A question was recently submitted about diploma mills from Dr. M. Taylor in Detroit. She wanted to know more about diploma mills after seeing a report on NBC news.
The NBC news story appearing in January 2008, warned that “not all cyber degrees are created equal”, and continued by highlighting a recent online MBA graduate who chose an online education in hopes of earning a job promotion. His primary reason for choosing an online degree was the need for flexibility to accommodate his hectic work and personal schedule. The report went on to note that “more and more working adults turn to online education as an option, [but] experts say the number of phony online institutions is growing too. One study estimated several hundred counterfeit diploma websites generated about half a billion dollars a year selling phony diplomas.”
As the NBC story eluded, it’s important to understand the difference between a “diploma mill” and a “real” educational institution. The growth of on-line learning has been essential in creating opportunities for those seeking professional and personal growth and has been accepted at the highest echelons of academia as a way to promote lifelong learning. But with all good things, there are those that will seek to abuse the system. But to preserve the opportunities that online education provides, it’s important that these few “bad apples” don’t dilute the value of legitimate online degrees. This can only be accomplished through increasing public awareness in differentiating diploma mills from legitimate distance learning.
So what exactly is a diploma mill and how can you spot one? Recognizing a diploma mill can be tricky, but they often share some common characteristics. Generally speaking, you can spot a diploma mill if they offer to sell a degree for little or no work. Others will offer a degree in as little as five days or allow you to use your professional experience instead of taking courses as a means to your degree.
Here are a few other telltale signs that can help you identify a diploma mill:
- The school website does not have a .edu top-level domain.
- Degrees can be obtained within a few days, weeks or months from the time of enrollment, and back-dating is possible.
- Faculty members hold advanced degrees from the institution itself or from other diploma mills.
- Academic credit is offered for “life experience,” and this is featured heavily in the selling points of the institution.
- Tuition and fees are paid on a per-degree basis rather than on a per-semester, per-quarter or per-course basis.
- Promotional literature contains grammatical and spelling errors, words in Latin, extravagant or pretentious language, and a sample diploma.
- The school’s website looks amateurish or unprofessionally made.
And what ever happened to the student who was the subject of NBC’s investigative report? The story concluded that “online education is booming and gaining legitimacy” and was happy to report that the recent MBA student did earn his promotion after graduation from a legitimate online university. So while “not all cyber degrees are created equal”, a good one can help you achieve your goals.