Is the degree someone earned really that private? What would happen if...

Also see the factual side of this question in this other forum:
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?p=15031895#post15031895

Determining what degree someone earned is difficult, by today’s standards. You must pay money and jump through some hoops. The easiest method (unverified) I’ve seen is one that seemed about as simple as background check verification. This dissuades employers to check on every candidate.

If it were all free and easy to check, I think it might be better for both the recipient and the college issuing the degree. What do you think?

All the universities I’ve been associated with provide transcripts at no cost (unless you want them rushed) to former students - these transcripts show the degree earned, as well as the results of all the student’s classwork there. It is free and easy, provided you have the cooperation of the student in question.

I don’t think there’s any reason to make this information available to anybody without the student’s approval.

Transcripts are a different topic. I’m just talking about two pieces of information found on a diploma:

Name and Degree Earned.

Of timely relevance, Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson was just outed by activist hedge fund/large equity holder of Yahoo as lying about his Bachelor’s degree. He claimed to have earned a BS in Computer Science before his undergrad college offered such a degree.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/03/scott-thompson-resume-yahoo_n_1475700.html

I don`t know if it’s harder to imagine it making a difference whether the CEO of Yahoo has a comp sci degree or to imagine the CEO of Yahoo feeling the need to lie about it in the first place.

Read that this morning.

Now, imagine how things would change across the world if diploma information was very easily (as in no fees, no waiting) accessible on a public database.

It seems like it would be an expense for the college to maintain a database and a web site, with not much return on investment.

I’m trying, but I just can’t see how ANYthing would change. Why don’t you lay it out for us?

It’s been common in jobs I’ve had for the company to ask to see copies of degree certificates (where these were essential for the role) from successful candidates when they get hired. That would seem an easier way of dealing with the possible problem of people lying about their qualifications than introducing a massive public (global?) database. (Who would fund your database, by the way? And what would be in it for them?)

It’s very easy for a company to make their offers contingent on receiving an official transcript from any schools attended. What would your public database do that this system doesn’t?

Edit: Also, for people who aren’t following the GQ thread, FERPA comes in to play here. Under current US law, you can only fill such a database with information about people who opt in.

see Fuzzy Dunlop’s post above.

They typically publish the names in the commencement bulletin, and maybe in a press release. I don’t know if students have the option of opting out for privacy reasons, since academic records are supposed to be private. I don’t see how hard it would be to just archive those lists on a web site. I imagine the biggest issue would be that the requirements for walking in the commencement ceremony are often slightly different from actually getting the degree (they might let someone walk who stil has a credit or two unfinished) and there may be other technicalities that would cause someone to be on the list when they shouldn’t be (or not be when they should) but it would certainly make things easier for employers if the lists were made public.

Or, Yahoo could have actually checked his credentials themselves before hiring him. Voila, problem solved.

That’s just laziness on Yahoo’s part. Again - what would this change, that an ounce of effort doesn’t already provide? Seriously - what problem exists that you think you are solving?

I read that but FERPA does not seem to prevent a school from confirming that a person is a graduate and of which year. Not sure if they will tell you the major a person had.

I’m not understanding why someone would want to keep their degree private. I know I busted my balls to get the degree I have and will let anyone know I have it. It’s not so much the degree, itself, as the effort that it took to get it.

There’s a lot of discrimination out there against people with certain degrees. I’ve seen this first hand with a PhD. (I can’t leave it off my resume 'cause I was a college professor for a long time.) Heard a lot of gripes from others about this.

Also if the degree is in a “soft” field, etc.

Note that commencement listings aren’t all that useful. While some people have unique names, a lot don’t. Who knows if the Alice Horton in the Harvard 2006 list is the same Alice Horton applying at your company. You need more info, like a SSN, and the school should definitely not be sharing that with anybody. And what if Alice married Stefano Demeara and changed her name? Commencement listings are useless.

You also can’t trust a transcript issued to a student. Those are easy to fake. I’ve seen ones imprinted with “issued to student” so that others won’t consider them official. You have to have the school send it directly to the company. And they will almost certainly charge for it.

Note that there is a transcript and proof of degree letter. You should only need to provide the latter in most cases.

My alma mater has an online data base for alumni use only whereby we can search other alumni and find certain information about them, but a minimum their year of graduation and their degree. If the alumnus has added personal contact info to their profile, that will be there as well.

Well with Yahoo there’s a slippery slope to worry about. I mean this guy was the CEO, head of the entire company and drawing an 8 figure compensation package. If you force him to validate his credentials where does it end? Senior Vice Presidents? Regular Vice Presidents? They need to draw the line somewhere.

Why, I bet if Yahoo paid some secretaries to verify every one of their 10,000 employees as they hired them the cost would be literally *hundreds *of dollars.

:wink:

Yeah, one could be in a situation where they want to de-emphasize the fact that they have a degree, e.g. if they feel that they might be perceived as overqualified for the job they are applying for. It’s been my long-term understanding that a resume does not need to list every qualification possessed, though a formal job application may have that requirement.

Yep, Yahoo was lazy.
It’s the hiring companies responsibility to verifty that what the job candidate tells them is correct.

As for the idea of requiring all colleges to post all of the degrees they confer, would you also require employers to keep an internet database of everyone that has worked for them? Yes, most will give out job title and dates of employment, if you ask for it, but schools will do the same, for a nominal fee.

I can’t imagine the number of mail/email/Facebook/LinkedIn etc. solicitations I would get if suddenly advertisers could start linking me to everyone with my name that has ever graduated from college. Because that is exactly what would happen.

“Hey look - someone named “Tastes of Chocolate” graduate from Texas A&M in 1940 with a degree in engineering. And here is another that graduated from Upper Iowa University in teaching in 2001. And a third from California in Art History in 1972. I bet they would love to hear about our offers for engineers, teachers and artist.”