By Jacqueline Foster
Legislators in California recently discussed the continuing problem of diploma mills running amok in the state, according to The Bay Citizen. Diploma mills are often defined as higher education institutions, often unaccredited, that provide degrees to students but require little or no work to earn them. While they are best known for taking students’ money in exchange for offering a substandard education, some are outright fraudulent operations, offering fake degrees from real or non-existent universities for a set fee. Lawmakers pointed out that California had more diploma mills than any other state in the country, the article noted.
To combat this situation, Assemblymember Roger Dickenson (D-Sacramento) plans to urge legislators to give state regulators the resources they need to conduct more investigations — and provide more thorough investigations — into such schools, and crack down on bad actors in higher education, the article explained. However, the California Bureau of Private Post-Secondary Education currently has a staff of only 20 people dedicated to enforcement, the article noted. Dickinson also hopes to urge the state attorney general and local district attorneys to prioritize prosecution of such schools so that they do not continue to harm consumers.
Diploma mills in California came under increased scrutiny after The Bay Citizen revealed that state oversight was lacking concerning many of these private technical and vocational colleges, and that many were operating despite having a lapsed state license.
Last month, Assemblymember Marty Block (D-San Diego) introduced a bill (AB 2296) that would require all private, postsecondary institutions to reveal their accreditation information and job placement rates to students before they enroll so that they may be fully informed about the institution. If the bill is approved, it will go into effect next year, the article explained. The schools must also reveal their graduate salary rates, as well as their student loan default rates, which can be an indication of unemployed or underemployed graduates. The bill was approved by the Assembly on Monday by a 47-26 vote and will move to the state senate next, Block’s website noted.
While lawmakers work on this issue in California, students who are seeking a quality vocational or technical education in California should be sure to do their due diligence before enrolling in a program. This includes verifying that the accreditation claims made by the school on its website are accurate, verifying that the school is licensed to operate in the state, and verifying that the program you are interested in is state-approved to meet educational requirements for licensure if you are pursuing a career that requires a state license to practice.
Institutional accreditation can be verified by entering the name of the school into the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions. Students should avoid enrolling in private career or technical colleges that are reluctant to provide information about total cost, graduation or retention rates, or job placement rates. Students should also see whether any complaints have been filed with the state about that particular institution.