Adult students have a rich array of schools to choose from when selecting online or distance learning programs. Unfortunately, reputable degree programs stand alongside unaccredited diploma mills â€” fake schools that exist solely to make money and fleece busy adult students. On the Internet, itâ€™s hard to tell a legitimate institution from a fake one.
Here are just a few warning signs that a school is not worth your time or money.
- Its site lists no names and little or no contact information. At the bare minimum, a legitimate school will list a phone number and physical address on its website. Be wary of â€œschoolsâ€ that list only an apartment or a P.O. box. In the same vein, a legitimate school will list the names and contact information of faculty members, deans, and other officials, while a diploma mill will not (usually because they have no teaching faculty whatsoever).
- A school claims to be small, yet offers a large number of majors. This is a good indication that a school has no teaching faculty, requires little to no work from its students, and is simply trying to net as many victims as possible.
- The school is vague or ambiguous when speaking about its accreditation, or attempts to downplay the importance of being accredited. The bottom line is that a school needs to be properly accredited if you want your degree to be recognized by employers. Therefore, if a school downplays the importance of being accredited, they are more interested in your money than in supplying quality education. Similarly, donâ€™t take a school at face value if they claim to be â€œfully,â€ â€œnationally,â€ or â€œgloballyâ€ accredited â€“ anyone can claim to be accredited, and anyone can claim to be an accrediting agency. To snare unsuspecting students, some diploma mills even set up fake websites for an accrediting agency. To be absolutely sure a school is properly accredited, check it against a list of known diploma mills (http://www.osac.state.or.us/oda/unaccredited.aspx), and research the schoolâ€™s accreditation using the database of the U.S. Department of Education (http://www.ope.ed.gov/accreditation/).
- The school makes outrageous promises. Only a diploma mill will brag that they donâ€™t require studying, essay-writing, or test-taking. Similarly, steer clear if a school claims to award degrees on the sole basis of portfolio assessments of life experience. Though some legitimate schools allow students to earn some credit through portfolio assessments or passing tests based on life experience, they are picky about what they accept and allow students to earn only a limited number of credits amassed using the portfolio system. Lastly, avoid schools that claim to award degrees in mere weeks or months.
- The school offers degrees for a flat fee, rather than by course or credit hour. This is a good sign that the â€œschoolâ€ requires little to no work and is not interested in teaching students anything.
When researching online or distance learning programs, donâ€™t fall for the slick, official-looking websites that diploma mills use to lure students. A little independent research and skepticism can steer you away from diploma mills and toward a reputable program that can help you achieve your goals.Â
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- Care to test drive an online course?
- Why you should consider taking online classes
- Is online learning right for you?
- Importance of online college accreditation
- How online degrees affect your financial aid eligibility
Author: Marianne Madden; visit degreescout.com for more information about diploma mills.
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