According to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), degrees mills are nothing new. There are some easy ways to spot a diploma mill once you know what to look for.
However, what if you don’t know what separates degrees mills from legitimate online learning institutions? You could risk your entire future – your whole career – on a worthless piece of paper.
In this article, learn what a diploma or degree mill is and how to spot one before you waste your time or money on a meaningless degree.
What Are Degrees Mills?
Degree mills or diploma mills are set up to appear to be legitimate institutions of higher learning.
As Study International News (SNI) explains, degrees mills are companies that impersonate real degree-issuing schools or colleges.
Diploma mills will happily take your money and, in exchange, will give you a degree or diploma that looks great on paper but is absolutely worthless in real life.
What Do Degrees Mills Do?
Just as with any sham operation, degrees mills set themselves up to look like the real thing – a real online college or university dispensing high quality education.
Imagine if you were searching online for a degree or diploma program and you had no idea there was such a thing as a diploma mill.
You come across an online institution that appeared to be accredited, complete with course schedules, credit hour requirements and a variety of degrees offered. Without thinking anything of it, you might sign up thinking you were about to get ahead in life.
This is exactly how degree mills trick unaware students. But you can learn how to spot these fake diploma mills so you don’t spend your hard-earned money on these fake companies.
How Can You Spot Degrees Mills?
Here are some red flags and warning signs to look for so you can tell real higher learning schools from degrees mills.
1. The school has no accreditation or “mystery” accreditation.
If the online school is not accredited or, try as you might, you can’t track down the so-called accreditation body (aka the accreditation mill), it is probably a diploma mill.
2. The only thing required to get admitted is your credit card.
“Diploma for cash” degree mills have very lax entrance requirements. All you have to do is pay.
3. You see crazy claims on the website.
If you see anything like an assurance that you won’t be turned down for admission or that your real life experience is all that is required for issuing the degree, you have found a degree mill.
4. The curriculum is fast and easy.
A degrees mill school isn’t going to force you to do any actual heavy lifting in the learning department. If you see a speedy curriculum with a diploma at the end of it, this is a diploma mill.
5. The school itself has lots of online complaint history.
It is always smart to do your own research into any school’s reputation. But when a search turns up all kinds of complaints, this is a clue you haven’t found a legitimate institution.
6. The school welcomes U.S. students but is located in an obscure offshore location.
It is really important to investigate the brick-and-mortar location of the college or university. Online schools located in never-heard-of-it tiny islands that seem to be catering to U.S. students are degree mills.
7. The “admissions counselors” and “faculty” don’t seem knowledgeable – or real!
At any legitimate higher learning institution, it is fairly easy to verify the work and teaching history of the faculty. Often they have papers published in respected journals and degrees from reputable universities.
In the same way, real admissions counselors will not try to “sell” you on the school. And they certainly won’t try to take your credit card information on the first call!
Slow Down, Do Your Homework and Find a Worthwhile Degree Plan
When you know what to look for, you can spot the degrees mills and spend your time and money where you will get a real payoff.