Tag Archives: academic

5 Reasons Why International Credential Evaluation is Necessary

September 17th, 2015


Whether you represent a school, college, university, professional licensing board, employer, or any other entity engaged in the recruitment, placement, certification or the hiring of internationally-trained candidates, you know that educational systems and academic documents vary greatly by country. No two academic systems are alike and nothing can be taken on face value, even if an academic document “appears” to mirror a US college transcript. Academic institutions and professional groups that don’t have the expertise or knowledge-base to conduct foreign credential evaluations must not avoid this crucial step, no matter how qualified or appealing an international candidate’s portfolio may appear.
Here are 5 reasons why a foreign credential evaluation prepared by an independent credential evaluation service that is approved and endorsed by the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE) will benefit you and your institution and the international candidate:

1. Authentication of Documents:

A credential evaluation will verify the authenticity of the academic documents with the issuing institution and compare it against archival documents. Such authentication will provide you with peace of mind that the academic documents are bona-fide and valid for processing.

2. Verification of English Translations:

Many times the academic documents are issued in a language other than English and are accompanied by English translations. A credential evaluation will verify the English translations to ensure for accuracy that dates, course titles, grades, names, and key words match those on the official academic document.

3. Biographical and Academic History Check:

The candidate’s academic history and biographical information will be compared with the academic documents presented. In addition to the applicant’s name, other biographical information like age will be checked to ensure that it corresponds reasonably to the education represented in the documents.

4. Foreign Academic Institution Status:

The credential evaluation determines the official status of the institution where the studies were completed by identifying how the institution is accredited and who recognizes its accreditation. If an institution is determined to not have the appropriate accreditation, the studies will not be evaluated in terms of those completed at regionally accredited U.S. institutions. If the institution is determined to be a Diploma Mill, then this information will be conveyed to the U.S. institutions for which the evaluation is intended.

5. Program Description:

a) Entrance Criteria – The credential evaluation determines the level of the academic or professional program represented by the documents submitted as either lower secondary, senior high school, post-secondary undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate. It will establish the minimum academic criteria for admission to the institution where the studies were completed before the U.S. educational equivalence is recommended. This is an important step in the evaluation process which will assist the U.S. institutions in their decision-making. For example, if it is determined that the international candidate’s academic achievements are comparable to US senior high school graduation, yet he/she has submitted an application for graduate (master’s degree) studies at the U.S. university, the admissions department will be able to properly advise the candidate of his/her eligibility for admission to another degree program at the undergraduate level instead.

b) Length of Study & Conversion of Instruction Hours to Credits – The credential evaluation will determine the required length of full-time study for the academic program evaluated in order to calculate the U.S. semester or quarter credits for post-secondary studies completed and if necessary, determine the level of post-secondary courses in terms of lower, upper division and graduate division.

c) Conversion of Grades into U.S. equivalent Grade – A document evaluation will calculate the grades or final examination results/marks reported on the academic documents into U.S. equivalent grades, and calculate the overall grade point average.

Due diligence in international admissions, professional certification, hiring and job placement of individuals educated and trained outside the U.S. is essential. Understanding international candidates’ capability and qualifications allows you to properly assess and integrate them into your scholastic, professional and work environment. By obtaining the expert assistance of an independent credential evaluation agency, U.S. academic institutions, professional licensing boards and public or private companies can protect themselves against fraud and misrepresentation in the international education arena.

(Note: Please refer to our previous blog “5 Things International Students Should Know About Credentials Evaluation”.)

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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21 Facts About ACEI on its 21st Anniversary!

April 1st, 2015

Today, April 1st, ACEI celebrates turning 21! This is no April Fool’s joke. 21 years ago on this day, ACEI opened its office in Beverly Hills, CA, USA and has been providing its international credential evaluation services to students and immigrants from around the world.

We thought in celebrating 21 years of business, we share with you 21 facts about ACEI:

1. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators

2. ACEI’s primary service is international academic credential evaluation where studies completed at institutions outside the U.S. are evaluated and converted into the approximate U.S. academic equivalence.

3. ACEI evaluates educational credentials from all academic levels (e.g. primary/elementary school through high school, university from undergraduate to graduate and doctoral and professional) and from all countries around the world.

4. ACEI also provide a Translation Service where academic credentials issued in languages other than English are translated into the English language.

5. ACEI provides an Experiential Learning Evaluation for Officer Training programs completed while in military service for non-US commissioned officers.

6. ACEI evaluations are prepared by senior level credential evaluators who each have a minimum of 10 years of committed experience in international education credential evaluations.

7. Our processing time in completing an evaluation is 7 business days from the day we receive the completed ACEI Application, educational credentials and fees.

