Can you distinguish online diploma mills from accredited online degree programs? What clues can you use to detected whether the academic program you wish to enroll in is legit? What features should you look for to help you decide whether the program is accredited?
Before you sign up for a degree program whether on campus or online, and spend hours, years and hard earned money on a degree, you want to be sure that it is accredited. An accredited program means that it has undergone a self-evaluation process, been reviewed by peers, and other accrediting bodies. Accrediting organizations evaluate programs on the conformity to standards, which address mission, goals, and objectives, curriculum, faculty, students, administration and financial support, and physical resources and facilities. Avoid diploma mills and save your time and money! Start by learning more about fully accredited programs offered by these accredited colleges and universities.
On the other hand, diploma mills are actually for-profit organizations or businesses that pose as legitimate enterprises. Basically, they are fraudulent and only after making money yet not providing quality programming for students. Some will even print fake transcripts, write fake letters of recommendation and diplomas for a fee. What is my take on this?
What’s the point of getting that piece of paper if you can’t do the job? Other diploma mills will fool students who genuinely want to get a real degree but sign up for programs that low quality only to later realize they are not legitimate, or accredited.
Always do thorough research before registering for any classes or programs. As the Internet and online distance education took off, so did the instances of tricksters and scam artists. Be on the lookout for telling signs for example:
- Some will have legitimate sounding names that sound like popular institutions.
- The address changes constantly, uses a P.O. Box, or suite address
- The website has many grammatical errors
- The advertising uses a high sales pitch. For example it might say, “register today to receive a discount”
- Limited interaction with instructors
- No required homework, assignments etc
- Promise of completing the degree in abnormally short period of time
- Asking for banking information to withdraw funds for fees
The list is endless as new tricks emerge all the time. It is hard to keep track of all programs as they shut down and reopen all the time under different names. In addition it these tricksters are virtual and it is easy for them to trick people in different countries but hard to catch them because they do not use legitimate address. It is best to check with officials in government, and departments/ministries of education and official accrediting bodies.
It is risky to buy a degree or fake that you are qualified. For example, would you want to be treated by a doctor who is not legitimately qualified? There are also legal ramifications taking on some jobs without being fully qualified.
So before you enroll, or have doubts. Do the following:
- Be sure is it accredited by a real accrediting body.
- Many diploma mills will claim to be accredited by a fake body so watch out for those too.
- Check with licensing boards and professional associations under which they claim to offer programs.
It is difficult to keep up with a comprehensive list of all unaccredited program but the Wikipedia site has a listing of of unrecognized accreditation associations of higher learning and list of those that are recognized. These change all the time so do some research before you proceed.
Online Degree Accreditation in the US
In the U.S. each regions is overseen by a non-governmental regional body that accredits degree-granting colleges, universities, and institutions. The boards are:
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools & Colleges
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognize the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) as the accrediting agency that is charged with distance learning institutions and the programs that offer accredited online degrees.
In America, the higher Learning Commission is a part of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Its job is to oversee the accreditation of degree-granting universities and colleges in 19 South-Central and Midwestern states.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the US Department of Education and the both recognize this Commission as a regional accrediting body. Part of the accrediting bodies tasks are to ensure that potential students and others are able to distinguish between accredited college programs and diploma mills.