Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Beware online diploma mills

Wired News published this article about the growing problem of online diploma mills--companies that offer fake educational degrees for money. As more and more people are participating in online learning, this is becoming a real concern--even among members of Congress and other high-level U.S. government employees.

Is your company hiring employees with fake degrees? Diploma mills are raking in hundreds of millions of dollars a year, says Wired News. The U.S. Department of Education is looking into the problem and considering establishing an online service that people could use to check whether a degree is legitimate.

If you're investigating someone's degree or considering getting your own degree online, you might want to refer to this list from that I ran in my Intelligence column in the June 2003 issue of T+D.

Top Ten Signs That an Internet University Is a Degree Mill

1. The online university isn’t accredited.
2. The university is accredited, but not by an agency recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation.
3. The only admission criterion is possession of a Visa or MasterCard. Academic record, GPA, and test scores aren’t required.
4. Students are promised a degree based solely on career experience.
5. Students are promised a diploma within 30 days of paying all fees, regardless of their academic status when beginning the program.
6. Students are promised a degree for a lump sum—usually US$2000 to $2500 for an undergraduate degree or $3000 to $5000 for a graduate one.
7. The Better Business Bureau in the state the university claims as headquarters has multiple complaints registered against the school.
8. The online admission counselor asserts that Internet-only universities can’t be accredited by a CHEA- recognized agency.
9. The university’s Website either doesn’t list faculty or lists faculty who attended non-CHEA accredited schools.
10. The school is located in a tiny island nation and claims it doesn’t need recognition from an outside accreditor. provides free listings of accredited online degree programs.

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