8. We offer three types of evaluation reports: Basic (General) Report; Comprehensive (Course-by-Course) Report and the California Board of Accountancy Report. Each of these reports are designed to meet the specific purpose for which the evaluation is intended: employment; professional licensing; immigration, further education/continuation of studies.

9. We offer 2 types of RUSH services: 24-hour rush and 3-business day rush, if an evaluation is required to be completed faster than our 7-business days.

10. The fees submitted for a credential evaluation provides 2 sets of the evaluation report: an official report and a duplicate applicant copy.

11. ACEI official reports are issued on heat sensitive transcript security paper.

12. ACEI provides customized Virtual Intensive Training programs to U.S. schools, colleges, universities and regulatory boards interested in acquiring a more hands-on knowledge of world education systems and credential evaluation methodologies.

13. ACEI’s blog “AcademicExchange” has been producing weekly blogs since April 2011 and has been viewed by more than 40,000 viewers.

14. The Report is ACEI’s monthly online Newsletter which has a subscription of over 5000 subscribers and provides highlights of education-related news from around the world.

15. ACEI has 2 mail processing centers in the Los Angeles are to facilitate applicants with the delivery of their application packets.

16. Walk-in drop off service is available by appointment only to those applicants who wish to deliver their original documents in person.

17. The ACEI Comprehensive (Course-by-Course) Report in addition to recommending the U.S. academic equivalent of the level of studies completed and any certificate/diploma/degree earned, provides a detailed course-by-course listing of subjects studies with U.S. semester units of credit (for post-secondary studies), U.S. grade equivalents (A, B, C, D, F), calculates the overall Grade Point Average, and classifies course levels for undergraduate studies as lower and upper division.

18. ACEI staff is proficient in several languages including Spanish, French, Farsi, Russian, Armenian, German, Italian, Croatian, Chinese.

19. ACEI senior staff has authored several publications on world education systems that are used by international educators at other credential evaluation agencies, and U.S. colleges and universities and state regulatory boards.

20. ACEI provides 24/7 customer service through its call center.

21. ACEI’s Facebook page has 11,000 followers and its Twitter page has 700+.

Bonus Fact:

22. ACEI has its very own resident office cat, Scruffy, a 14-year old Main Coone with polydactyl paws.


Thank you for supporting ACEI since 1994!

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Caveat Emptor! Buyer (Student) Beware! Pitfalls to avoid in pursuit of higher education

December 11th, 2015


Are you thinking of getting a college education? Do you believe that a college education will help you excel in the job market? Do you want to graduate debt free? Do you want to get a diploma or degree that is recognized by employers and other colleges? Then, don’t get seduced by the glitz and hype of some for-profit colleges promising you guaranteed employment and easy access to higher education. Don’t let them lure you into believing that you’re getting an education that’s going to be worth something. It will be worth something alright, tuition so high which you can only pay by taking on huge student loans that you would need to pay off whether or not you complete your program.

What boggles the mind is how unaware we are of the very affordable and accessible community college systems in our very own backyards. So unaware, that people turn to the private for-profits as their salvation to acquiring higher education with a chance to land a good job once they graduate. It has a lot to do with marketing something the community colleges don’t but private for-profits do with a vengeance. They advertise on TV, radio, print, online and take huge bill boards on city streets and freeways. They recruit aggressively and pay their recruiters a commission. Some even take drastic measures in their recruiting tactics like the for-profit college in Florida that used strippers and exotic dancers to impersonate admissions officers in an effort to lure the unsuspecting male candidates to register. This college, which was shut down in June 2012 after an FBI raid, falsified high school diplomas for students who hadn’t graduated from high school or didn’t have one, falsified financial aid and grant applications, and if that wasn’t enough falsified attendance records and backdated students’ enrollments to make sure they qualified for aid.

The for-profit college in Florida is not alone in its complicity to bilk millions of dollars of federal funds under the guise of student loans. Recently, the spotlight was thrown on another college with charges of misleading students into committing to unaffordable loans by falsely advertising job prospects, then using illegal debt collection tactics to force distressed students to pay up, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. So that 40,000 students enrolled in this college’s 50 plus campuses aren’t left in the lurch, the US Department of Education is helping broker a deal with a nonprofit student loan guarantee agency to buy the failing college. It’s a mess and the students are the ones who’re left with a huge debt burden. All this could have been avoided had the students received honest and proper counseling at the high school level about access to higher education opportunities through the community college system.

