Distance Learning for Adults Seeking Continuing Education and Risks
Online learning is the easiest and most convenient method of taking college courses for those who what to continue their education. However, as with everything on the Internet, you need to be careful of scammers and in this case – diploma mills.
Diploma mills are online schools that are only interested in taking your money rather than providing a real education. The amount of actual online learning which takes place is minimal.
Diploma mills are in reality a business that is disguised as a legitimate educational institution. Their only motive is to make a profit. They offer college, university, or vocational-technical degrees without any academic standards. They make money by providing degrees, providing academic references, and questionable transcripts for specific prices.
Avoiding Diploma Mills
Knowing how to avoid diploma mills, sometimes referred to as degree mills, is important to ensuring valuable time and money is not wasted. To protect one’s self as a consumer of education, the Better Business Bureau says to avoid online schools that:
- Offer a degree in less time than an accredited institution; for example earning a bachelor’s degree in less than six months.
- Lists accrediting agencies which sounds too impressive and do not exist.
- Places too much emphasis on earning a degree based on lifetime or real-world experiences.
- Charges tuition based on earning a degree or discounts for enrolling in multiple programs.
- Provides student little or no interaction with instructors in the degree program.
- Has a name similar to well known accredited institutions.
- Has addresses that include a suite number or post office box number.
- Uses an application which has no admission requirements or no questions asking about previous academic history.
- Have degree requirements which are vague and lack program or course descriptions.
- Change their address often, even moving from one state to another.
- Charge a fee for specific grade point averages and other awards.
Reputable Online Schools
Online schools which are legitimate do not fall into any of the categories listed above. Their schools have academic expectations and are accredited institutions recognized by the US Department of Education, examples include:
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
- And many others
To verify an online school’s accreditation, visit the Council for Higher Education Accreditation which is the US Department of Education’s accreditation source. Simply enter the accreditation name(s) provided by the online school and check it against this database for legitimacy.
There is an increased interest in earning an online degree, because of the convenience. This has also brought about an increase in diploma mills. Like any good consumer, do your research and homework on a school before enrolling.
A quick path to a continuing education degree may seem like the best option in many cases, however, many employers check degrees applicants list on their applications for legitimacy. The last thing anyone wants is to waste his money on a worthless piece of paper because no one recognizes the institution and degree.