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Masters in Jungian Cryptomnesia
by Michael Giardina

The e-mail was clear as day: "Doctorate dip_lomas available in the field of your choice. No required tests, classes, books, or interviews. CALL US 24 HOURS A DAY."

Well, damn. How could I resist? I grab my cell and dial a mysterious number in Seattle. A pre-recorded message asks for my name, phone number and degree of interest.

"I'm interested in a doctorate degree in biomedical engineering with an emphasis in artificial amniotic fluid analysis," I explain, "as well as a masters in philosophy with emphasis on Jungian cryptomnesia."

Three weeks later, nobody has returned my call. Perhaps I wasn't ambitious enough, so I call back to rectify the problem. "I'd like a doctorate in English," I say.

A day later, the call arrives. I'm this close to my brand-new degree from the renowned Felton's University. Drool.

"We have no central campus because our campus is located in the homes and offices of our students," explains the eager administrator.

"But I don't have a chalkboard or desks in my home," I say, disappointed.

Without pause, the man continues, "We are fully recognized members of the Distance Learning Organization and were founded in 1983. Our main offices are located in London and we have offices throughout the U.S. where most of our graduates are located."

So Londoners aren't shallow enough to fall for these rip-offs, but Americans are the prime rib, choice-cut, scam targets of the world. Go ahead, world. Rip your sharp fangs into our juicy flesh.

"We give you full credit for your work, your private study and your life experience," explains the representative.

Great, I think. I work as a garbage man, my private studies involve the intricacies of foreign pornography, and my life experience can best be described as Bon-Bon couch-sitter. Oh no! What if I don't qualify for my degree?

Not to worry; they've got that covered. "Generally we accept your word regarding your qualifications and award you the degree on that basis," the man explains. Well, perhaps now I should bring up that artificial amniotic fluid analysis degree I was hoping for.

So, I'm getting a pseudo-diploma. Why? What do I use it for? They say it's useful for prestige, promotion, raises, and job interviews and that if you order a Ph.D. you can legally call yourself doctor or place "Ph.D." at the end of your name. Doctor Giardina, Ph.D. sure has a ring to it.

You're probably guessing this degree costs a fortune. If anything deserves a "convenience fee," this is it. On the contrary, this full-fledged college diploma is inexpensive. "All we ask for is a modest investment in your future of only 2,000 U.S. dollars," the man explains, only to immediately offer a "$500 back discount scholarship." This is one scholarship I deserve. But what's the catch? What do I get for my $2,000?

I don't want some measly a paper diploma in the mail. I want a pretty one. And perks. Lots of perks. Luckily, these guys don't disappoint.

"As far as the appearance of our diploma, it is patterned after, and looks very much like, UCLA's degree in its design," the diploma mill manager gloats.

"Great," I say. "I graduated from UCLA."

"Really," he says without interest, "That's wonderful."

Now I'm sweating with eagerness. What else? I think. What else?

Included with your diploma, you also get custom-made transcripts complete with grades, several letters of recommendation, a student number and even a laminated, wallet-sized diploma replica. You even get a lifetime verification system, where the fraudsters allegedly verify your degree for future employers.

"Sign me up. I want this."

"How would you like your name to appear?"

"Christopher Gonzales," I say.

"Uh," he says, "You're not Michael Giardina?"