Diploma Mills: What Are They & Why Should I Care?by Susan Teele
January 20, 2010
What Are Diploma Mills?
According to Oregon's Student Assistance Commission Office of Degree Authorization, "Diploma mills, or degree mills, are substandard or fraudulent 'colleges' that offer potential students degrees with little or no serious work. Some are simple frauds: a mailbox to which people send money in exchange for paper that purports to be a college degree. Others require some nominal work from the student but do not require college-level course work that is normally required for a degree."
Put it this way: diploma mills are scams. Not only do they take your money, they damage your credibility to your peers and to your potential employers. Many students who study online accept diplomas from diploma mills knowingly, while thousands of others are helplessly duped into believing they are actually receiving a legitimate degree of some sort.
Believe It Or Not: Known Facts About Online Diploma Mills
- Diploma mills often offer students "real degrees" within 30 days of applying.
- It is not difficult for a diploma mill scammer to register their website's domain name with a ".edu" to seem more authentic.
- There are usually two types of diploma mills: the diploma mills that simply ask for a lump sum of money to receive a printed diploma that appears to be genuine, or the diploma mills that target unsuspecting students--usually by offering them low-quality, unaccredited degrees through the mail.
- Some diploma mills have names that sound extremely similar to real universities. They "sell" the user on their authenticity by mentioning they are accredited by a fake accrediting agency that doesn't exist, or by not listing an accrediting agency at all.
- You may get one or two emails from a fake professor, claiming that there is little or no faculty interaction needed to obtain your degree.
- Many diploma mills operate out of different countries; these fake online schools fool potential students into thinking they are attending an internationally-recognized and accredited online university.
How You Can Detect A Diploma Mill
As the Internet continues to become more and more sophisticated with each passing day, detecting a diploma mill may become more difficult. The scammers behind these operations are definitely far from dumb, as they have sophisticated technological skills they use to pray on unsuspecting, hard-working students like you. When conducting your Internet research regarding potential online degree programs, be sure to watch out for these diploma mill red flags:
- There is nothing on the "school's" website about being accredited. Accreditation is important because it validates that a school has passed a set of regional or national standards. Most employers will not look kindly on an unaccredited degree.
- The school offers you a diploma--all you have to do is mail in a lump sum of cash, which could be up to $3,000! Yes, people fall for this every day!
- There may be a mention of the school being "accredited"--but not by the accrediting agencies recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
Keep your eyes open for diploma mills. They prey on students every day all over the world, thanks to the persuasiveness and anonymity that the Internet offers. If you have a doubtful feeling, do some research--go with your gut!