“Educated” applicants may not be so smart

Employers now have opportunity to check academic credentials

Lying about educational qualifications is on the rise. In 1995-96, one estimate put the number of candidates who were untruthful about their college majors, graduation or attendance dates, or who even awarded themselves unearned degrees, at 14 per cent. That figure has increased to around 18.5 per cent over the last two years.

Academic records are relatively easy to verify: just put in a call to the school in question. Why then do candidates risk having their dishonesty discovered? The answer could well be that employers rarely checked academic credentials, given the amount of time it took for universities to provide the information.

That may change now that a burgeoning industry is joining with universities to provide reliable on-line academic checks.

At least three companies who perform this service are now in operation in the United States: Credentials Inc., EdVerify and the National Student Clearinghouse. Each company is partnered with certain universities. The universities copy their student and graduate lists and deliver them to the company. When contacted by a potential employer, the company can then verify degrees and past attendance, as well as take orders for transcripts.

Schools were reluctant to become involved in the venture. One issue was security, but at least one company encrypts the information in its database. The systems are also compatible with privacy laws.

However, two other factors have proved more persuasive in winning universities’ participation. At least one company, Credentials, gives the schools 30 to 40 per cent of the fees it earns. Given that the cost of a single search is generally around $12.50 and millions of searches are conducted each year, that could add up to significant revenue for the universities.

The other factor is time. It takes considerable time and resources to check student records. The schools appreciate the fact that the degree-checking companies can provide that service more efficiently and that they are freed up to deal with current students.

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