Along with students who choose to earn their college degrees from legitimate online colleges, there are degree scams and fake diplomas that threaten to take advantage of students who want to learn online, but who don’t recognize the scams. What do you need to know about degree and accreditation mills that try and take your money and leave you with bogus degrees? What can you do to avoid being educationally taken advantage of?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, from 2000-2008, the number of students enrolled in an e-learning program increased from 2-4%. The amount of undergrad students who took at least one online class rose from 8-20%. With this growth in online education, scammers are out there looking for ways to prey on unsuspecting e-learners.[i]
Types of Degree Scams. Diploma mills, accreditation mills, and life experience degrees are all examples of degree scams.
Diploma Mills. Diploma mills[ii] are bogus schools that sell fake diplomas. They are unaccredited by legitimate accrediting agencies and are sometimes supported by accreditation mills. There are generally two types of diploma mills, a.k.a. fake schools:
Accreditation Mills. Accreditation mills[iii] are organizations who allegedly provide higher ed accreditation to diploma mills that pay them for their services. They are not able to grant authentic higher ed accreditation because they are not recognized by the U.S. government or by mainstream academia.
Life Experience Degrees. While you may be able to earn a limited amount of credits (for professional certifications or licenses, for example) that might add up to a few classes, you cannot earn entire degrees based on “life experience.” Therefore, if an organization states that you can earn a bachelor’s based on your prior life experience, do not give out any personal or credit card information.
Signs of Fake Degree Mills or Higher Ed Scammers
Consequences. The consequences of earning a “diploma” from one of these fake schools may be dire. You could set yourself up for credit identity theft, you could lose your job if your employer discovers your degree isn’t legit, or you could face fines. It’s not worth it.
Online Accreditation Verification Services. Visit the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to find out if a school you are interested in is accredited. There are also online resources that delve into accreditation and why it’s important.
*Remember, though, that just because a school is listed as accredited does not mean that they are always legit. Keep researching to be sure.*
Report Fraud. If you are scammed, report the fraudulent organization . Visit the Internet Crime Complaint Center, notify the Better Business Bureau, let online forums know how you were scammed, and/or write a blog post about your experience to warn others.
There are numerous legit online schools. Don’t let a bad experience with a bogus school keep you from earning your online degree. Click here at EarnMyDegree for more information about our online partner schools.