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John Bear, co-author of Degree Mills, a book that delves into the topic of fake degrees in higher education has claimed that more than half of all new PhDs in the United States are issued from diploma mills.

I found him quoted in a couple of sources:

"Diploma mills have been around for more than 700 years, and things are worse now than they've ever been," said John Bear, co-author of "Degree Mills: The Billion-Dollar Industry That Has Sold Over a Million Fake Diplomas." He added: "Just two of the sellers -- Axact from Pakistan and University Degree Program (UDP) run by an American in Romania -- have accounted for many hundreds of thousands of sales to Americans, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. More than half of all new PhDs in the U.S. each year are fake."

He is similarly quoted (but misattributed) in Inside Higher Ed.

I have not seen any substantial evidence to support the claim. By itself, it seems difficult to believe, considering the long process of PhD recognition in the United States.

Is this statistic true?

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    Seems like this'll require establishing what a "PhD" and also what a "fake PhD" is. For example, if someone grants themself a trillion PhD's, do those trillion PhD's count toward both metrics? Or if not, what counts? – Nat Nov 15 '19 at 23:18
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    @Nat: While I have clarified, we should use the claimant's definition. I suspect it involves a financial transaction, but I expect it would be better defined in his book. – Oddthinking Nov 16 '19 at 1:26
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    @Oddthinking Are there PhDs that don't involve financial transactions? – Acccumulation Nov 16 '19 at 7:27
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    The quote talks about the two main sellers being from Pakistan and Romania. So it doesn't mean half of all PhDs awarded through recognized process in the US. It means something different, probably "Half the people who claim to have a recent PhD". And my guess is that's calculated by comparing the figure of "hundreds of thousands sold to Americans" with the number of real PhDs awarded. – DJClayworth Nov 16 '19 at 17:43
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    The US has an official legal definition of "diploma mill" in 20 USC 1005: law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/20/1003 – DavePhD Nov 18 '19 at 12:15

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