Deciding to continue your education is a life changing decision, but it can also be overwhelming. Before you begin taking courses through an online school or via distance learning, you have to find the school that best suits your needs. There are so many options that it can be difficult to decide on a school, especially when there are so many diploma mills out there just waiting to make money off of those looking to enhance their knowledge and better their future. You’ll want to be sure that the school you are interested in is legit. Read on to learn more about diploma mills, how they work and how to know for sure that your school isn’t one of them.
What is a Diploma Mill?
Diploma mills are fraudulent businesses that disguise themselves as real legitimate online colleges, universities and schools. These businesses make their dollar by selling printed degrees and certificates that appear legitimate but have no real value and won’t allow its holder to obtain employment or make any other use of it after they have invested their time and/or money into the fraudulent courses. Aside from offering certificates and degrees from associates to doctoral, “students” can get ahead for a cost. Paying your way to the top, so to speak, by paying extra fees for academic honors that also hold no real value. Diploma mills come in different forms, some offer nothing more than a paper in hand in exchange for payment and little to no academic work is required of the customer/student. In these cases, many of the businesses’ customers are aware of the scheme and are individuals looking to obtain a diploma or degree quickly to excel in their current career. However, there are many more unsuspecting potential students searching for a real education and advancement opportunities who fall victim to these schemes. What they all end up getting in the end is useless references, illegitimate transcripts and a worthless degree that isn’t recognized by other schools or places of employment.
How to Spot a Diploma Mill
Assuming you are one of those potential students who are genuinely interested in bettering yourself and getting ahead in life, you undoubtedly have some concern over avoiding diploma mills. How can you tell if a school you are interested in is legit? Knowing how to spot a diploma mill will save you money and time.
Here are some things you should keep an eye out for when searching for schools and determining whether or not they are diploma mills
- Unprofessional website – website lacks contact information or contact information changes frequently, especially addresses; most fraudulent school’s websites appear legitimate at first glance so you’ll need to look closer. Purchasing an .edu domain is not difficult for any individual and anyone with a bit of skill can design an appealing website so watch out!
- Names – many phony schools will use names similar to real well known colleges and schools, you may confuse them with the genuine school if you aren’t careful.
- Rushed process – if a school of interest offers the receipt of degrees in less time than it would normally take to receive that degree or allows you to skip degrees, you can be sure it’s a diploma mill. Skipping degrees is illegal and most degree programs take at least 2 years.
- Limited to no interaction with staff – if there is no professor responding to your emails when you need them to and it’s difficult to get a hold of anyone to answer your questions when you have them, there’s a good chance the school isn’t real. Real schools care about their students and are always there to help.
- Simple admission process – no tests, no transcripts, limited information requested of you and vague information on the courses you’ve enrolled in and what is required of you to reach your goal are signs of diploma mills.
- GPA and honors – if you can purchase what other students must work hard for, the school is guaranteed to be a phony.
- No accreditation- no mention of an accrediting agency or the usage of a fake one are most often telling signs of an illegitimate school.
How to Check Accreditation to Make Sure a School I’m Interested in isn’t a Diploma Mill
With so many scam schools out there, doing your research and performing accreditation checks on all of your schools of interest will help you protect yourself from getting scammed instead of schooled. What exactly is accreditation? It helps to ensure a few details:
- high quality learning programs
- legitimate degrees
- transferable credits and obtaining the education required by employers in your field of interest
By law, the Secretary of Education publishes a listing of nationally recognized accrediting agencies that are determined to be most reliable in accrediting schools of high quality. You can locate this listing on the Department of Education’s website.
Regional, national, and specialized accrediting agencies are listed, as well as the Distance Learning and Education Council, formed especially for online schools. If the institute you are interested in attending and/or their mentioned accrediting agency are on this government operated site you can rest assured that your school is good to go.
How can you be sure your research is thorough?
- Refer to the Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs
- Perform a web search on the school
- See if the school is affiliated with any reputable parent companies
The internet has opened up the door for many opportunities, most important are the ability to learn and work from home; but it has also opened up opportunities for people looking to scam others out of their money. A very careful eye and attention to fairly obvious errors on the fraudulent school’s part will help you to stay away, but checking the accreditation of a school of interest is often the key to uncovering diploma mills.