A diploma mill is a school that sells a useless degree. One of the reasons online schools have received negative press is due to these diploma mills. Some of these schools are blatant about the fact that they are out for cash. Others pretend to be quality schools. That is sad because there are plenty of very reputable online schools that deliver a quality education. To be sure that the school is reputable, check out the following things:
- Make sure the school properly accredited. In order to be properly accredited, schools must meet specific guidelines. Be careful that the school doesn’t make up an accrediting institution that is not valid. The six proper accreditation institutions include:
• Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
• New England Association of Schools and Colleges
• North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
• Northwest Commission of Schools and Colleges
• Western Association of Schools and Colleges
• Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Be sure that the school is recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the U.S. Department of Education. Students should watch a video on the CHEA website that explains diploma mills. The following is a list of member institutions from the council for higher education that are properly accredited as of 2012-2013.
- Be careful not to fall for accreditation agencies that are not reputable. Sometimes the school will make up an international agency or some other name that sounds valid. If the school is not listed on the above member institution list, it is probably not an accredited school. If counselors try to convince you that they don’t need to be accredited for any reason, that is a big red flag.
- Be careful if they make promises about obtaining a degree without having to do much work. The reason a degree is worth something is because students learn something from it. Some disreputable schools will try to sell the degree as a program that doesn’t take more than 30 days or costs a lump sum in order to receive a diploma.
- Be careful to check that the name of the school is not just similar to a school that is accredited. Sometimes they will try to get you to their site through the use of typosquatting. In other words, they take advantage of people who incorrectly type in a school’s name, and direct you to the diploma mill’s site. Be sure the school has a .edu extension on its website. Click here for a listing of unaccredited schools.
- Check out the listing of ways to spot a diploma mill from the Federal Trade Commission. Some of these things include being sure that you: Avoid schools that claim no studying is required. Avoid schools that claim no attendance is required. Avoid schools that have a “click here to order now” button.
There are plenty of reputable schools that offer online classes. Don’t let the diploma mills discourage you from finding the right, properly-accredited school to fit your needs. In any industry, there will be scams. The savvy online student will research only the best schools.
This article originally appeared on onlineschools