Freakonomics Radio took a look at the value of education and the dark-side of educational credentials (fake diplomas!) in their latest podcast week. Stephen Dubner, the host, pointed out where we stand today:
You can be whatever you want to be. We say that a lot—parents to kids especially. But what we really mean is: You can be whatever you want to be, but first you need a college degree. Now, degree mills exploit our collective college anxiety, and they tell people: don’t worry about the education, it’s the piece of paper that gets you the job. Plus, a real degree is expensive, not only the money itself, but four years of your life. And, especially when the economy is crummy, it’s unclear if that investment is paying off.
Allen Ezell, a former FBI agent who co-authored the book Degree Mills: The Billion-dollar Industry That Has Sold over a Million Fake Diplomas, estimates that about 1% of all degrees awarded each year in the U.S. are from diploma mills. Percentage-wise it sounds small, but there are more than a million degrees granted annually. Each fake degree, devalues the real degrees so many students spend years and hard earned money to earn.
Steven Levitt, Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago and co-author of the Freakonomics books noted the economist’s perspective – and the good news for anyone who has invested years and money in education: