University Degrees Online
Purchasing a degree
Degree mills (also called diploma mills) are companies that essentially sell unaccredited degrees and diplomas with no requirement that the student do any learning. Rather, the degrees are awarded on the basis of life experience.
The degrees from these institutions are worthless, and even worse, dangerous. If they're misrepresented as a legitimate degree (such as on a resume), it's considered fraud in many areas and can lead to criminal charges. Sadly, many people still purchase degrees from these scam artists - some do it knowingly, trying to bolster their resumes with an extra degree or two, while others buy into the program thinking they're legitimately earning a degree.
Degree mills operate online, and are based in states with relaxed laws governing educational institutions, such as California and Hawaii. Some even operate from overseas. They avoid legal action by openly admitting that they aren't accredited and that their degrees aren't to be considered on par with degrees from legitimate educational institutions. Unfortunately, there are still people out there who want to add a degree to their resume without doing any of the necessary work. As long as this demand exists, there will be degree mills to meet it. As online learning becomes more and more mainstream, it's likely that the laws governing the existence of degree mills will be tightened to clamp down on these scam artists.
Avoiding Degree Mills
The best way to avoid degree mills is to search for online colleges and universities in the right places. Ignore all e-mails you receive that offer any kind of degree, as legitimate schools don't use e-mail spam as an advertising technique. The same can be said for classified ads.
Pay Attention to the Name
Many degree mills use names that are intentionally similar to a well known university. Some examples of this are:
- "The University of Berkley," which is easy to confuse with the prestigious University of California, Berkeley;
- "Columbia State University," meant to sound like Columbia University;
- "Ashwood University," which sounds like the very reputable Ashford University.
Other Things to Avoid
- Degree mills emphasize how the degree you earn with them will affect your career and income.
- The school is accredited by a body that isn't recognized by the CHEA or the US Department of Education. Usually, this accrediting body will be in house.
- They emphasize the cost of the degree or diploma over all other aspects of learning, including testing, coursework, etc.
- Tuition or fees are listed per degree, in a prominent page near the front of the site.
- Their address is a P.O. Box, a Suite or a number only.
- They have very few or no admission standards.
- They list very few faculty members.
- Their website is more fluff (i.e. appeals like "no need to study, no need for entrance exams") than real substance, such as details about degree requirements and course content.
- The phrase "life experience" figures prominently in their promotional materials, and they equate this term outright with formal education.
In July of 2005, a Pennsylvania diploma mill was shut down by a US circuit court judge, and all its degrees were declared to be invalid. The mill was called the University of Berkley. This name was clearly intended to be mistaken for the far more prestigious University of California, Berkeley. The mill sold life experience degrees to students who never left home, never studied and never took tests. Instead, they simply purchased a degree for a flat fee. A BA was available for $2,795 and a doctorate degree could be bought for $4,995 - both of which offer substantial savings compared to the cost and work involved in actually earning these degrees through a legitimate institution.
Here's a list of just a few of the supposed universities that are not officially accredited and which emphasize life experience degrees (there are certainly many more out there, and more to come). Approach with extreme caution.
- ashwooduniversity.com (Ashwood University)
- affordabledegrees.com (Rochville University)
- belforduniversity.org (Belford University)
- glendaleuniversity.com (Glendale University)
- almedacollege.org (Almeda University)
- suffielduniversity.com (Suffield University)
Learning More About Degree Mills
At this point, you should be armed with the necessary tools to avoid falling prey to a degree mill, however it can only be beneficial to investigate these places further. It's a good idea to gain as much knowledge as you can about the scam tactics that they use, so you can be adequately prepared should you encounter them.