thread.

The diploma mills are NOT granting credit for life experience. They aren't checking that. They aren't checking anything except whether your credit card is good. You don't even need to be able to read to get one of these degrees.

THere are legitimate, accredited institutions where you can get credit for life experiences. Thomas Edison College in New Jersey is one. Be prepared for some tough examinations for all the life experience credit you claim to have, given by for-real college professors. It's not easy to get these credits, even with the life experience. I know, I got one of my degrees there (B.S. in Economics). They will NOT let you claim enough life experience credits to earn a degree. You will have to do a substantial amount of work beyond what they will allow you to try for as life experience.

But the school is fully accredited (Middle States, if anybody's asking) and was enough to get me into two graduate schools. (PhD in about 1 1/2 more years).

Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 08:22 AM:

The Wall Street Journal article also had something about the blurriness of accreditation--some online universities are diploma mills, some are fully accredited, and some are in between--they require some learning, but perhaps not as much as the best, and are accredited in some states but not others.

Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 08:25 AM:

Jon - it's not just HR-type beaurocracy that can get bogged down in the need for packaging in a style they can understand. I have a lot of friends who work at the NIH and are foreign nationals. One of their stories is of a colleague who was going through some sort of INS-style proctological exam. The INS examiner wanted to know about her degree. She copped to a Ph.D. in biochemistry or some such thing. The INS examiner wanted to know what the letters Ph.D. stood for - after hearing that she was a doctor of "philosophy," said examiner wanted nothing to do with the scientist, because she was obviously not qualified. She had to produce the thesis, and her letter of employment, and then they couldn't believe how little the NIH was going to pay her.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 09:53 AM:

Empire State University, in the SUNY system, gives credit for earlier college courses, life experience, and 30 points toward a degree for passing a GRE.

They also give credit for online courses.

bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 12:01 PM:

ObPogo Ref:

"Dennis"

Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 01:10 PM:
Empire State University, in the SUNY system, gives credit for earlier college courses, life experience, and 30 points toward a degree for passing a GRE.

Actually it seems to be called Empire State College, which is just as well, as otherwise they'd have to figure out how many credits to award for inventing rockets and interdimensional portals, ruling Latveria, etc.

Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 02:04 PM:

Well, I just handed in my last assignment to complete my B.S. degree in Physics...

Even with my admittedly abysmal GPA, I still have job offers, because it's easier for a contractor to sell service to the government if they can say "all the people on our team have degrees... etc."

Keith ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 02:06 PM:

On the other hand, one can certainly imagine a bureaucracy which either fired him or didn't hire him because he didn't have that all-important graduate degree credential providing evidence of his skill and experience.

John H,

Stoll could probably get himself an honorary degree from a credited and respected institution which would fill in the holes on his resume. There's a long tradition of this sort of honrary degree to well known public intelectuals ( I seem to recall a story a few years back about Kurt Vonnegut recieving an honorary doctorate in English Lit. The man certainly deserves it, though it's usefulness is dubious. it's not like it's going to make him write another book).

The problem here is that these people obviosuly don't have the skills necesary to adequately execute the jobs they've managed to get with their bogus degrees. As a Grad student, I find this lazyiness apalling as they're cheepening the time, effort and expense that I and others like me are putting in to our degrees.

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 02:19 PM:

Regarding accreditation, I looked into computer science graduate school accreditation, and there didn't seem to be any such thing.

Undergrad programs would be accredited, but there didn't seem to be any accreditation for grad programs, at least none that I could find.

Peter ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 02:39 PM:

There are three regionally accredited colleges in the US that can grant degrees based 100% on portfolio evaluation and test results. Two of them are state colleges. See Lawrie Miller's "BA In 4 Weeks" Site for more info. Unfortunately she redesigned the site so that the information is much harder to find. The three colleges are described on this page.

rvman ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 02:56 PM:

Just a note - Abell spent 24 years in the Army, starting as an enlisted, ending at Lt. Col. He probably knows more about Personnel and Readiness(his area) than 20 MBAs in Management. I mean, really - just because some dufus demanded a piece of paper to promote him, and he obliged, doesn't mean he can't do the job.

Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 02:57 PM:

One of the great things about the American higher education system is that it hands out second chances. It's entirely possible to have a number of false starts and still finish a degree. (Which is pretty much what I did.)

The flip side is that some schools (Columbia comes to mind) segregate these non-traditional students and award them a second-class degree. (Columbia calls theirs something like a Degree in General Studies.) Maybe this is good for relations with traditional students, but it did nothing for me. (I wound up at Fordham, which actually took advantage of its non-trad students to enrich the classroom for the young'ns.)

