By Celeste Stewart
Wouldn’t it be great if you could earn your bachelor’s degree in just a few months? Even better, what if could do so without having to interact with professors or take classes? While it might be amazing to have your diploma handed to you, the old “if it sounds too good to be true” saying applies. When it comes to an online education, if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a diploma mill
If the term diploma mill conjures up images of a factory churning out diplomas on demand, your interpretation is spot on. According to the Higher Education Opportunity Act, a diploma mill is an entity that:
As you explore online education programs, you may come across a diploma mill or two. How can you tell which programs are legitimate and which ones issue worthless pieces of paper? Below are a few signs that a degree program may be a diploma mill:
In contrast, reputable schools require that you work for your degree. You must attend classes, either in person or online, turn in work for evaluation, pass tests and exams and meet other specific attendance and proficiency requirements. Tuition is typically charged by the course, credit or semester, not by the degree. While flexible options may be available, a reputable degree program takes time to complete – usually several years.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, a comprehensive list doesn’t exist because new bogus credentialing sources appear all the time (Bureau of Consumer Protection – Jan. 2005). However, you can check on a school’s accreditation status at the U.S. Department of Education’s website. It maintains a searchable database of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs. Not only can you find out if an online education institution is accredited, you can also view the “scope of recognition” of the accrediting organization to be sure it is also legitimate.
Employers are well aware of diploma mills and are not impressed by job applicants that inflate their credentials with bogus degrees. Numerous tools exist for employers to research the validity of a degree.
While the .edu extension is reassuring, it’s not necessarily a measure of quality. Some diploma mills have an online presence with the .edu extension.
While many diploma mills operate online, not all online colleges are bogus. In fact, many fine institutions exist completely or partially online.
Unfortunately, diploma mills are all over the Internet. It all comes down to doing your research to ensure that whichever degree program you are considering is legitimate and accredited by a recognized accreditation organization.