SACRAMENTO, CA - Diploma mills, which are companies who print fake diplomas for a fee, are growing rapidly in the country, according to several lawmakers at the Capitol.
At a hearing Wednesday, one national expert on diploma mills argued that more than half of all people claiming to have a new PhD actually have purchased a fake degree.
Assem. Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, who called the hearing, said it is a "serious and growing" problem.
Degrees can be bought online for as little as $50 or as much as $6,000. The diplomas look and feel real. Sometimes they are from fake colleges, and sometimes they duplicate diplomas from real universities. Depending on the price you pay, you can print up a bachelor's degree, masters or even a PhD.
"It seems to be quite common and growing for example, by some estimates we have more PhD's conferred in this country on an annual basis that are fake than real ones that are given by legitimate universities," Dickinson said. "As many as 50,000 fake PhD a year."
Dickinson claims there are upwards of 100,000 federal employees who currently hold fake degrees. One national expert, Dr. John Bear, diploma mills expert, claims at least three NASA employees have fake diplomas that the FBI knows about.
And a recent United States Congressional Subcommittee estimates there are at least 5,000 practicing medical doctors in the U.S. who hold fake PhD diplomas.
"I recently testified in federal court against two men who were on trial for manslaughter, they pretended to be doctors, they took a child off insulin and she died," Bear said. "Well, that's about as extreme as it can get."
That case happened in 1999 in the North Carolina, but the problem of fake diplomas only seems to have grown since then. Lawmakers will look into tightening their laws. In Oregon, for example, it is a felony to be caught trying to use a fake diploma for employment or monetary gain.
"Publicity is the only thing that works," Bear said. "If the HR people or people out there hiring or promoting or whatever knew more about the problem, it would lessen. People would be afraid."