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Online Degree Mills - How to Recognize and Avoid Them

Home > Online Degree Mills - How to Recognize and Avoid Them

Globalization and the rapid pace of technological advancements have made it increasingly necessary for thousands of working adults to return to school in order to gain new skills or to remain competitive within their present profession. Balancing work, family obligations, and daily activities in our fast paced society is often challenging enough, but more and more working adults are discovering that they must also find a way to squeeze in continuing education courses, professional certificate programs, and obtain a graduate degree in order to remain competitive.

It`s often impossible for working professionals to shuffle their work schedule and family obligations around in order to attend traditional campus based classes. Online education has become widely popular in recent years since it offers the perfect means for adult learners to continue their education without interrupting their work, family, or financial responsibilities. Online learners are eligible for the same federal financial aid programs that traditional students receive, and employers often offer generous tuition assistance benefits to help their employees take advantage of the opportunities available. Online degree programs offer flexible class times, accelerated courses and, theoretically, a degree from an accredited and respected university.

Ivy League Schools Want You - Degree Mills Do Too

Traditional colleges and universities are adding online degree and certificate programs at breakneck pace thus enabling adult learners to earn extremely respectable degrees from the comfort of home. Working adult learners can now achieve an Ivy League education regardless of where they live and do it while they work. Unfortunately the same accessibility that makes the internet a perfect medium for distance education also makes it a haven for scam artists offering worthless "degrees" from "schools" that in many cases don`t exist at all and at best offer fake accreditation. Phony degree granting mills bilk unsuspecting students out of millions of dollars each year and also pose a serious danger to public safety.

RNDegrees.net carefully screens each college and university featured on this site to ensure that they are accredited or in the process of becoming accredited by agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Additionally, nursing schools are accredited by two national organizations, the National League of Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) which accredits all types of nursing education programs, and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), which accredits programs that offer only master`s and baccalaureate level nursing degrees.

Attending an accredited nursing school allows you to take advantage of federal educational funding and also ensures that you will be qualified to attend other nursing schools should you wish to pursue advanced nursing degrees such as a BSN to MSN program, or Nurse Practitioner program for example.

While we strive to ensure the schools we feature are fully accredited we also realize that you may visit other online education sites that do not screen the schools they deal with, and so your best protection from degree mills, diploma mills, and other fake degree scams is to know how to recognize and avoid them in the first place.

Spotting Degree Mills and Avoiding Fake Degree Scams

1. Degrees based upon "Life Experiences".
Legitimate colleges and universities sometimes offer some college credit for work experience. An example of one such legitimate program is Jacksonville University School of Nursing which offers nurses with an active RN license 30 credits towards their BSN degree for previous nursing experience.

2. Offers diploma for money.
If you`ve been online for any time at all I`m fairly sure that you`ve received more than your share of annoying e-mail spam offering everything from over-the-counter Viagra clones to the "get a real degree" in just two weeks for only $499.99 (or something similar) offers. As tempting as it might be to think about calling that number or clicking the link to buy a degree don`t do it! Obviously no legitimate college or university offers to sell degrees. Furthermore, using a phony degree to obtain employment or advancement endangers the public and may be subject to criminal prosecution.

3. If it seems legitimate is must be.
Pick up a copy of publications such as Newsweek, Forbes, Business Week, or USA Today for example and you might run across an ad or two offering something like "fully accredited university degrees in a matter of weeks". Fake degrees are a multi-million dollar criminal industry, so it pays to advertise. Advertisements in respected journals, newspapers, and magazines do not mean the school being advertised is legitimate. No legitimate college or university grants real degrees in a matter of weeks.

4. Website and contact details.
Most legitimate schools have .edu web site addresses, but not all, and some bogus schools managed to get .edu domains before they became more tightly regulated, so possession or lack of .edu domain extension is not proof about whether a school is legitimate or not. Check the contact information while at the school`s web site though and you`re likely to notice a stark contrast between the details readily available on sites belonging to legitimate schools and the lack of details available on the sites of phony schools. Legitimate colleges and universities want you to be able to contact them by a variety of methods and list their address, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and often provide names and contact information for different departments on their site. On the other hand, the last thing a diploma mill operator wants is for you or the authorities to be able to know their actual location, (which might be a drop box at mailboxes are us), so at most they will probably list a phone number or e-mail address as the sole means of contact on their web site. If the "school" tries to make it hard for you to get in touch do yourself a favor- don`t!

5. School name... Looking like a duck and quacking like a duck doesn`t mean it`s a duck...
Check the name of the school and its location carefully. Degree mill operators often give their phony schools names that are similar to legitimate schools, and in some cases have used a real university`s name but placed it in location that differed from school`s location. One prime example of the latter scenario was a phony degree mill operation calling its fake school "Ashford University (London) " - easy to confuse with the genuine Ashford University, a highly respected school in Iowa! Luckily the FTC nabbed that operator and confiscated their web sites.

Accreditation isn't always what it seems to be.

Diploma mills frequently emphasize terms like "legal", "licensed", or "accredited". Some of those terms are meaningless while others are intentionally misleading. Diploma mills use words such as legal or licensed to imply that their business license confers some sort of government approval to their "school. Other fake schools claim to be accredited but the accreditation comes from bogus "accreditation boards" they created themselves. Accreditation of U.S. colleges and universities is a voluntary peer review process conducted by independent accreditation agencies. The U.S. Department of Education evaluates these accrediting agencies determines which are to be considered reliable based upon such criteria as the quality of education or training offered by the institutions of higher education or higher education programs they accredit. Accrediting organizations that are "recognized" have been reviewed for quality by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the United States Department of Education (USDE). Protect the value of your degree by checking the accreditation of the college or university you are considering applying to against this list of U.S. Recognized Accrediting Organizations before you apply!

If a college or university is not accredited, its students will probably not be able to participate in employer tuition assistance plans, veteran`s education benefits, or government student aid programs. Additionally, a non-accredited degree might be worth less than the paper it`s printed on. Don`t become a victim of phony online degree scams!


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