For the uninitiated, in the United States, community colleges, sometimes called junior colleges, technical colleges, two-year colleges, or city colleges, are primarily two-year public institutions providing higher education and lower-level tertiary education, granting certificates, diplomas, and associate’s degrees. Many also offer continuing and adult education. After graduating from a community college, some students transfer to a four-year liberal arts college or university for two to three years to complete a bachelor’s degree. They also offer career education to the traditional two-year student who graduates with an Associate Degree and directly enters the workforce

US community colleges need to better promote themselves by spreading the word about their programs, accessibility, affordability and opportunities. They need to do this to help serve their community so that people don’t fall prey to the false promises of college degrees and prospects of employment by those who have nothing but their own best interest and profit margins at heart.

For a list of community colleges, please visit the links below:



The Frustrated Evaluator

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5 Common Types of Non-Official and Illegitimate Academic Documents

February 07, 2013

Binded Document

When evaluating academic documents from around the world, ensuring their authenticity and legitimacy is the most important step. An official academic document, e.g. transcript, certificate, diploma, degree, is one that has been received directly from the issuing/source institution. It must bear the institution’s seal, logo, date, and an appropriate signature.

What makes a document illegitimate or non-official? Here are 5 of the most dubious types of documents:

1. Counterfeit or Fabricated documents – These documents are made up to represent official documents from legitimate or non-existent institutions and in some instance they use stolen letterheads.

2. Forged or altered documents – Official, legitimate documents that have been tampered and altered usually by omission, erasers, deletions, additions, or changes. For example, the transcript may show an entry with a typeface that doesn’t match the typeface of other text on the document.

3. Creative translations – These are actual “translations” of foreign-language documents that embellish, fabricate, and provide misleading information. For example, a secondary/high school diploma from Argentina is called “Bachiller,” but the translation translates it into English as “bachelor,” which is misleading.

4. Inside jobs – These are very difficult to detect on initial review as the documents are actually produced by an unscrupulous employee at the institution for a fee.

5. Degree or Diploma Mills – According to Allen Ezell in “Accreditation Mills,” a degree mill is an organization that: “awards degrees without requiring its students to meet education standards for such degrees; receives fees from their so-called students on the basis of fraudulent misrepresentation and/or makes it possible for the recipients of its degree to perpetrate a fraud on the public.” The academic studies the degree or diploma mills purport to represent are based on fabricated information.

For more reading on this topic, we recommend the following published sources:

Accredited Mills, by Allen Ezell, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, Washington, DC. (2007)

Bear’s Guide to Earning College Degrees Non-Traditionally, by John B. Bear, Ph.D., C&B Publishing, Benicia, CA, USA. (1994)

Better Translation for Better Communication, Commission of the European Communities, 1983, Pergamon Press.

Guide to Bogus Institutions and Documents, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, Washington, DC. (2006)

Misrepresentation in the Marketplace and Beyond, Ethics Under Siege, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, Washington, DC. (2007)


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Academic Documents: The Psychology of Fraud

February 2, 2012

Binded Document

In less than a week, two senior analysts in my company detected irregularities on documents we had received for evaluation and both were able to determine that the documents had been falsified. Though the due diligence exercised by our team of analysts in their scrupulous review and handling of these applications is to be applauded, I am left with an uncomfortable sensation in the pit of my stomach. The two individuals whose false documents were quickly detected are intending to pursue employment and further studies in fields directly related to the welfare of the public. We may have succeeded in protecting our institution and those directly related but not the larger network of institutions and the general public. These individuals’ fraudulent documents may easily slip through the cracks in the hands of a less-experienced credential evaluator, personnel administrator, or college admissions officer.

Several years ago, I served as an expert witness on a legal case where the plaintiff, a young woman, had been misdiagnosed by a psychiatrist and suffered extensively under this therapist’s care. My investigation of the psychiatrist’s degrees revealed a trail of altered documents and diplomas from non-existent institutions. In fact, one of the universities he claimed to have attended for his doctorate degree was a diploma mill. The plaintiff was able to go forward and press charges, and the therapist’s license for practice was revoked. (A definition of diploma mills is provided on the US Government’s Department of Education website.)

According to a 2003 report by UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning, “Academic fraud appears to be on the increase across the world, in developing and developed countries alike. It is a costly threat to societies, to their efficient operation and to public trust in the reliability and security of their institutions.”

The question we need to ask is what is causing this steady increase in academic fraud? What is the motivation? Is it an act of desperation? Is it a reaction to a competitive marketplace? There’s the old adage that desperate times force people to take desperate measures. But falsifying documents, in particular academic documents, which in many instances are used as the benchmark to qualify for a job or professional training, endangers the lives of those who are directly affected by the actions and services of the very people who misrepresent themselves as technicians, engineers, doctors, and teachers. The increasing participation in formal education perpetuates competition; competition for access to higher education, for jobs, training, higher salaries, promotions, and professional recognition. A few months ago, a news report spoke of a university professor in The Netherlands who had falsified his doctoral dissertation and held a teaching post at a prominent university. It is not just the individual immigrating to a new country, desperate to find a job to support his family, who may, out of desperation falsify his/her academic documents. The psychology of fraud transcends borders, cultures, and socio-economic ranks.

