A diploma mill, or sometimes referred to as degree mill, is a fraudulent university disguised as online educational institution that sells college diplomas and transcripts; such scam university sells the pieces of papers instead of providing the real educational experience. Diploma mills will provide their services to anyone who pays the required fee. In some cases, customers are promised a college degree created simply based on life experiences.
It can be difficult to notice the difference between the real online universities possessing proper license as well as accreditation and the fraudulent ones. Most diploma mill (if not all) present themselves in well-maintained websites to create the impression of professionalism. They are heavily advertised in online media with some interesting yet dubious terms for examples fast online college degrees, fast degree, work experience degree, life experience degree, and so on.
There is no formal educational program that offers to sell college degree; every student has to attend classes regardless of online or not and undergo series of tests. Only those who pass the tests will receive proper degree. Diploma mills’ flashiness online appearances are just tricks to attract careless people; however all of them have common signs as briefly outlined below.
1. Unaccredited University
To make it sound convincing, diploma mills often use official-like terms. Although the terms do sound educated and official, you have to really understand what they mean from the perspective of educational quality. To impress potential students, the words licensed, authenticated, notarized, internationally recognized, and verifiable are often used. Some diploma mills even use the term accredited by UNESCO . All of them are intentionally created to be misleading. UNESCO itself has issued a warning against any educational institution that claims UNESCO recognition. UNESCO is an intergovernmental organization and it does not have the authority to accredit higher educational organizations, institutions, or agencies.
2. Fake Accreditation
All smart scammers, especially diploma mills, claim themselves to be accredited educational institutions. The problem is that they are not accredited by officially-approved organizations. The accrediting agencies are created by themselves; these agencies are called accreditation mills. Such agencies also claim to be internationally recognized or reputable worldwide, making them superior to any single official accreditation agency in the United States.
All approved accreditation agencies in the United States are recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or U.S. Department of Education. CHEA is a United States organization that has the authority to certify the quality of higher education accrediting organizations including private, faith-based, regional, and programmatic. CHEA is based in Washington, and it currently recognizes about 60 accrediting organizations and 3,000 academic institutions as members. If you find any online degree-granting educational institution accredited by organizations that are not recognized by CHEA, it is best to avoid it.
3. Ridiculous Admission Requirement
Any official and properly accredited educational institution will require you to produce previous academic records, test scores, and grade point average. Diploma mills, however, do not actually require all of those, and sometimes they regard those requirements as irrelevant. In case you receive emails or letters containing advertisement for diploma mills, the contents usually state “you cannot be turned down” or something similar. In fact, the only requirement that any diploma mill requires is possession of valid credit card, which is a ridiculous requirement.
4. Too Simple to Get a Degree
Diploma mills offer college degrees based merely on review of your resume and previous work experience. Please put in mind that college credit is indeed a valid option at many universities, especially for adult learners. However, the process of evaluating your work experience and converting it to college credit is not simple at all. It is a complex process that cannot be done within brief period of time. When you are applying to a diploma mill, you are most likely promised a diploma degree within about 30 days or less of application. It is merely profit-driven organization; you will get the transcript and your degree indeed, but they are all fake and useless. Moreover, there is no valid university in the U.S. that award graduate degree solely based on career, life or work experience. If you think the process is too simple, the university is most likely a scam.
5. Just Like an Online Store
Because you can get your degree and transcript within only a month or so, you must pay the entire tuition quickly as well. There is no valid university that charge flat fees; this is not a common practice since the tuition is based on credits and courses. A diploma mill will offer instant degree in exchange for a good amount of money. The fee for an undergraduate degree typically starts from about $400 to $2,000. A graduate degree will be more expensive and can reach up to $3,000. Education does cost money, but it does not mean that a diploma degree is something that you can easily buy just like a product in an online store.
6. International Online University
Another common sign of a diploma mill is that one of the people working for the organization tries to convince you that international online universities cannot be accredited by CHEA. In most cases, you will be informed that the organization is located in a foreign country, but it can provide diploma degree for U.S. citizens. All of those are lies.
In a nutshell, pursuing a degree or diploma, online or in-person, requires a fair amount of time and efforts. If a representative from any online academy makes it sound a piece of cake to get a professional degree, you should investigate before making any further commitments. To prevent yourself from being scammed, please always refer to the information provided by USNEI (United States Network for Education Information) which lists plenty of information about fraudulent educational organizations including recognition of foreign qualifications. USNEI has also issued a document containing list of organizations from which you can gather information about any recognized and fraudulent education institutions in the U.S. The document is available for download from the official website of USNEI.