April 2, 2010

Non-accredited US Degrees; who are they good for?

As I thumb through major international magazines, I often come upon all these schools that advertise their long distance programs as well as on-campus programs for BAs, MAs and PhDs. They make it a point to convince the potential student that the degrees are legal and approved. And I keep seeing the ads over and over again everywhere I look. I have often wondered- since in the US, accreditation is such a big deal, where do they get the suckers to enroll in all these not-so-valuable educational curricula that are unaccredited?

Many of such schools also advertise on the Net and tout faces of their happy graduates-big smiles and testimonies on how good their programs are. Since I see these ads year after year, they must be attracting quite a few students. But who can they attract?

It is well known in the US that a non-accredited degree can be a time bomb. If you get a BA, MA or Ph D from a school that did not pass the rigorous accreditation requirements by special commissions that does that, your career can be put at risk and you can lose your job. If you try to work in the government sector or for respectful colleges in the US, Canada or the UK, they will not even let you near those places, and you will most probably never get a job there even if you are admitted for an interview.

However, that is not the case when you deal with a number of developing countries such as Thailand or Pakistan or even developed countries such as Japan. In many such countries, there is no American concept of ‘accreditation’, and, because the degrees are legal in the US, they add a great deal of prestige and job-finding power to their holders in those countries.

And I am not talking about degree mills. There are quite a few very good universities in the US that are approved and legal, but not accredited. They have good BA and MBA programs and fairly good teachers. Their fees are very low and that is very attractive to many overseas students who cannot afford a traditional US degree from a reputable school.

A Taiwanese student, who wants to be a manager at a private company in his country, will find such a degree a windfall. It shows that he now knows about business, can read and understand English and most importantly, that he studied at an American university. Hired!

The same goes for PhD holders from some obscure Louisiana college which grants such doctorates. They are legal all right, but you cannot get a job with them at most places in the US. However, if you are a Thai citizen living in Bangkok and you apply for a job at a private, say, real estate company in Bangkok, you will often get a good position and your degree will be a big door opener in your society, in general. Thai society, that is. In the private sector, mostly.

Some Japanese and other non-English -speaking First-Worlders, who cannot afford to go to the US to study, also avail themselves of these $4000 diplomas. “I have a degree from the US” is a potent indicator of one’s competence. Accredited? What’s ‘accredited’?” Many people would not even know the meaning of the word. American college? Graduated? Speaks English? Welcome!

This way, while the graduates may not become professors at large public universities- these would require an attestation of the document by the US Embassy-, quite a few private companies will generally welcome these American-educated potential employees.

As you travel around the world, particularly the so-called Third World, and visit offices of many a manager there, you will see such degrees proudly displayed on the walls of their offices. Now you know where these schools get their students from.

Incidentally, while there, you will often see US movies playing at their movie theaters with American stars whom you may have never seen before. These are also “non-accredited” US movies by small-budget studios made specifically for the Third World market. Do not be surprised if your foreign friends start asking you about whether you like a certain actor and you have never even heard his name. They are about as famous in the US as those non-accredited American universities which have, nevertheless, managed to improve the lives of quite a few people. At a fraction of the cost.

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3 comments:

- Terrence said...

I used to work at one of those small budget studios and worked on a few such movies. I was surprised to see one a friend supervised on a big marquee in The Philippines in a major theatre. The same probably went straight to video in the US.

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You said absolutely right about the major international magazines.