As our societies and economic structure continue to develop and expand–demanding a highly educated and skilled workforce–the pressure to obtain academic documents which meet these skillsets increases. It is no longer sufficient to complete the minimum required levels of education when higher and more specialized degrees are becoming the norm. One’s success in school and university has great value. Successful performance in examinations helps open not only doors to higher education and professional training but ensure a better chance of securing a job or promotion in a pool of qualified and aspiring candidates.

Advances in electronic communication, sophisticated copy machines and computer printers, system-wide bribery, plagiarism, degree and paper mills, impersonations, are now contributing to an industry of academic document fraud. We sit and watch perpetrators of white-collar crimes receive little or no punishment for their actions. Instead, we reward them with book deals, TV shows, high-paying consulting and speaker’s fees! We must shift our global mindset to a culture where integrity and ethical behavior are fostered and applauded; not a culture that supports and encourages the motto of “success by any means” where unscrupulous actions are the norm.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO of Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI)

Since founding ACEI in 1994, Jasmin and her team of analysts have dedicated
themselves to the advancement of international academic exchange and
understanding, through the dissemination of information on world educational
systems, and evaluation of international academic documents.

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Forensics of Academic Documents: Part I

One question that never fails to be asked when I present a workshop on foreign credential evaluations or even in casual conversation with someone asking me about what I do for a living is “do you see any forged documents?’” And I always reply “yes.” Foreign credential evaluation is part research and the determination of the U.S. academic equivalence of studies, and part detective work. In fact, there is an element of sleuthing and forensic science that’s involved when we examine academic documents. One thing that I always stress at seminars, conference workshops and at our in-house-training sessions at ACEI, is to first determine the document’s authenticity before starting the actual evaluation. This is not an easy task for a newcomer to the field and especially not so straight forward when dealing with documents coming from different parts of the world where knowledge of the nuances of a country’s mail system and document issuing practice is an essential component of the job. I find that I’ve become familiar with textures and smells of documents just as much as the country’s educational system and document processing procedures! Evaluation and determining document authenticity is tactile and intuitive supported by facts.

Over the years, I’ve encountered numerous falsified documents; some are bold and brazen attempts at reproducing transcripts and diplomas and some are sloppy and poorly executed tampering of data on existing “official” documents. The need to falsify documents stems either from desperation or a criminal mind wishing to break rules and laws as a means to an end. Regardless, if the rise in identity theft is any indication, we can be certain that document fraud will continue. And thanks to our ever evolving information technologies, we can be sure that reproducing documents using state of the art computer and printing machines has made the job easier for those seeing a profit to be made in this area.

One egregious example of fraud that comes to mind concerns a student who recently presented an official transcript and an original diploma for a bachelor’s degree in “Harbor and Port Engineering” bearing the official name, logo, insignia of a college in the United Kingdom. The individual was requesting the evaluation for employment with the transportation authorities in the port of Los Angeles and was adamant about having his equivalency report issued ASAP! (Beware of those demanding expedited service, overly aggressive and pushy manners…that alone is enough to raise the red flag!) Well, we did move fast by immediately contacting the institution in the UK for assistance with verification of the documents, since we knew from the information we had on file that this institution, albeit an approved post-secondary college, was only authorized to offer one to two-year certificate and diploma programs in general arts and sciences and NOT the Bachelor’s degree. The college responded immediately and confirmed our suspicions. The documents were not legitimate for the very reasons we had detected. Once we informed the individual that the College had notified us that his documents did not corroborate with records in the institution’s registry, we never heard from him again. The pestering phone calls and daily barrages of emails suddenly stopped.

Other cases of document fraud are not as sophisticated but include an alteration of a grade, credit, or course title to an existing original document. The forensics of detecting document fraud is both a science and an art and something that develops and matures with practice. Sometimes, it’s a hunch and sometimes it’s blatantly obvious to the naked eye. It is important to exercise due diligence as we handle academic documents for educational equivalency recommendations intended for college admission, employment, professional licensing and immigration.

If you have any personal experiences with having encountered fraudulent documents, please feel free to post a comment and share your story. In a future blog, I’ll share some helpful tips with you. In the meantime, channel your inner Sherlock Holmes and stay vigilant!

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI, Inc.
June 16, 2011


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