If you have been tempted by an email or an ad claiming you can “earn a college
degree based...on life experience”? Don’t be, say attorneys for the Federal Trade
Commission (FTC), America’s consumer protection agency. Chances are good that the ad
is for a “diploma mill,” a company that offers “degrees” or certificates for a flat
fee, requires little course work, if any, and awards degrees based solely on life
Most employers and educational institutions consider it lying if you claim academic
credentials that you didn't earn through actual course work. Federal officials say
it’s risky behavior: If you use a so-called “degree” from a diploma mill to apply
for a job or promotion, you risk not getting hired, getting fired, and in some
Some diploma mills claim to be “accredited.” But, colleges and universities
accredited by legitimate organizations undergo a rigorous review of the quality of
their educational programs. Although many diploma mills claim to be “accredited,”
their accreditation is from a bogus, but official-sounding agency that their
operators created. You can use the Internet to check if a school is accredited by a
legitimate organization at the database of accredited academic institutions posted
licensing agencies, by the U.S. Department of Education at
www.ope.ed.gov/accreditation or at the Council for Higher Education Accreditation
database at www.chea.org/search. Some legitimate institutions that have not pursued
accreditation, but they will also demonstrate a means for you to determine whether
the institution has complied with registration requirements.
Look out for sound-alikes. Some diploma mills take on names that are very similar to
well-known colleges or universities; a “dot edu” Web address is no guarantee of
legitimacy, either. Keep in mind that some diploma mills use credible-sounding
foreign names. Researching the legitimacy of a foreign school can be a challenge,
but is clearly worth the time. If you’re having a tough time checking out a
particular school, call the registrar of a local college or university and ask if it
would accept transfer credits from the school you are considering.
How can a prospective student tell wehther an institution is legitimate? Some
indicators of a diploma mill are:
No Studies, No Exams — Get a Degree for Your Experience. Diploma mills grant degrees
for “work or life experience” alone. Accredited colleges may give a few credits for
pertinent to a degree program, but not an entire degree.
No Attendance. Legitimate colleges or universities, including online schools,
Flat Fee. Many diploma mills charge on a per-degree basis. Legitimate colleges
charge by the credit, course, or semester, not a flat fee for an entire degree.
No Waiting. Operations that guarantee a degree in a few days, weeks, or even months
aren’t legitimate. If an ad promises that you can earn a degree very quickly, it’s
probably a diploma mill.
Click Here To Order Now! Some diploma mills push themselves through aggressive sales
Accredited colleges don’t use spam or high-pressure telemarketing to market
themselves. Some diploma mills also advertise in newspapers, magazines, and on the
Advertising through spam or pop-ups. If the school caught your attention through an
email or pop-up ad, it may be a diploma mill. Legitimate institutions, including
distance learning programs, won’t advertise through spam or pop-ups.