Policing Resume Padding

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The state of Washington is considering a bill that would impose a $1,000 fine on those claiming, in writing, to have an academic degree they didn't possess. Also, failing to disclose that a listed degree came from an unaccredited institution will cause a fine. The bill passed the Washington House last week and now goes to the Senate, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. These degrees are offered to people based on their general life experiences.

The bills aim to close legal loopholes concerning “diploma mills” operating within the state and in foreign countries. The degrees are sold by these businesses promoting themselves as educational institutions, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The degrees sold are actually a paper degree and a verification service to handle inquiries from potential employers. Washington has become a center for Internet universities.

The Washington bills were spurred by several incidents. One is a candidate for King County sheriff with an unaccredited degree. The sergeant was using this degree to boost his salary, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Another incident occurred in October, 2005, where eight people were indicted on federal wire fraud and mail fraud charges after being found selling worthless degrees.

Rep. Phyllis Kenney (D-Seattle) told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “It adds the expectation of accountability and honesty from both the institution and the individual.” The legislation would make it illegal for people to lie on their resumes. If passed, this bill will become effective in July.

A previous bill that didn't pass the Senate would have made using or issuing a false academic degree a felony. People citing an unaccredited degree would have to clearly state that a degree came from an unaccredited source or remove it from future resumes.

The University of Wisconsin at Madison, reports that “resume-padding” is very prevalent among high schoolers and college students. Lewis Friedland is a professor of journalism and mass communication there and found his study “calls into question some of the vibrancy apparent in the high rate of youth volunteerism.” Friedland continued, “The near universality of this college resume padding really surprised me.”
Friedland's study found, “Resume padding is a symptom of the extraordinary pressure put on young people to achieve a college education, and the very explicit understanding that a college education is a means to a decent life in the middle class.” Pleasing college admissions officers was very important to those interviewed in the study that was published as a working paper for the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

For those attending universities, Notre Dame has noted that many business students are packing their college schedules to meet the 150 hours necessary to reach Certified Public Accountant (CPA) test eligibility, according to the [Notre Dame] Observer. Notre Dame is one of the top accounting programs nationally, according to the 2004 Public Accounting Report. The accounting program is currently the sixth most popular major at the university.

Alternately, some accounting majors not completing the 150 hours chose to enroll in the one-year MBA program. These students enter the work force completing the necessary 150 hours with a master's degree, too. Professor Jamie O'Brien said the additional fifth year is good preparation for a professional career, according to the [Notre Dame] Observer.

There are accredited Internet degrees though. Boston University offers a preparatory course for the Certified Management Accountant examination, according to the Daily Free Press. The Institute of Management Accountants approached the university to offer this online course. It's also the only university in New England that offers this course. The Center for Professional Education (CPE) of the Metropolitan College and Extended Education runs the course. The four areas of the examination are:

· Business Analysis
· Management Accounting and Reporting
· Strategic Management
· Business Applications

The course prepares CMAs instead of CPAs. Ruth Ann Murray, CPS director, sorted out the difference between the two certifications. She told the Daily Free Press that a CPA “prepares and does audits or tax returns” and a CMA “handles a company's own finances.”

She said a majority of those taking the course already had a Bachelor of Arts or Master of Arts degree in accounting and have been working in the accounting industry for several years. According to a study done by Smartpros, Inc, CMAs earned 19 percent more than CPAs and 89 percent more than non-certified accountants in 2005, according to the Daily Free Press.

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