Campuses fear a rise in fake degrees, transcripts

Kathy Brockgreitens-Gober was floored several months ago when the education department in Florida sent her a copy of a transcript that purported to be from St. Charles Community College, where she is the registrar. The transcript had the college’s name and address on it, but it was otherwise completely fictitious — down to the A’s and B’s the supposed student had given herself, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "None of it was correct," said Brockgreitens-Gober. "Those were not our course numbers or course titles." The person claiming to be a St. Charles Community College alumnus was a St. Charles resident who had applied for a teaching certificate in Florida. Then a few weeks ago, Brockgreitens-Gober received another fake transcript that was exactly the same, except the first name was different. "In my 21 years, this is the first time I’ve ever come across this," she said. The only similar thing she’s seen was when students occasionally tried to change their grades on their transcripts. Some estimates suggest that as many as 200,000 phony degrees are issued every year, according to the Missouri Department of Higher Education. The internet is full of operations that will fabricate degrees to fit anyone’s educational aspirations–for a fee, of course. But experts acknowledge that it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how many are being used to get jobs, because they are only flagged if an employer becomes suspicious and asks a school to verify a transcript or degree. While area universities say they only see a handful of fake transcripts, if any at all, every year, some worry that the economic recession will push more people to seek them out. "When I look at the economic times and people out of work, there may be more people trying to use this to get a leg up in the job market," said Eric Stuhler, legal counsel for Lindenwood University. "The potential for future fraud is enormous."

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