How do I verify a politician's degree?
January 14, 2013 6:39 AM   Subscribe

I think a politician in my area has falsified his credentials. How do I confirm my suspicions?

A politician in my area says that they received an MBA degree from a top-20 program. However, there are huge gaps in this politician's timeline and bio. I'm trying to find out if the person really did graduate with their MBA.

I know about the National Student Clearinghouse, but I don't think I qualify for requesting since the person in question is not applying for a job with my organization. Any ideas?

Side note: This seems exactly the type of research that a local newspaper would do BEFORE the election. However, our local paper was been decimated by layoffs and cutbacks. I'm certain that they did not verify this person's bio before the election. I have no reason to think that the local government did either.
posted by joe vrrr to Law & Government (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Search the school's newspaper for the article on "graduates, class of XX." If you find their name, then it suggests they got the degree.
posted by zippy at 6:44 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

While transcripts are protected, you should be able to contact the registrar at the relevant institution and request verification of their degree. Alternatively, if you know the graduation date, you could check with the university archives and see if their name was published with the graduates in the relevant commencement program.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:46 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

if you can find another alum of that university, you can ask them to check the alumni database for you. Most programs have databases of this kind available, mainly for networking purposes.
posted by vacapinta at 6:53 AM on January 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: The school newspaper's archives don't go back far enough (at least online). I'm not local to the university in question.

The university itself directs all requests to the Clearinghouse, so there's no way to request the verification directly from the school (or so they tell me. I'm just a random member of the public).
posted by joe vrrr at 6:55 AM on January 14, 2013

Look for a copy of the graduation program for the year they reputedly graduated in the university library/historic society?
posted by mdonley at 7:11 AM on January 14, 2013

i've done this before and uncovered fraud. (major west coast high profile university, too.) IIRC, I called and told them i was verifying a claim of a PhD holder, and asked politely but insistently for someone who could verify. i wasn't looking for a transcript, just verification of the granting of a degree. (it helps to be good on the phone.) i only had a name, the purported degree, the university and department in question, and my phone.

someone at the school knows or can find out.
posted by FauxScot at 7:12 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

note: this was in the 1990's. Not sure the Clearinghouse was even around then....
posted by FauxScot at 7:18 AM on January 14, 2013

I know about the National Student Clearinghouse, but I don't think I qualify for requesting since the person in question is not applying for a job with my organization.

If you go to the Request a Verification page, you can enter the relevant information, they ask for a credit card on the next page, charge you $9.95, and you're done. Granted, the Terms of Service state that you must agree that you are only doing the verification because the person you're inquiring about has made a specific application or request to you that requires the specific degree you're asking about, but I think you could make a case that you "qualify."

I would talk to a journalist about how the information from the NSC can be used once you get it, given their terms of service. But it seems pretty straightforward for you to make the request and get an answer.
posted by deanc at 7:19 AM on January 14, 2013

Justifying yourself likely will not be good enough. From NSC/s FAQ:

Why do I need to fax a copy of the student's consent?

In accordance with the Clearinghouse's service terms and conditions, you must obtain the student’s signed and dated consent before submitting an online verification. In some cases, schools will not research their records for the student’s information until they see the signed consent. As the school’s agent, the Clearinghouse may require you to fax a copy of the student’s consent to us. Upon receipt of our request, you must fax a copy of the signed consent to us within two (2) business days. If we do not receive the faxed consent from you within two business days, your request will be closed without verification.

How committed are you to being a muckraker (a term I consider a compliment) here? If you're willing to be public about it, make a request to the politician for their authorization. If they refuse, look for a sympathetic journalist to contact to let them know they refused your request.
posted by phearlez at 7:57 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm quite committed to being a muckraker, but I don't think I can be a public muckraker with regards to this particular person - at least without knowing for sure if I'm on the right side of the truth.
posted by joe vrrr at 8:04 AM on January 14, 2013

Call the alumni association. That's where we typically send people.
posted by Madamina at 8:05 AM on January 14, 2013

Why not get in touch with the school newspaper and see whether there's anyone who could search through its in-house archives for May of the year the politician supposedly graduated? I bet they might be willing to help, especially if there would be an interesting story in it if the politician does turn out to be misrepresenting himself.
posted by limeonaire at 8:18 AM on January 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Call or email the school's library and ask a librarian to search for you. This is the sort of thing we often do, and if we don't do it, we know who on campus can.
posted by telophase at 8:31 AM on January 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I checked and they are a member of the alumni association. Still no answer if they gradudated, but at least the dates match the person's timeline.

It's a real possibility that this person did graduate. I'm just being thorough. Thanks.
posted by joe vrrr at 8:42 AM on January 14, 2013

Have you tried their Media Relations contacts on their website? A politician making public claim of credentials including them may be enough of a crossover thing that they'll validate. At least you may have more luck than with trying to go through the registrar, where their shields are always up against inappropriate contact from parents & family.

And you seem to have reconsidered identification, so I have removed the link. But if you look up the MBA program itself at that school you'll find they have two media relations professionals identified. Contacting them directly may be more effective.
posted by phearlez at 8:48 AM on January 14, 2013

One more suggestion.... call him up and ask him privately, or do so/arrange to have someone else do so in a public forum. In for a dime, in for a dollar. If he is lying and he doubles down, he's pickled. If he's not lying, then you are wrong and should re-evaluate your opposition.

Asking the question will probably get others to verify this FOR you.
posted by FauxScot at 9:49 AM on January 14, 2013

If you don't mind calling the alumni association back, ask them where they get their data. Our alumni association gets the information directly from the registrar's office, which is the most reliable answer. It'll typically come over as electronic data, too, so it'll be as specific as it was in the student information system.

For example, I have a BA in music performance, so I can say I have a music degree. But I did not get a Bachelor of Music degree, which would have required multiple years of language study. Important to clarify in many fields -- what if someone got a degree from a medical school, but it wasn't actually an MD? (Our medical school offers bachelor's degrees in fields like public health.)

When I look up, say, a now-professional athlete, that person is often touted as being an alum even though he (typically a he...) often left campus immediately following the completion of his eligibility. In one case, I found an athlete who has close contact with the alumni association but doesn't have a degree listed. In another, I found an athlete who DID have a degree listed, so clearly they have a way of noting it. And in a third instance, an athlete wasn't listed at all.

And in the case of a politician in our own state who was caught for falsifying her degree status? Nope. Nada. Nil.
posted by Madamina at 10:39 AM on January 14, 2013

« Older How to fit two lives into one house   |   What do I do with superfluous office space? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.