Diploma mills, sometimes called “degree mills,” are scams; they are businesses that pose as universities or other academic institutions, and they charge individuals for transcripts, diplomas, and other mediocre services. The degrees one can receive from this school will involve very little if any actual education and will be worthless in the real world. Unfortunately, however, diploma mills can often be difficult to distinguish from online schools, as they are designed to appear – at first glance – exactly the same.
To avoid diploma mills, start your search for online education with the online learning portals of well-known, accredited institutions. When looking elsewhere, be sure to confirm the institution’s validity on the following websites:
- This U.S. Department of Education offers a search engine for accredited institutions. They also confirm the soundness of the accrediting agencies.
- Diploma Mill News: This blog covers diploma mill news. In the page’s right-hand column there are helpful lists of “known diploma mills,” “articles” about diploma mills, “known accreditation mills,” and more.
- The U.S. Federal Trade Commission: This is a handy Consumer Alert by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that lists common slogans of diploma mills.
- Red flags for diploma mills include:
- An extreme use of pop-up adds
- Names that sound similar to well-known institutions
- A listing of fake accrediting agencies or no accrediting agencies at all
- No professor-student interaction
- No Federal financial aid options
- No alumni network
- An extremely short degree program
- Hidden fees
- “Life credits,” or credits given to students for previous experience
- A P.O. Box for the address of the college, or a constantly changing address
- No phone numbers listed to contact the school
- The written materials presented by the school include many grammatical errors
- No selectivity in admissions
- Degree requirements are incredibly vague
If you are searching for online learning, then good luck! Be sure to follow the above advice in order not to be scammed by a diploma mill.