How to Recognize and Avoid Diploma Mills

Are you looking for a good online high school for your child? If a school’s offering sounds too good to be true, then it probably is, and it’s possible that the school is a diploma mill.

When making an investment, such as buying a property, the wise thing to do is carefully consider all aspects before making a decision. In the same way, it would be wise to thoroughly research an online high school program before you and your child invest time, effort and in some cases, money, in it.

You will want to make sure that your child gets the best high school education – one that is valuable and will be recognized by future colleges or universities and even employers, which means you need to steer clear of “diploma mills”.

What is a Diploma Mill?

You have to be careful not to enroll your child in a diploma mill, which is defined by the Higher Education Opportunity Act as an entity that:

(A)(i) offers, for a fee, degrees, diplomas, or certificates, that may be used to represent to the general public that the individual possessing such a degree, diploma, or certificate has completed a program of postsecondary education or training; and (ii) requires such individual to complete little or no education or coursework to obtain such degree, diploma, or certificate; and
(B) lacks accreditation by an accrediting agency or association that is recognized as an accrediting agency or association of institutions of higher education (as such term is defined in section 102) by–
(i) the Secretary pursuant to subpart 2 of part H of title IV; or (ii) a Federal agency, State government, or other organization or association that recognizes accrediting agencies or associations.

How to Recognize and Avoid Diploma Mills

How to Spot a Diploma Mill

Diploma mills are more interested in taking money from unsuspecting people rather than providing quality, legitimate education. Thankfully, there are easy ways to check the validity of an online high school program, and you can learn how to protect yourself and your child from these fake schools.

First of all, check for accreditation from accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Diploma mills are either not accredited at all, or obtain accreditation from fake accrediting agencies that do not conduct comprehensive review of the school’s programs, faculty and standards of education. Fake accrediting agencies charge a fee to diploma mills in exchange for accreditation. This type of accreditation may look legitimate so you have to carefully examine this. If you still have doubts about a particular online high school, you can contact your local Better Business Bureau or state attorney general’s office to check if the school is legitimate, as well as to verify if anyone has filed a complaint against it.

Other red flags to look out for:

  • High school programs that take significantly less time than usual to complete.
  • Schools that place dubious emphasis on offering credit for life or work experience with little or no documentation, such as standardized tests, prior learning portfolio, oral exams, or work documentation (such as pay stubs, log sheets, student evaluation etc.) from employer.
  • Schools that have similar names with other well-known and reputable academic institutions.
  • Little to non-existent interaction with teachers.
  • Institutions that use an Internet address other than .edu. However, it is important to note that not all institutions that use .edu as a part of their web address are legitimate. Prior to the current strict requirements created and imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce, some questionable organizations were allowed to use .edu, so it is important to research a school thoroughly before enrolling your child.
  • Schools that do not divulge their physical addresses, or those that include P.O. boxes, or suite or apartment numbers.

Your vigilance now can mean the difference between a legitimate or fake online high school education and diploma for your children, and can go a long way in ensuring a better future for them.

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