by GREGG L. DesELMS | gregg at greggdeselms dot com
The Merced Union High School District (MUHSD)...
...hired Anthony Thomas as its Assistant Information Systems (IS) Manager; but it was subsequently determined that Thomas has a fake/bogus "degree" from the well-known-to-be-good-for-nothing degree mill "Almeda University,"
That's illegal in California. Thomas, then, should have been both arrested and, of course, fired by now. But as this excellent (linked to) article by RAMONA GIWARGIS in the Merced Sun-Star newspaper explains, nothing happened, even after the MUHSD Board of Trustees and Superintendent were told about it...
...that is, until the person who told them about it -- the "whistle-blower," if you will... an IT Director from another school district -- who never heard back from anyone, and who noticed that nothing had been done, finally went to the press.
The Sheriff's office properly investigated; and even took it to the District Attorney's office. However, because MUHSD didn't seem to care, the District Attorney decided not to do anything about it.
Now, though -- surpise, surprise -- the president of the District's Board of Trustees suddenly cares; and has put the matter on the agenda for the Board's August meeting.
Beneath the Sun-Star article, I wrote the following comment; and also sent a copy of it to the MUHSD Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, the MUHSD Board of Trustees; with copies to the District Attorney's office, the whistle-blower, Thomas (of course), and the article's author Ms Giwargis.
I pointed-out that it contains information that all parties should just generally know; and which they might find useful both in their investigation of Thomas, as well as in future hiring.
Here's the comment I wrote beneath the article, and which I sent to the aforementioned persons...
The newspaper, of course, needed to refer to and quote "experts;" and the ones they found and quoted are excellent. Those of us who have been out there, actually fighting degree/diploma mills, and outing those with their bogus credentials, have long, long known that Almeda was a joke. This is no news to at least we anti-diploma/degree-mill activists.
For whatever it's worth, I've long used more specific definitions for "degree mill" and "diploma mill." They're not, actually, interchangeable terms.
A "diploma mill" is nothing more than a print shop... not terribly dissimilar to a place where one would go to get business cards and letterhead printed-up. A diploma mill prints-up diplomas: simple as that. They'll put any school name, any graduate's name, and any degree name that the person paying for it wants; and they'll do it on really good-quality paper, in raised letters, and even with a bunch of fake school officials's signatures... and, of course, with a fancy-dancy gold seal, exactly like that real thing. When the name of the school on the fake diploma is that of a real school, the really "good" diploma mills will even bother to make sure the diploma looks exactly like the ones the real school prints-up... usually with the forged, in essence, signatures of real school officials on it. And most diploma mills will also provide, for a small additional fee, realistic-looking transcripts, printed on erasure-proof paper, using a classic OCR font, just like the real schools print whenever one wants a copy of one's transcript. Diploma mills don't purport to be schools, or to offer degrees. They just print-up diplomas. Period.
A "degree mill," on the other hand, is something which purports to be a school; and which alleges to offer legitimate certificates, degrees and other either academic or professional educational credentials; but for which the "student" needs do either no work at all, or relatively little. With a degree mill, it is the money which earns the degree, not any actual work for it which the "student" does. Many -- maybe even most -- degree mills actually pretend, even to the "student," that they're real and legitimate; and so they will make said "student" jump through at least *some* kind of hoops to get his/her "degree," such as asking for any transcripts for his/her previous schooling, and asking for his/her resume, and then allegedly "assessing" it all and then telling the "student" that if s/he'll just take two or three more courses (that the diploma mill just happens to offer), and write a paper or two (which no one at the diploma mill ever actually reads), then s/he may have an associates, or bachelors, or masters, or doctorate in whatever subject the diploma mill fees will be legitimate-sounding to the "student," based on his/her work and life experience. I suppose it's technically possible that a "student" could get fooled by all that, but every anti-degree/diploma-mill activist knows that there are never really any true victims; that the "student" always knows what s/he's doing; that s/he's trying to pull a fast one: and so said "student" is just as culpable as is the degree mill...
...and so many degree mills (but probably not the majority of them) don't even bother with the pretense; and so offer little more than does the "diploma mill" other than where the "diploma mill" will only print-up a diploma and transcript, the "degree mill" (which often gets its diplomas and transcripts from a diploma mill) will "stand behind" their bogus credentials by verifying them if anyone call their toll-free numbers, or by sending-out very official-looking transcripts to anyone to whom the by-then-"graduate" pays for them to be sent.
Degree mills nearly always have very impressive-looking websites; and most of them have created completely fake accreditors -- also with equally-impressive-looking websites -- which they claim have accredited them. Sometimes they even make the names of said fake accreditors sound confusingly-similar to the names of real accreditors; and the most brazen of them will even claim to be accredited by real accreditors, counting on the prospective student to not know how to verify whether or not they are.
And so that brings us to how anyone, in just seconds, may verify whether any post-secondary school is really and truly accredited...
In the United States, two agencies approve accreditors. They are the US Department of Education (USDE), and the USDE-sanctioned Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Only those accrediting agencies (also called "accreditors") that are approved by either or both of USDE and/or CHEA are legitimate accreditors. All others are fake; they're just "accreditation mills."
Any accreditor may be verified as really-and-truly approved by either or both of USDE and/or CHEA by simply looking them up on the USDE and/or CHEA websites. Some time ago I created the following shortened, and more memorable URLs which will take you right to them:
If any entity out there -- any alleged accreditor -- in the world claims to be a real US accreditor, do not believe them until and unless you find them listed on at least one of those websites. When verifying an accreditor on the USDE and/or CHEA websites, be sure that the accreditor's address, phone number, and website URLs match what's on the USDE and/or CHEA websites, because, remember, many fake accreditors have intentionally confusingly-similar names; or sometimes even claim to be the real accreditor, using its real name.
For the student wondering if a given school is really-and-truly accredited, the look-up is just as quick and easy. Both USDE and CHEA have databases on their websites which list every single post-secondary school that's accredited by any of their approved accrediting agencies. Back when I created the above shortened URLs, I also created shortened URLs to the USDE and CHEA school look-up databases, to wit:
Any given US college, university, seminary, etc., which claims to be accredited, but which is *not* listed in at least one of those two (USDE and/or CHEA) databases is lying! Period. In order for any school to be legitimately accredited, it must -- and will, positively -- be in either or both of the USDE and/or CHEA databases. And it's as simple as that.
Knowing how to do these simple look-ups will protect any prospective student from a degree mill. Whenever any prospective student is considering a school, s/he should never believe any claims of being accredited which s/he finds on said school's website. Instead, s/he should take a lousy 45 second to no more than two minutes and just look-up the school in the USDE and/or CHEA databases.
Those databases are equally-available to school boards and their HR people (the latter of whom should already know how to look-up a school to see if it's accredited), either of whom could also look-up any school in just seconds and verify that it's really-and-truly accredited. And they're also available to police, who, according to the article, seem to be having trouble deciding whether to file charges against the degree mill credential holder Thomas.
As with looking-up accreditors, when said school look-ups are performed, care should be taken to verify that the address and phone number of the school on its website, and its website's URL, matches what's in the USDE and/or CHEA database. Fake schools play all kinds of games with how they name themselves; and they play the "confusingly similar-sounding" game with both school names, and the names of the fake accreditors that they create.
If the Merced Union High School District people had known all this, and also had a policy of only hiring people whose alma mater pass the USDE and/or CHEA website look-up tests (and who also verify that the applicant actually graduated from said alma mater), then none of this ugly mess with this Thomas guy would have ever happened in the first place.
The article quotes trustee Spangler as saying "he believes there needs to be closer scrutiny of degrees," and that the district needs to "make sure the degrees meet the requirements of that specific job and they're from accredited schools." Agreed...
...and the place to begin all that is a simple 45-second-to-no-more-than-two-minute look-up using the easy-to-remember shortened URLs to the USDE and CHEA websites; followed by verifying with the school that the applicant really earned the credential that s/he claims on his/her resume.
Whomever in the District's HR department didn't know all this (or, worse, did, but didn't use it) wasn't doing his/her job; wasn't performing his/her due diligence. Along with firing Thomas, the Board should consider firing that HR person, too.
Hope that helps.
Gregg L. DesElms | Napa, California USA | gregg at greggdeselms dot com