A Guide to Education Verification

diploma and tassels laying in the grass

Verifying a candidate’s education is a common service included in the background check screening process.  To create the most accurate outcome during the education verification portion of the background check, there are a few basic considerations about the education verification process to take note of.

  1. Understand degree and diploma verification requirements.
  2. Be aware of diploma mills and degree scams.
  3. Know the types of High School Diplomas.

Understand the Degree and Diploma Verification Process and Requirements

A common misconception with a diploma verification is that a copy of a degree or diploma is a way to prove legitimacy. This is false. The only way to prove legitimacy of documents is for them to be authenticated by the institution where the degree or diploma was obtained (known as “primary source verification”). Typical primary sources include a registrar’s office or a database known as the National Student Clearinghouse.

Another misconception in regards to diploma legitimacy is that walking across the stage at a graduation ceremony means that the candidate graduated. This is false. 

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There are times where a student is permitted to walk across the stage with their fellow classmates but still needs to satisfy requirements in order to actually graduate. For example, they may need to complete additional coursework, or simply pay a library fine. If discrepancy resolution is part of an employer’s protocol, the candidate will be notified so they can contact the school and get the problem resolved.

Diploma Mills Pose Issues for Both High School and College Education Verifications

Diploma mills, also known as degree mills, are bogus universities or organizations that sell college and/or high school diplomas. Diploma mills provide fake paper diplomas to anyone who is willing to pay a provided fee. Some ways to identify a diploma mill are:

  • Candidates can obtain the “diploma” by paying a fee
  • Diploma mills tend to have made up names similar to an accredited institution
  • Diploma mills are not accredited agencies recognized by the United States Department of Education as reliable sources to prove education or training background.
  • Degrees that can be earned in less time than at an accredited post-secondary institution. An example would be earning a Bachelor's degree in a few months. The Department of Education has more insight here.

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) offers further guidance on diploma mills and other college degree scams here.

Understanding the Difference: High School Diploma vs GED/HSED

Prior to post-secondary education, there are three types of education that can be verified: a high school diploma, GED, or HSED.All three diplomas are equal in terms of level of education. Most colleges and universities will accept students with any of the above listed diplomas.

High school diplomas are granted by the high school attended by a candidate. GEDs (General Education Diplomas) and HSEDs (High School Equivalency Diplomas) are types of diplomas that are options for candidates that did not fully complete their high school education. A GED is granted after a series of tests are passed, while an HSED requires that coursework be completed in addition to the completion of an examination. While high school diplomas are typically granted by the school at the time of graduation, GEDs and HSEDs are granted either by state or county governments (with the records being held respectively).

If you are interested in adding an education verification to your screening service package, please contact your account manager or email us at intouch@inchecksolutions.com.

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