Modern online students are offered a vast choice of degree programs. Some programs promise effortless degrees that it seem too good to be true. Unfortunately, many programs are fraudulent schemes. And students are left without legitimate credential and without money.
“If you don’t know what you don’t know, it can seem like a really intricate maze,” says Karen Pedersen, chief knowledge officer for the Online Learning Consortium.
A degree mill is an unaccredited higher education institution that offers illegitimate academic degrees and diplomas for a fee. Here are the main signs that an online program may not be legit:
Suspected accreditation status
Prospective students have to know the information they are seeing on a website is trustworthy. To make sure the accrediting organization is legitimate, students should make sure it is recognized by either CHEA or the U.S. Education Department. If you suspect a school is falsely claiming accreditation, you can get in tought with the accrediting agency and ask.
Students looking into non-U.S. distance education programs should start by contacting the ministry of education in the country where the program is based to ask about its accreditation or authority to operate.
Vaguely familiar program name
Sometimes programs will “steal a renowned name and modify it jut a little bit”. Some even fabricate faculty names and credentials. If a student comes across, for example, a professor Joe Smith at a school with a name like Harvard Technological University, he or she might want to do more research.
Fast and easy degree
There are no secrets to a quick and easy degree: earning a degree is hard work. Prospective students should beware promises of getting a degree without much time or effort.
There’s no sign of student resources
Legitimate online programs should have a host of students services, such as advising and library services, technology support. The apparent lack of evidence of those resources is in any way suspected.
There’s no an exact address
Students should be alerted if a program has only an email address and does not provide any information about a campus or business address. As for the website address, most legitimate online operations in the U.S. have websites that end with “edu.”
The surest sign of a degree mill is too obtrusive sale service. Don’t let yourself get pressured into enrolling!
Large sum of advance payment
You must be highly suspicious of a program if it requires a substantial upfront financial commitment. With most legitimate academic programs, you pay for the courses you are taking that term or that semester.