How to Spot a Diploma Mill
This article is continued from Common Questions and Concerns about Online Degrees, and will help you to spot a fraudulent online college.
A degree mill is a bogus university usually 'accredited' by a fake agency whose sole purpose is to sell you a diploma without any sort of academic requirements. There are accredited distance learning programs that offer real online degrees, but a diploma mill exists only to steal your money and leave you with a wholly worthless piece of paper.
To help protect yourself, go through these 7 steps with every online program you are considering:
- Check accreditation - If the online college is not accredited by one of the six regional accreditation agencies, you are dealing with a diploma mill. Many will claim accreditation, and even cite official-sounding associations as their proof. But before trusting it, make sure the agency they cite is approved by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Also, some diploma mills will claim that online programs cannot receive accreditation. It's a lie, and all legitimate distance learning colleges have official recognition by the CHEA.
- No admissions requirements - If your application consists only of your name, address, and credit card number, you are dealing with a degree mill. Real online colleges will require a high school transcript, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, essays, and everything else a physical college also requires.
- You get a degree for your 'work experience' - Many real online universities will give some credit for career experience, but the process of turning your resume into college credit is complex and often have very limiting caps. If you're promised a degree solely from your non-academic history, you're probably dealing with a diploma mill.
- You are promised a diploma in xx days/weeks/months - A real online college will take an unknown amount of time to complete based on how many units you take per 'semester' and how much credit you have going in. If you are promised a degree in a flat time period (typically 30 days), you're probably dealing with a degree mill.
- You are asked to pay one lump sum - Real distance learning programs do not charge a single fee, but rather bill you per unit or per class.
- Check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) - If a search at the Better Business Bureau website of your state reveals many complaints about the online program, you may be dealing with a diploma mill. But even if you're not, do you really want to rely on a school with so many complaints?
- Information seems to be missing - Real online colleges will display academic information prominently, such as the classes that they offer, their faculty, and their accreditation. If you can't find this information, it's probably not a real university.
Don't be fooled by bogus degree mills. Most will have impressive websites, great advertising, flashy graphics, and persuasive language. If you feel like you are being 'sold' on something, it's probably because you are. Always take the time to confirm that you are dealing with a legitimate online college before handing over your money. Double-checking accreditation is always mandatory, even if it seems that the online university is trustworthy.Have any insight on this topic? Want to ask a question or make a suggestion? Click here to leave a comment.
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