Degree and Accreditation Mills

Scam schools make promises they can't keep

Many education institutions boast about being accredited, leading students to the assumption that another group has looked over the school's programs and decided that they offer a satisfactory education. But that's not always true. Some accrediting agencies demand nothing more than a yearly membership fee for schools to earn their stamp of approval. Accreditation from these types of agencies is useless in the one area they are supposed to provide assistance - helping students find a good quality school so they can get the best possible education.

Even worse, scam schools (aka diploma mills) create their own agencies to "accredit" themselves or claim to be recognized by well-known organizations that in reality don't accredit any schools.

Before you trust a school or program's accreditation, check into the group that issued it. They should list their standards on a website or offer them without question when you call. Find out if professional industry groups recognize the accrediting agency or if other trusted schools have earned the same accreditation.

Accreditation isn't fail-safe

All that being said, just because a school is accredited or offers a comprehensive training program, doesn't mean it will be accepted by all employers. Research or speak with potential employers beforehand to see if they specify a preference for any schools. Unfortunately, not a lot of potential students will actually research these false institutions, and they'll come out with a degree that means nothing to employers or to actual accredited schools for further education.

An accreditation mill is an institution with no actual recognition from the government or from any recognized schools. Also similar are diploma mills, which have the same sort of modus operandi. These institutions get accreditation from an independent group with low standards or they set up their own independent board to accredit themselves. Either way, the education and degree/diploma that you receive from these schools are not recognized by other institutions or even employers. This can mean serious problems when it comes to trying to upgrade your diploma or get a job in the medical field.

Learn more about legitimate accreditation bodies
If a school is accredited, it will be recognized by the government. As it stands, there are about eighteen regional and national accrediting organizations for educational institutions. They all have different standards, but they all will recognize diplomas and degrees that are accredited by one of the organizations in the list. The rules seem to be slightly different for religious schools – although some organizations on the list do not recognize diplomas from these institutions, others will, especially if they are religious organizations themselves. Check with your school if you're not sure if your degree/diploma is accredited.

How do you tell if a school is accredited and not an accreditation mill? You can check with the U.S. Department of Education and ask questions. If you can't find an assurance on the website of the institution that it's accredited, it might be best to do research and look further into the school. Also, there is a list of accredited institutions and organizations around the world. You want to know that your education is worth something. You don't want to get caught out with a degree that's useless in the working or educational world.

Degree mills

Degree mills may or may not claim to be accredited, but they are still sneaky when it comes to cheating people out of a good education. Some degree mills simply offer sub-par training, which the graduates will find out later on hasn't prepared them for the career they are pursuing. In this case the student may have wasted a year or more, not to mention thousands of dollars, only to discover they'll have to start over at the beginning.

Other degree mills are more obvious and allow almost anyone to purchase a diploma or certificate without completing any substantial coursework. It's fair to say that students who purchase these degrees are almost as much to blame as the company selling them. They may also be guilty of fraud if they add them to their resumes.

If a vocational school or career college program sounds too good to be true, such as being significantly shorter than others or making overly enthusiastic career promises, there's probably something up. The fact is you won't be able to take shortcuts in training for most jobs. If you do, you may find yourself redoing your education later on.