Foreign Credential Evaluation: Looks can be deceiving!

July 14, 2011

Pedro* is from Cuba where he received the Titulo de Tecnica de nivel medio en Organizacion de la Produccion Industrial, a technical high school diploma, after completing the nivel medio superior (upper secondary/senior high school) cycle of education. Now he is applying for a job and his employer wants to know if he has the U.S. equivalent of an Associate or Bachelor’s degree. The employer refers Pedro to ACEI (Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute) to have his credentials evaluated.

As far as Pedro is concerned he believes his Diploma is equivalent to at least the Associate if not the Bachelor’s Degree. He has conveyed this to his prospective employer on the job application and is hoping that the academic evaluation will confirm his opinion.

A great many mistakes are made by those who do not have sufficient information about the age and personal history of the foreign student/job applicant whose application they are considering for college/university admission or for employment. Lack of information of the educational system, in this case Cuba, or having little or no experience with evaluating international credentials leads to even more serious mistakes.

The fact that Pedro’s Diploma uses language that to a person not versed with the vernacular of academic terms may appear to be advanced must not be the basis of accepting the credential on face value as equivalent to for example, a U.S. Bachelor’s or Associate degree. A credential evaluator, knowledgeable with the Cuban educational system knows that a person with only 15 years’ of age who has completed (at the minimum) 9th grade of junior high school is able to enter the program pursued by Pedro. This factor alone confirms that the level of the program Pedro completed cannot be compared with and measured against the Associate and/or Bachelor degree programs offered by accredited U.S. colleges and universities. In addition, Pedro’s Diploma allows him to apply for admission to the first year of undergraduate studies at institutions of higher learning in Cuba. This is another important factor ACEI considers when determining the level of a foreign academic program.

What can be said of Pedro’s studies is that he completed a secondary education program that combined academic along with technical studies preparing him mainly for a trade when he graduated from high school. So, just because the title of an international student’s or job applicant’s diploma may sound or appear to be unusual or different, one cannot automatically accept the award as, in Pedro’s case, equivalent to a university level degree.

*name has been changed to protect the individual’s privacy.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI, Inc.


Filed under Credentials

4 responses to “Foreign Credential Evaluation: Looks can be deceiving!

  1. Dawn Bennett

    As the world is getting smaller, there must be a lot of international people who are coming to the United States with an education they are hoping is adequate. I am wondering, how many employers actually take the time to question the authenticity of the candidate’s education — where it comes from, whether it is credible, and how it compares to a US education?

  2. This is a very good question; one that needs to be researched by the US Dept of Labor. The latest statistics we have from the US Dept of Commerce shows that foreign born legal immigrants made up about 16 of the total civilian labor force in 2007. 28% of the labor force with doctoral degrees were foreign born and 17% of people with professional degrees were also foreign born and 16% held master’s degrees. This clearly shows that a healthy percentage of US population holds academic and professional degrees from outside the country. Verifying an individual’s academic background (whether US born and educated or not) by an employer is just good business practice and demonstrates due diligence. I once served as expert witness on a case representing plaintiffs of a residential community in CA. The case concerned an individual who was hired by an engineering firm on the basis of falsified foreign degrees resulting in a law suit brought by plaintiffs against the firm and the “engineer” for shoddy construction that caused significant structural and environmental damage to the area. My expertise was sought by the plaintiffs to confirm that the “engineer” held diplomas from a notorious diploma mill.

  3. Kate

    How do you handle a foreign degree, if in the country of origin you have to have at least double the amount of subjects and hours to be awarded the BS degree vs US? Do you just half each subject to conform it to the average of 120 US credit rule for BS degree? Or do you look into the contence of the course to decide if it covers an equivalent of US subject that is worth 3 credits? Thank you.

  4. Hi Kate,
    Converting hours of instruction from a foreign academic program to its US equivalence is exactly what “foreign credential evaluation” accomplishes. We do not automatically divides hours in half. Conversion of hours into US semester/quarter units of credit takes into consideration a mathematical formula. ACEI measures and reports the quantity of academic work completed at the post-secondary/tertiary level in another country in terms of U.S. semester hours of credit. An academic period within a semester system usually consists of between 14 to 18 weeks. One calendar year can be divided into two semesters and a summer session equal to one-half of a semester. In the United States, one year of full-time academic work represents a total of 30 to 32 semester hours of credit. Usually one credit hour represents one hour each week for a semester, or approximately 16 classroom contacts. Taking the U.S. system into consideration, the hours of actual classroom instruction (lecture & laboratory) of the foreign program are adjusted and converted to meet the U.S. equivalence. Finally, in the evaluation process, we (that is: US academic institutions and private credential evaluation agencies) operate with the assumption that a full year of study elsewhere is worth no more (credit) than a full year of study at a U.S. institution. Of course, the evaluation of academic documents also takes into consideration the institutional status (vocational post-secondary or academic degree-granting, professional or technical), full-time duration of the academic program pursued, curriculum, methods of assessment/exams and grades, and finally, the purpose or intent of the program. That is, what is the graduate of that specific program qualified to do in the country of study.

Leave a Reply to Dawn Bennett Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s