Navigating The World of Online Diplomas

Navigating The World of Online Diplomas

Online diploma programs

You’re a busy mom who wants to go back to school, but you just don’t have time for classes. That’s when programs that let you earn a degree online can seem pretty tempting.

But before you leap into the world of online academics, you need to do your homework. Some of these “schools” are, in fact, scams—what the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) call “diploma mills.” So, how do you know the reputable companies from the bogus ones? Read on to find the answer to that and many other commonly asked questions.

How do scammers work?

Some online companies offer their college degrees, GEDs and other certificates by charging a flat fee for you to complete little to no coursework. Unfortunately, many people don’t find out their degree isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on till they go for a job interview or are up for a promotion. Those people face not getting the job, being fired or even facing prosecution, according to the FTC.

How can you spot them?

According to the FTC and the BBB, watch for these warning signs:

  • Advertising is done through spam or pop-ups. However, some also advertise in other venues, including newspapers and magazines.
  • The school uses a sound-a-like name, or one that’s similar to a well-known college or university. A Web address that ends in an “.edu” or “.org” doesn’t necessarily mean the school is legit.
  • The school charges a flat fee. It may even offer a discount if you sign up to receive more than one degree at a time. Legitimate colleges and universities charge per credit, course or semester—and you can’t earn a bachelor’s and master’s simultaneously.
  • You’ll earn your degree in a matter of days, weeks or months. Real degrees require more of a time commitment than that. For example, a master’s takes a minimum of a year or two.
  • Your degree is based on “life experience.” No studying or exams required.
  • The contact information for the school is a P.O. box or suite number.

How can I find a legitimate online degree program?

You can check up on the school you’re interested in by going to the U.S. Department of Education’s Web site (www.ope.ed.gov/accreditation) and to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation site (www.chea.org/search). Schools listed have undergone rigorous review of their educational programs.

Bogus schools may claim to be accredited by some very official-sounding organizations, but often these organizations are made up. It’s important to note that some legitimate institutions haven’t pursued accreditation. In these cases, you can check up on a school by calling the registrar of a local college and ask if they would accept transfer credits from the school in question. You can also check the BBB’s Web site for complaints against particular programs. For example, Belford High School, Belford University, Jefferson High School Online and Vencer High School Online have all generated numerous complaints from consumers who’ve paid for degrees or high school diplomas that weren’t valid.

The important thing to remember is to do your homework before signing on for any online degree program. Consider it the first lesson you’ll learn in the school of online degrees.