What are Diploma Mills?
In pursuing an online education it is important to take courses and programs from accredited colleges and universities. Knowing the characteristics of diploma mills will help you avoid schools who offer fake diplomas.
Diploma mills are fake schools. They sell diplomas which are worthless. Here are some things to look out for in order to protect yourself from fraudulent schools:
- Does the school offer degrees for life experience? While legitimate schools may offer some college credit for life experience, they have stringent standards for evaluating that experience. Diploma mills, however, accept life experience to fulfill all or most of the requirements for their degrees, and they do not evaluate the experience to see if the knowledge gained really is equivalent to what you would learn in academic coursework. Beware of any school that makes sweeping claims about giving you a degree for your life experience or that claims that you need to complete little or no coursework for your degree.
- Does the school charge a flat fee for a degree? Legitimate colleges usually charge by the credit, course, or semester. Beware of any school offering a degree for a set price.
- Does the school promise to give you a degree very quickly? Earning a legitimate degree takes a lot of time and work. Beware of any school claiming they can significantly short-circuit that process.
- Does the school have a name similar to that of a well-known legitimate college or university? Beware of this common tactic of scammers.
- Does the school claim to be accredited by an agency which is itself fraudulent? A whole new level of scamming has popped up in the last several years, where fraudulent schools claim to be accredited by fraudulent agencies.
Legitimate accrediting agencies investigate schools to find out if they meet certain standards. Fake agencies, however, do not do any investigating. Instead, fake schools simply pay the fake agencies to claim that the schools are accredited.
In order to find out whether an accrediting agency is legitimate, you can check the lists maintained by the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Both have information available online.
- If you have any doubts, contact the Better Business Bureau or your state’s Attorney General’s Office.
It’s important to check out the schools you are interested in to make sure that you do not get involved with a diploma mill. A degree from a diploma mill is a waste of money. In some states, it can even be a crime to use a degree that came from a diploma mill.