Online Diploma Mills: Don't Be Fooled

Online Diploma Mills: Don't Be Fooled main image

One of the biggest worries people have about online MBA programs is that they’ll end up getting a degree from an online diploma mill. But what are diploma mills? And how do you avoid them?

A diploma mill (aka degree mill) is a higher education institution that grants diplomas even though it’s not accredited by any state or professional agencies. The diplomas awarded by these diploma mills are worthless, since they are either fraudulent or come from schools that aren’t governed by proper standards.

The main characteristic of diploma mills is that they offer degrees to students who do little or no serious academic work. Some diploma mills, such as those that send paper diplomas in exchange for money delivered to a P.O. Box, are obvious. While other diploma mills actually require students to do work, it’s not the college-level coursework that is normally required for a degree. Some diploma mills have even managed to acquire .edu website addresses. Here are some tell-tale warning signs that the school you’re considering may be a diploma mill.

  • Little or no contact information on the school website. At the bare minimum, a legitimate educational institution will list an address (not a P.O. Box) or phone number on their website. Harvard, for example, lists their main address and phone number right at the bottom of their front page. The website for Rochville University, the institution notorious for granting an MBA to a pug dog, has a contact section with a form to fill out instead of one that lists an actual address or phone number.
  • If an address is given, it’s a P.O. Box or suite. This may mean that the “school” is just an attic or a mailbox where people send money.
  • It takes less time to complete a degree at that institution than it would to get the same degree at an accredited business school. An obvious example would be any program that claims you can get an MBA in just a few months.
  • A long list of accrediting agencies.
  • The school’s website lists fake accrediting agencies on their website. Can’t tell whether an accreditation organization is fake? Check the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s list or the websites for one of the organizations listed in their international accreditation directory. Rochville University claims to be accredited by the Board of Online Universities Accreditation as well as Universal Council of Online Education Accreditation, neither of which are mentioned on the Council for Higher Education’s list of recognized accrediting organizations.
  • The school offers a degree in exchange for lifetime or real-world experience. Instead of emphasizing classes or faculty, the website for Rochville University says that their degree will “start you out on your lifelong journey of exploration.”

  • Tuition costs are listed on a per-degree basis as opposed to a yearly or per-credit basis.

  • The courses require little or no interaction with professors.

  • The names are similar to reputable universities. The diploma mill Rochelle University, for example, is often confused with the legitimate College of New Rochelle.

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