Diploma Mills are notorious for imitating in superficial ways the structures and functions of legitimate degree programs. Conversely, there are many legitimate programs that offer nontraditional degrees in an effort to serve the needs of adult students. Therefore, it is difficult to develop a comprehensive list of characteristics that one can use to spot a Diploma Mill. Some characteristics students should look for are listed in this article. The following list is to be used with caution. It exemplifies the characteristics one may find (but not always) typical of Diploma Mills. Students are encouraged to beware and to investigate thoroughly any institution BEFORE beginning a program. Your military education center or virtual education center are excellent resources for to use when assessing the legitimacy of an educational institution. The book, Bear’s Guide to Earning College Degrees by Distance Learning, is another resource students may want to consult to avoid the pitfalls of enrolling in a Diploma Mill program.
Some of the characteristics of Diploma Mills are - The organization may have a name similar to a well-known college or university. The address often suggests a prestigious location, but mail may only be received at a post office box or mail service. The organization may frequently change its address. There is no significant cluster of physical facilities; it operates from a single office or maybe private residence. Full-time staff are few in number and lack qualifications appropriate for serving as professional educators or educational administrators. There is little or no selectivity in admissions; frequently there are no admissions requirements listed. Degree requirements, if any, are few and frequently unspecified. Degrees ordinarily can be obtained in a time frame far shorter than that required for the completion of a program at a generally recognized and accredited institution. Tuition and fees are usually on a per-degree basis. Assessment of learning outcomes or achievement is minimal or nonexistent. The organization has no library or maintains inferior resources than that expected of a degree-granting institution. Great emphasis is placed on granting credit for work experience and prior life experiences without appropriate mechanisms for assessing the experience in terms of college-level work. Terms such as nontraditional, alternative, and innovative are used to gloss over a multitude of sins. The words "state-authorized" or "state-approved" are used to suggest that the organization has undergone a process of academic review comparable to accreditation. The organization is not accredited by an agency recognized by the U. S. Department of Education. Promotional materials may, however, list agencies not recognized by Department of Education.
Your military education center or virtual education center are excellent resources for Service members to use when assessing the legitimacy of an educational institution. The book, Bear’s Guide to Earning College Degrees by Distance Learning, is another resource students may want to consult to avoid the pitfalls of enrolling in a Diploma Mill program. Also check out the information at www.ed.gov/students/prep/college/diplomamills/resources.html , the Dept of Education has assembled a number of articles and resources to help students avoid getting involved with a diploma mill. Caveat Emptor – buyer beware, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is. Don’t fall for the quick fix – your education is your ticket to success.