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What Are the Challenges of Education Verification in the Age of Online Colleges?

As you’ve probably already experienced, the process for verifying an online college is a cumbersome one. When full of potential dead ends where it may be impossible to verify the employee’s experience thoroughly. Here are some of the other challenges you might encounter and options to solve them.

1. Industry Standards May Not Have Been Met

Online colleges exist along a spectrum. From those that offer a “vending machine” diploma to those that are online offshoots of a rigorous brick-and-mortar institution. In the murky middle lie programs that are hard to evaluate. Instructor credentials may seem just a little bit “off,” or perhaps they lack clear evidence of what purpose final projects serve. Ultimately, time at these schools may leave your employees ill-prepared for your work environment.

Their intentions may have been excellent—they did enough work to find a college that seemed legitimate, at least! However, the college may not truly be certifying the same thing that more rigorous institutions can claim. This is especially true if the degree is in something that does have professional organizations and tests that prove knowledge. If the program doesn’t require or encourage its students to take those tests, that’s a red flag.

The Fix: A Thorough Interview

This particular challenge is better solved in an interview than anywhere else. If this candidate has risen to the top for everything but the questionable degree, you’ll want to spend some time chatting with them about their education. What was the structure of the classes, the nature of some of their favorite final projects, or the ways that the degree came in handy at previous jobs? Try to keep this from being antagonistic, since these things can be genuinely hard to recall. Still, the candidate should be able to offer some reassurance that the program was rigorous if there aren’t independent ways to verify it.

2. Fake Accreditation Agencies

Companies that create for-profit diploma mills are nothing if not resourceful; in response to checks for their accreditation, they sometimes create fake accreditation agencies! Websites for these colleges can look almost identical to a legitimate college, and contain detailed, jargon-filled explanations of their accreditation process. This can cause companies or other verifiers to turn a blind eye to other red flags since the whole point of being accredited is that someone else has checked into the educational quality.

The Fix: Stick with CHEA and the Department of Education

The way to avoid this problem is to assume that, in general, legitimate colleges must have a relationship with the CHEA or the U.S. Department of Education. Indeed, the accreditation process takes time, and there are hiccups, but if there is no evidence that a college has even attempted CHEA accreditation in any respect, you have cause for concern.

If the college is producing particular technical credentials, rather than more general 4-year degrees, follow up on any accrediting agency that appears to be very professional. Do they exist? Do they also list this college on their website? Check review sites and make sure there haven’t been any Better Business Bureau complaints against either the college itself or the accreditor.

3. Employees Can Claim to Have Been Scammed

Imagine this scenario, which tends to trip up employers: they find a great candidate, perhaps one who has significant job experience in the field. They claim to have a degree from an institution that has been proven to be a low-quality online college that doesn’t deliver the education necessary to be qualified for the job. When confronted with this information, the candidate protests that he or she had no way of knowing that the college’s education was not up to the standards. They may even claim that they have been scammed and deserve a chance at the position on their other merits. What do you do as an employer? Do you trust that the candidate indeed was a victim and at no point chose to continue in a relaxed, sub-standard program? Alternatively, do you look for new candidate options whose education more clearly reflects the needs of your open position at the company?

The Fix: Have Clear Standards About Education

One of the ways to solve this puzzle is to know, before you even read applications, what impact the education aspect of a person’s credentials will have on the hiring process. In some less-technical fields, experience in the field is even more valuable than a particularly high-quality degree. However, in others, the fundamentals from school are a non-negotiable part of the work. Know where you stand before you become attached to a particular candidate so that their background screening can provide you helpful information to make an unbiased decision.

If you and your company are overwhelmed by the process of background checking, screening, and verification of details, why not work with an FCRA-compliant company like CNet Technologies? We are well-grounded legally and extremely thorough. Nobody wants to imagine that your candidates are lying about anything on their resumes—but going through a background check helps you gain peace of mind that you are employing the best person for the job.

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