By not awarding the "real" degree (and yes, all the degrees are real and accredited, just the college/division doing the awarding are different) the legitimate schools actually help the diploma mills thusly:

1. Columbia or NYU wants to give me a second-class degree that I'll have to work for.

2. I may be percieved by grads of those schools as damaged goods despite my hard work.

3. I can get a degree with no work from a mill that nobody's really heard of.

4. This will just be percieved as a second-class education, but will not out me as late to the game.

5. So tell me again why I actually need to study to get a degree?

So, here's the real question. How much does having a degree from a diploma mill really reflect on your character? In my book, it speaks of a willingness to take credit for things you haven't really done and a tendency to game any system to the maximum. The first is always a negative, the second is sometimes a higly desirable trait.

As to the value of degrees, so far I think I did better financially before finishing college. Since then, I got an MBA (the traditional way, in 2 years from a top school) and have experienced truly wild income fluctuations. The work's more interesting, just less steady.

Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 03:12 PM:

rvman - I wasn't aware that the bogus degree was an MBA. Just so you know, someone with Abell's credentials would have had a cakewalk getting into a top-tier EMBA (executive MBA) program, which meets Fridays/Saturdays and usually completes faster than the traditional course. My school (The Simon School at the University of Rochester) had several military officers in its Executive program.

All that Abell had to be willing to do was get permission and commitment to support his studies for two years, which might have slowed him down a bit career-wise in the short term, and voila, a real MBA. And he certainly would have learned things that I'm sure he's never seen. A quality MBA program has a strong generalist component that runs the gamut from marketing to finance to operations to game theory. And then some. It's basically a generalist's degree with some room for specialization, not a specialist's degree like most other master's programs.

So, if he's that good he should have bitten the bullet and gotten a real degree. I'm sure he could have done it easily and would be better off for it.

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 03:27 PM:

Larry Brennan writes: "rvman - I wasn't aware that the bogus degree was an MBA."

It's not an MBA, it's a Master's in Human Resource Management. Such degree programs probably don't even address issues peculiar to the military.

Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 03:56 PM:

Jon H - Thanks for the clarification.

Gee, faking a regualar Master's in a non-technical field is even dumber. What's the commitment? 32 credits and maybe a thesis? Not to minimize the work load, but with determination, such a degree could be had, part-time, in less than two years. I'd bet that the military would even have paid for it.

Non-MBA business Master's degrees are usually held in pretty low esteem anyway. They're usually just a bunch of electives thrown together as a way for a school to get some incremental revenue. (Not too many scholarships are available for such programs.) The "real" way to get an HR degree is to get an MBA and do a concentration. Several schools offer this option.

cathy ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 04:24 PM:

RE: fake MBAs

And you know, it's not as if the military doesn't encourage and pay for officers to get college educations and advanced degrees (I have a distant cousin who became a lawyer thanks to the Navy). The opportunities were probably there for him and he chose the easy way out.

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 04:33 PM:

"Gee, faking a regualar Master's in a non-technical field is even dumber. What's the commitment? 32 credits and maybe a thesis? Not to minimize the work load, but with determination, such a degree could be had, part-time, in less than two years. I'd bet that the military would even have paid for it."

That's why I figure in his case the fake degree was more of a cosmetic issue. He probably is qualified for his job from his time in the Army.

Getting a degree in HRM might not really be useful for him, or make him a *genuinely* better candidate for his job. For his job, 25 years in the Army probably makes him more qualified than a person who wasn't in the military bit has a PhD in Human Resource Management.

So a degree in it would be a waste of time and money for him.

But, there might be a desire in the government for peoples' underlings to have impressive-sounding credentials. So there'd be pressure to get otherwise useless degrees in the easiest way possible.

Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 04:44 PM:

From a diploma mill spammer:

"Get a Bachelors, Masters, MBA, and Doctorate (PhD) diploma!"

That sounds handy-- all your bogus credentials in one place. Saves on framing fees.

tost ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 04:44 PM:

You know, I find this stuff fascinating. As someone with a degree Iíll never use, I look back and thank the Lord for the opportunity to receive a good education at a private university. (Letís have three cheers for scholarships and grants, without which Iíd probably be working construction.) At the same time, though, the piece of paper which designates my level of experience in my one-time field of endeavor is about as arbitrary and capricious as I can imagine.

On top of that, it just amazes me that people tend to pay more attention to a degree hanging on the wall than to the person who earned it, as if we were all just characters in the Wizard of Oz, and our worthiness and abilities had recently been transferred to us by order and edict of the Great & Powerful Oz himself. Sorry, Dorothy, but I just donít get it.

I guess in the end, I donít really give a damn about degrees, either those that youíve earned or those that youíve purchased. (Iím assuming that youíre not a Republican, and that you see a difference between the two.) Iím simply more interested in what you do with your life than in an embossed piece of paper that attests to you supposed skills. But since we live in a world where the bean-counters rule, and itís vital that I can compare my credentials to your credentials, I probably shouldnít be surprised. Still, it strikes me as silly, as if there should be, on some dimly lit BBC set in London, an ongoing Monty Python skit where the Minister of Silly Walks attempts to hang his degree from the Accredited and Revered College of Silly Walks on a wall that doesnít exist.

Jason ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 05:00 PM:

Bill - If you don't mind my asking, who've you been submitting resumes to? I've got a friend with an M.A. in Physics from William & Mary (a fully accredited institution of learning if ever there was one) who's been having the devil of a time getting a job. I wonder if he's just been looking in the wrong area?

Larry - It's a very strange thing, which branch of a university gives out what. I did my undergrad work at Syracuse and despite the Anthropology program being part of the Maxwell School (which is, last I checked, one of the top 5 schools of citizenship/public affairs/governmental/international studies in the country), it was the College of Arts & Sciences that awarded my degree. Stranger still, though, is that it only works this way for undergrads. Had I done my graduate work there, I would've had the degree from the Maxwell School.
Stranger still is that despite my Anthropology cirriculum focusing on the Archaeology side of the equation and involving classes in material analysis and some field work I got a B.A. rather than a B.S. I wish I'd known this before I went in, since the difference kept me out of a few grad schools and out of the running with a few dig companies.

Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 05:01 PM:

John H said For his job, 25 years in the Army probably makes him more qualified than a person who wasn't in the military bit has a PhD in Human Resource Management. So a degree in it would be a waste of time and money for him.

I wonder when Abell got the diploma mill degree and how much of his career advancement resulted from the bogus credential. We really need to make it impossible (if not a crime) to use such degrees to qualify for a job in civil service or the military.

As far as private industry goes, it's caveat emptor all around. And you can count on having your degrees checked and your references validated by pretty much any potential employer larger than the corner store.

As to the assertion that a degree would be a waste of time and money for Abell, I say maybe not. A good school opens horizons and surprises practitioners. It doesn't hand out recipes for dealing with workplace challenges.

If someone wanted to work for me and used a diploma mill degree as a point of qualification, I'd show them the door and make sure that they understood exactly why. If they're willing to lie to me on the way in the door, who knows what they might say or do that would reflect on me and my company. No thanks.

A fake degree is NOT harmless - it's a real indicator of character.

If someone is really good, the degree won't matter. Way back when, before I finished my degree, I worked in IT at a major Wall St. law firm. Most people simply assumed I had a degree, and were surprised to discover that I didn't. (They also tended to want me to study law rather than business, but that's another story.)

Our gracious host, Patrick, is a great example. If asked, I would have guessed that he had a degree in something, perhaps English, after an abortive attempt at a science or engineering degree. (Apologies for the projection.) In fact, I now think more highly of him. I was ashamed of not having a degree, Patrick clearly isn't. And I don't think it's hurt him in any material way.

Ron In Portland ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 05:57 PM:

I guess the question is: is it really any different than the degree that dubya received from Daddy Diploma Mill division of Harvard?

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 06:01 PM:

Yale.

bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 06:28 PM:

'If someone is really good, the degree won't matter.'
yes if the definition of really good is someone who has been responsible for several well recognised advances in their field, if the definition is someone who has all the skills that you would expect someone to have that possessed a degree in the field i gotta ask, is "won't matter" supposed to indicate that it won't matter enough that the person can still make a success of their lives in that field without the degree or is "won't matter" supposed to indicate that it won't matter for every possible circumstance in which we suppose, from obviously mistaken common sense, that it probably would matter?

Also is "won't matter" meant to indicate that it won't matter because of course the hiring practices of the present day have a one-to-one relation with the hiring practices of the time when Patrick was starting out, back when it maybe didn't matter as much.

Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 06:39 PM:

Prof. George Gollin at the University of Illinois has done some legwork on diploma mills. Here's a PDF of notes from his interesting talk.

Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 07:09 PM:

Bryan - You are, of course, right that there are many fields where formal credentials are required. Medicine, law and engineering come to mind.

Many other fields often like to list degrees as being required, but the reality is that they're not. Even today, it's possible to build a professional career without a degree. It's a lot harder and requires more determination, but it can be done.

As to things being easier "way back when" I can't comment. I got my first IT job by being in the right place at the right time and showing some initiative. Not having a degree didn't keep me from rising to a responsible position, with a large budget and several direct reports. Is it different today? Maybe, but I doubt it. At least outside of the largest companies with college recruiting programs.

Of course, what I meant when I said "the degree won't matter" had to do with demonstrated experience, not the unreasonably high bar of having made advances in their field. For instance, if I wanted to hire a Creative Director, I'd want to see a portfolio and to understand his or her ability to balance commerce and art. An MFA or BFA is nice, a BA in Literature or Journalism (or a BS in Computer Science for that matter) would be OK too, but the right attitude and a history of good work takes the day every time.

Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 07:12 PM:

For whatever reasons, the undergrad degree that Boston U gave out from the School of Management when I attended was a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA). So I have a B.S. despite the degree being, really, a cut-down MBA with undergrad distribution requirements added on as far as I can tell.

Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 07:20 PM:

Whoops hit post too soon. - I should also add that there are certainly companies who do regard degrees as mandatory, usually as part of their HR policy or in response to client expectations. The follow-on question is, of course, "Do you want to work for a company that thinks that way?". [Hey, any advice on punctuation here?!?] Either answer is OK. If you want to work for McKinsey, be prepared to get a fancy degree and associate with people who value fancy degrees. If you want to work in a more diverse environment and have a fancy degree, be prepared to work with or for people with lesser academic credentials than yours.

We are each subject to some limitations, either self-imposed or imposed through the perceptions of others. Right now, if I applied for a job as a barista at Peet's or Starbucks, how do you think they would view my MBA? Would the degree be an advantage or a liability?

In short, there's no course of action, either in getting degrees or eschewing them that does not have an impact. Regardless, if you're determined, you can get ahead without all of the institutional seals of approval.

Whew. Sorry for being so long-winded.

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 07:53 PM:

Anyone know why Mark chose to duplicate the first paragraph of my post?

Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 08:09 PM:

Jeremy - I think it's a new kind of spam post. The poster is using an apparently bogus email and links off to a site that sells pre-fab business plans. Ugh.

dave heasman ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2004, 05:37 AM:

Apropos the topic title, I have an old Analog where, I think it was P Schuyler Miller, was given "Whizz For Atoms", the last of the Molesworth tetralogy, to review. He sad it was incomprehensible madness. Couldn't handle it at all.

Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2004, 06:37 AM:

Would anyone who's read all of the Golin notes be willing to summarize them? My connection is too slow for that much pdf to be worth it for me, especially if it's page after page proving that diploma mills copy each others' advertising material. Or were some of the duplicate sites all leading to the same business?

The bit at the end about diploma mills offering advice on how to sue employers that are willing to fire was chilling.

alic ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2004, 12:02 PM:

who'd thunk it? I guess I wasted 3 yrs. in law school, when I could have paid for a degree and it would have been much cheaper.

jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2004, 01:22 PM:

Larry asks for advice on how to punctuate The follow-on question is, of course, "Do you want to work for a company that thinks that way?".

So since you asked, enclosed sentence-level end punctuation trumps whatever comes outside the quotes, in both the British and the American systems (hey! the rules are the same here! exciting!) so, The follow-on question is, of course, "Do you want to work for a company that thinks that way?" without the final period is just fine.

And degree mills are slimy, and anyone who purchases a degree from one gets slimed. And I think Patrick makes an admirable editor, I'm glad to note that he's not lamenting the lack of under-secretarial opportunities in his life.

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2004, 01:53 PM:

Nancy, here's what I remember from reading the PDF last night. He found dozens of sites that all led back to the same cluster of businesses. He showed how the sites took a lot of their content (course and subject lists, letter from the president, etc.) from real univeristy sites. They also shared things like "student" photos.

Some sites disappeared during his investigation, only to have a different site appear using the exact same content (with a different school name).

Many sites shared a UK phone number, some shared a UK mailing address which turned out to be empty commercial spaces apparently used as a mail drop (a friend of his visited and photographed the vacant storefronts for him).

The same cluster of businesses used to be in the "international driver's license" business, until the Federal Trade Commission shut them down. They're connected to a few individuals with several aliases each, apparently operating in Israel, the UK, North Carolina, and possibly Romania.

He also found various individuals on the web claiming degrees from these mills; some also claimed legitimate degrees, he seemed to assume those claims were valid (e.g. DPharm from USF). He tried to get the dissertation of one person who had a PhD in Psychology from a mill; the mill claimed that the subject matter of the dissertation was confidential and so they wouldn't release a copy without the author's approval.

I found it curious that he was concerned about people claiming bogus degrees in education, law, and health care, but bogus degrees in engineering didn't bother him.

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2004, 02:47 PM:

Taking these pages as usenet where we contradict each other just to be polite - law is not one of the fields where a degree is required. A degree from an ABA approved school and proof of good moral character is a general qualification to sit state bars but there are alternative routes.

California has a number of state but not ABA schools that qualify only to sit the California Bar- however membership in the California Bar may allow one to sit the bar in more states. Similarly there are states in which reading law - under supervision of a state bar member - qualifies to sit the bar in that state. Membership in a state Bar typically qualifies for Federal District Court in that state and so it goes. Not suggesting it.

Educational qualification as a filter still exists. For instance much law school recruiting asks for degree(s) from a name school as a filter - possibly to be bypassed by a national reputation? Reminds me of the old qualification of Harvard man or equivalent to mean 2 Princton graduates or a Yale graduate part time.

Perhaps the more important attribute of a name education is networking - although my own observation is that almost all faculty is pretty sharp some institutions offer more interesting peer groups.

For a parallel did Fred Pohl graduate or drop out of high school? He strikes as pretty well educated over the years.

Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2004, 05:14 PM:

Clark - You are quite right about reading law. I know a few people who grew up in law firms who took just that route. But, overall, it's gotten harder to read law instead of attending law school.

Given that outfits like the various bar associations have a vested interest in limiting the number of lawyers in the marketplace, I'd expect the reading law loophole to close even more as time goes by.

A good friend of mine is now attending a law school with a provisional accreditation. When he started, the review was pending by the ABA, so he took the risk on the basis of a full scholarship. (He had a great LSAT and a somewhat checkered undergrad career.) The provisional accreditation shelters all the current students. If they don't get final approval, the current students will still be allowed to sit for the bar. (FWIW, they probably will be approved.)

Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2004, 06:50 AM:

You can edjucate yourself at St. Custard's! (As any fule kno, hem hem.) Learn how to deal with weedstruck wets, cads, oiks, and snekes! Pater sa that the BBC HOME SERVICE is the best radio stashun in the world if onli they wud not use real audio and wud keep ther programs up for ever chiz. Still ther is always READING as the English master sa HARUM HARUM boys let us now rede Wordsworth he is WET and a WEED.

-Nigel M.

Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2004, 07:00 AM:

And the master sa why have you not corectly entered your HTML Molesworth? You kno that your angel brackets must be just rite! The bean proklaims: Fix it or you will get six it is a grate chiz. He sa READING broadens the mind (tho not as broad as Grabber's mater hem hem.)

Donny ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2004, 11:50 AM:

Can you prove that you're a high school dropout? I'm not convinced.

Hlvictoria ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2004, 02:18 PM:

Wow, I'm surprised, Patrick!! Your comments are some of the most intelligent out in the leftist blogging world...then again, they say Einstein also dropped out of high school ;)

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2004, 02:46 PM:

I've heard this WET and a WEED thing before...but can't place it. Where'd it come from?

Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2004, 04:21 PM:

Xopher: The links abov will leed you to the grate works of Nigel Molesworth, the goriller of 3b, such as Down with Skool!, How to be Topp, Whizz for Atomms, and Back In The Jug Agane. Our gracious host, obviously a man of taste and distinction (hem hem), is by no meens a WEED or a WET, unlike some of the denziens of St. Cuthbert's, Molesworth's alma mater.

On the other hand, maybe they can spell.

Edam Ent ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2004, 01:05 AM:

You know what pisses me off about diploma mills?

I'm a PhD who teaches at a community college. Largely by choice. Anyhoo, every year I go to commencement and I see students who have gone through the most incredible shit to win a 2-year degree. Stories you would not believe. People from families where a college degree was always a crazy dream, even from a CC. Every year I watch some of these students' families literally weep tears of pride that they have a son or a daughter or a mom or a dad who finally Did It.

The idea that someone could buy what some of my students bled and sweat and sacrificed for makes me nuts. The idea that they are in our government makes me sick.

James Angove finds comment spam. ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2004, 02:58 PM:

Some more text.