You don’t have to dig very deep to discover that you can buy almost any type of college degree attached to almost any major field of study, including medical degrees and Ph.D.s. What makes fake degrees so valuable? The business of diploma mills and phony degree suppliers is where the industry really rakes in big bucks.
In the article “Fake High School Diplomas,” we cited U.S. Census data that proved the monetary measurement of a high school diploma or GED. But the data for college degree holders is even more persuasive. A wage earner with a high school diploma earns a bit over $28,000. Add a Bachelor’s degree to that and the income nearly doubles, to right around $50,000. Throw in an advanced degree and consumers have the potential to bring home over $75,000 a year. Clearly an individual with a medical degree will maximize their earning potential. Money is a reliable incentive. If college degrees were not tied to income, the 500 million dollar diploma mill business would likely have much of the wind knocked out of its sails.
Proof of the street value of certain college degrees was illustrated in a recent Canadian bust of a counterfeit degree ring. Officials recovered dozens of surprisingly realistic, but bogus copies of university degrees from various popular and prestigious Canadian institutions. The overall sophistication of the credentials shocked law enforcement and underscored the value of certain university degree diplomas.
To fill the demand for consumers who want a degree to add to their resume, the diploma mill business has made quick work of playing on consumers’ ignorance and pursuit of happiness at whatever cost. A valid argument can still be made that many Americans are, as of yet, largely uninformed, on the dangers and swindles attached to diploma mills. Most consumers are quick to trust aggressive marketing and to believe the claims of alleged institutions of higher education. They fall for the argument that their life experience counts just as much toward a college degree as does academic book learning in a legitimate college or online learning environment.
Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and even the very coveted Ph.D. can all be had from a diploma mill. A quick search for “phd degrees” returns a page of search results that are a combination of college programs and informational sites. What many consumers may be unaware of, though, is that the paid search ads at the top of the page may seem to be reliable links to Ph.D. degree programs. Among the top paid results for Ph.D. degrees is Belford University.
Belford makes the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization’s list of unaccredited colleges. Belford’s website boasts “degrees based on experience within 7 days.” An even bolder sales pitch lures consumers with little experience: “No experience? No problem! Pass our simple online equivalency test and get an accredited online degree within 7 days.”
Outside the absurdity of the “life experience” claim, combined with the term of 7 days, the most misleading slant is the term “accredited.” Belford is “accredited” by the Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation (UCOEA). However, the UCOEA is NOT a recognized accreditation agency in the United States. The UCOEA is listed on the ODA list of unrecognized accreditation agencies and the Credential Watch list of the same. In many states a degree, Ph.D. or otherwise, from Belford would be totally meaningless. And any employer that has done their homework would quickly find Belford on the unaccredited list and either refuse to hire you or fire you.
For more information on bogus accreditation, read through the articles in our section on “Accreditation.” The U.S. Department of Education maintains a comprehensive list of recognized regional and national accreditation agencies, including those that accredit online degree programs.
You’d think a medical degree would be taboo for even counterfeiters. Guess again. Many of the unaccredited “medical” colleges that operated on U.S. soil have been ordered shut down, according to current notes on the ODA website. And there are a few online fake degree manufacturers that decline to deal in medical and law degrees.
Foreign diploma mills, on the other hand, are notorious for selling, manufacturing, or otherwise generating, phony medical degrees. In the last few years, lawmakers have tried to take a hard line stance when it comes to medical diploma mills. At risk is the health and well-being of scores of individuals that may come into contact with under-qualified and phony medical practitioners. Corrupt and unstable governments in under-developed areas of the world remain inconsistent with laws and ineffectual in monitoring a medical degree mill’s operations.
Outside the monetary benefits of a college degree, including income and buying power, social incentives have historically figured in, as well. A report (pdf) conducted by the Institute for Higher Education Policy in 1998 found that besides the primary economic benefits of a college degree, degree holders are also reportedly more engaged in their communities and less likely to commit crimes—both social benefits. But these theories are based on consumers that have earned degrees the old fashioned way—they’ve worked hard academically for them. How are these social outcomes redefined in light of those who’ve purchased a college degree?
Consumers shopping for legitimate degree programs in all fields are regularly faced with a minefield of information. Legitimate degree programs co-exist in cyberspace alongside phony institutions that are expert in marketing and persuasion. Our best advice: refer to the following sources when researching any and all degree programs: