Beware Diploma Mills

For my BlogTalkRadio program I am looking for Ph.D.s to interview about their research.  The idea is to inform, enlighten and educate the general public about research that is being conducted at institutes of higher learning.

Today I received a response from a woman claiming to have a Ph.D. in “Natural Health.”  Not exactly a topic that interests me but, the purpose of the program is not to interest me but rather listeners.  Health and wellness are topical subjects, and “natural” is very popular.  So I asked her to send me her research proposal and I also asked her where she received her doctorate.

She wrote me back that she did not do her own research but rather researched other people’s research.  That might actually be legitimate, but the fact that she wrote “I did not do my own research,” set off some alarms.  Regardless of how she did what she did, all colleges require students to submit research proposals explaining what they want to do, how they are going to do it, and what the expected results are.  Something did not sound right.  So I Googled her school, Clayton College of Natural Health.  Take your time, I’ll wait.

So you saw the lawsuit.  You saw that the website no longer exists, except for one allowing graduates to order transcripts and diplomas.  And you saw Wikipedia’s first paragraph, “The Clayton College of Natural Health was a non-accredited American distance-learning natural health college based in Birmingham, Alabama, offering classes on natural health. It was founded in 1980 by Lloyd Clayton, Jr. According to its website, the school at one point had more than 25,000 students and graduates. Before 1997 it was known as the American College of Holistic Nutrition  The school and some of its more notable graduates have been the subject of controversy.”

When I e-mailed her back to explain that because her degree is from a non-accredited college I felt uncomfortable having her on the program, she politely replied that she had a friend from Stanford who just got his Ph.D. and she would tell him about my program.   She did not respond to the issue of the college’s accreditation or lack thereof.

What’s sad is that she goes around the country speaking and uses the Ph.D. openly.  On her website she even mentions Clayton.  She is hiding nothing.  It’s all out in the open.  Wasn’t it Sherlock Holmes who said that the best place to hide something is out in the open?  Need to hide a book?   Stick it on a book shelf.  Her degree is out there.  I Googled her and did not find a single reference to the fact that her Ph.D. is illegitimate.   In fact, on one of her websites, she states that she has attended programs at Harvard and at the National Institutes of Health.  I know for a fact that they do not require a Ph.D. to participate in Harvard or NIH programs.  But one would think that someone would have picked up on this.

The point, my friends, is that if you attend an unaccredited college or university, you may get away with it.  But you may not.  And if you get caught, by an employer who only hired you because you qualified – in other words, you met the minimum academic requirements – when it becomes known that your degree is from an unaccredited college, you could very well be fired.

A couple of years ago I had an incident with a candidate.  He had a Bachelor’s from a State college but a second Bachelor’s from another school and ten years later got a Ph.D. from that same school.  The first thing that was strange was that he had two Bachelor’s.  It happens.  But he did not have a Master’s degree.  Again, plenty of Ph.D.s don’t have Master’s.  A friend of mine, now a professor at Yale, went to the London School of Economics.  He was accepted to their Master’s program.   After maybe a year  they told him, with British humor, that he was being kicked out of the program.  They waited long enough for his heart to stop and then told him they were putting him directly into a doctoral program.  It happens.  But I decided to check.

Google “Glendale University.”  Did you notice the link at the bottom to “Glendale University diploma mill?”  If you visited the Glendale website, it looks impressive.  They claim to be accredited by the National Distance Learning Accreditation Council.  If you visit their website, they have a long list of schools that meet their “minimum requirement and standards.”  But it does not say that those schools are actually accredited by them.  Want to know why?  Because they aren’t.  The University of Phoenix, which they list near the top of their list,  ” is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association.” They are legitimate!

But look again.  Notice that some of the universities are highlighted and some are not.  Click on “Suffield University” and go to their accreditation page.  They don’t even try to hide the truth.  They make it clear that their degrees are not recognized.  Amazing, isn’t it?

Cheaters never prosper.  Don’t waste your time buying a diploma.  Do it the right way.  Just think about how embarrassed you will be if someone publicly asks you about it.  My Clayton Ph.D. claims to be a sought after speaker.  What will happen if one day someone questions her Ph.D.?  The rest of her credentials may be legitimate.  She may actually know what she’s talking about.  She may even be good at what she does.  But whose going to take the advice of someone who claims to be something she is not?  True, she claims to be a Clayton Ph.D.  But the inference is that that is a legitimate Ph.D.  And that’s where the cheating comes into play.

I do career counseling.  I have a Ph.D.  My Ph.D. is in International Relations.  It says so on my website.  When clients come to me they are coming to me for my expertise learned on the job, not in the classroom.  They know it ahead of time.  Nothing is hidden.  Why?  Because I never want anyone to questions my credentials, my ethics, or my credibility.  I’m not perfect; I make mistakes.  But I’m right about this.  If you are thinking about “cheating,” don’t do it.  Get the degree the right way.

WORD OF WARNING TO VETERANS:  If a college is going to give you credit for your military work, check them out.  My guess is that they are a diploma mill.  Don’t let them take advantage of you.